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First day to fraying: On Triangle Tour 2023, Part One

Stag at Sharkey's - cropped CC0 1.0.jpg
George Bellows, Cleveland Museum of Art / CC0 1.0

Day One

We gathered in front of McCarter to get on our bus when it was still dark and early — not bright and early, for the sun only rose over the LCA moments before our departure and after I’d had my breakfast muffin. At last, after three years, two junior papers, and one supposedly-but-not-yet-actually drafted thesis chapter, the Princeton Triangle Club and I were back on the road for a national tour. TriTour 2023 had begun.


First stop: Bryn Mawr, Penn. We’re usually met by lots of theater staff, but our welcome party here consisted of one door left propped open by security.  As the Master Electrician who ensures that the lights turn on without falling onto the stage, I was one of the first ones off the bus. I was joined by the rest of the “away team”, consisting of other principal technicians and tour managers. As we crossed through the propped open door, we realized it was the perfect first venue.

Perfection is a funny concept. This venue wasn’t perfect by being as large and well-equipped as our familiar McCarter haunts; rather, it was perfect because it offered nearly every problem one can have on tour in a manageable dose. The stage and wings were so small that only half of our set fit. The pit orchestra was relegated to a classroom on a different floor of the building and piped in through the sound system. And the lighting system was so limited that we had only three options: on, off, and blue. It was the perfect way to initiate a tour company in which only a fraction of the club had prior TriTour experience. Everyone quickly learned how to adapt our show for whatever a venue may throw at us as showtime swiftly arrived.

It was all running smoothly. The lights went down on the first act, intermission passed, and the second act began with three cast members singing in front of the main curtain. The act two opening number built up to its big reveal where the main curtain opens. But it was only part way open when it decided to add to the percussion of our song. With a ruckus, the curtain refused to open further, so the cast had to finish the song while others manually pulled the curtain fabric back.

To save the rest of the show, Aliha Mughal ’23, our technical director, announced to the audience a brief pause while the rest of TriTech scurried to set up a ladder. While technician Mason El-Habr ’23 worked on the curtain, our British monster, Irving, entertained the patient crowd, thanks to puppeteers Asher Muldoon ’23, Kate Short ’23, and Gabby Veciana ’24.

Then, we all raced to pack it all up before heading back to Princeton for one more night. My past self was smart enough to have already done laundry but not kind enough to have packed my suitcase. Only after stuffing my carry-on bag did I get to enjoy my bed one last time before a week on the road.

Day Two


With another early morning start, we departed again from McCarter, this time for D.C. Well, really, for Silver Spring, Md. — the first stop on the 2020 tour and a stop on many tours before. Since some of us already knew this venue, it wasn’t too hard a day, though it was short — another matinée.

It was simultaneously odd and comforting to be back: That 2020 tour was a highlight of my freshman year, and one of the last things I did before the pandemic hit. My chronicle of that tour was one of my earliest pieces for this paper; I had once planned to write four of these. The day felt very much like a bookend.

The show went on without a hitch, and we cut down the time it took us to strike and pack the truck by 20 minutes. After a dinner of Chinese food in honor of Lunar New Year, we hopped on the bus to Breezewood, Penn., where we spent the night in a hotel.

Day Three

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Minutes after 7 A.M., I’m the first one to arrive at the hotel’s complimentary breakfast, where I found a waffle maker. I started making waffles for the mob I knew would inevitably show up when we would be only six waffles away from our departure time.

Overnight, it had snowed. From my window seat on the bus, I saw a world in white and browns sweep by. There was no dimension to the sky or snow — just the occasional swatch of once-dried grasses or legion of barren trees revealed any form of the Pennsylvanian mountains that rose from each side of the highway.

It was lunchtime when we arrived at the suburban Ohio private all-boys high school that was hosting us, and I was served a large portion of déjà vu. While I stole some moments to work on my thesis at a hallway table, the passing parade of collared shirts, khakis, and Sperrys reminded me of my own high school years in the opposite corner of the state.

After the show ended, it was finally time for our first night of alumni homestays. The high school lobby felt like an airport baggage claim, where alumni waited to receive their assigned students. Students waited for their assigned hospitality, nostalgia, and small talk dressed loyally in orange and black.

Day Four

Waking up on a magnificently hard bed and soft pillow, I was fairly well rested and ready for our first day with no show — and the first without any time in a theater since Jan. 14. Unfortunately, we were in Cleveland, which I was obligated to knock down a peg or two as a proud Cincinnatian. But it could’ve been worse: I could’ve been an Ohioan stuck in Michigan.

After a morning at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I found myself sitting alone at the dark wooden bar of a largely empty restaurant in Little Italy. As I ate my lunch of chicken piccata, I thought of how every Triangle-related endeavor always had its point of social exhaustion. Among a busload of so many who bask in the spotlight on or off stage, there comes a moment when all I wanted was to turn off the spotlight. To stop giving so much while left in the dark myself. So, I took to the sunny sidewalk to find that quiet meal, to find a warm coffee and dessert, to find my way back to my reliable oasis: a peaceful art museum.

Conveniently enough, the bus is set to pick us up just steps away from the entrance to the Cleveland Museum of Art. I had just under an hour to wander inside. I started with the temporary exhibition on 19th-century French drawing and then wound my way past frame after frame until I arrived before an apparently iconic George Bellows oil painting of a boxing match. What could have been a smooth glossy work was instead left more raw, less worked. The visible brushstrokes oscillated between an evocation of movement so fast it blurs, and bodies so strained their tension was palpable — flesh on the verge of fraying.

Halfway through the tour, this sense of fraying — physically and emotionally — resonated deeply, still four days away from a return to Princeton.

José Pablo Fernández García is a senior from Ohio and Head Editor Emeritus for The Prospect at the ‘Prince.’ He can be reached at

This piece is part of a series on the writer’s tour with the Triangle Club. The second part will be published in the coming days. 

Self essays at The Prospect give our writers and guest contributors the opportunity to share their perspectives. This essay reflects the views and lived experiences of the author. If you would like to submit a Self essay, contact us at