During her year of life-affirming travel, visiting eight American states and seven countries previously unknown to her, Becca McCoy learned many things. It was a personal journey of discovery for her, of course, and when it ended the actress and singer found herself at a towering philosophical crossroads, and a realization that change is not only healthy, it is just about the only thing that really matters.
“Embracing change is good,” she says, “because you don’t know what’s coming.”
Nothing was planned; McCoy assumed that when the journey was over, she’d be back on the audition circuit, block-booking months at a time to live out of a suitcase in this town or that as the latest show was launched.
That’s not what happened, as explained in The Year of Extraordinary Travel, the one-woman production opening Thursday at Studio Grand Central.
It’s the St. Pete native’s first appearance on a local stage in three years; she’s lived in Atlanta since 2020.
A year ago, McCoy published a book of photographs and short essays, The Year of Extraordinary Travel, and this new show is an adaptation, featuring photo projections, sound design and chapter-by-chapter narration.
Hang on, though: It’s more than a living room home movie date. “I don’t think people’s travel stories are inherently theatrical, unless they can matter to people on a more universal scale,” McCoy explains.
“I think that there’s a universal component in the themes, looking at it through the lens of everything that’s happened since. To have taken 12 months’ worth of dense travel, and then six months later Covid happened – one life-changing experience on the heels of another – that gives the travel experience a whole other perspective.
“And that’s what theater does best, to give an immediacy to something. The book is in stasis, but as a performer, I can re-interpret this static piece into something that’s new and alive.”
So much intense re-examination led McCoy to conclude that theater – at least the way she had constructed her life and career around it – had to be cut loose from her comfort zone.
“I know that I’m done with theater the way that it was done previously,” she explains. “You give up a lot of control in your health, your schedule … the flexibility to be a human being didn’t exist. And that’s a reckoning I think the theater industry is dealing with right now.
“And so the way that things were before are not sustainable to me, in my mid 40s, going forward. And so I wanted to create something that I owned entirely. I don’t write music, so there’s no singing in this show. I created the entirety of the content. And it’s something I can travel with, to fringe festivals, to other venues. I have this little creative project that is my own.”
Studio Grand Central owner Ward Smith, a longtime friend, made McCoy an offer she couldn’t refuse: A Christmastime residency at his black-box theater.
McCoy accepted the challenge, but instead of a holiday cabaret-type affair – the sort of thing she would’ve done in the past – she decided to adapt The Year of Extraordinary Travel.
“The show,” she reports, “already had the first component of good storytelling, which is a beginning, a middle and an end.
“I feel like all of the changes we’re all going through because of Covid – from the major to the minute – can be encapsulated through what it’s like to travel someplace where people don’t speak the language you speak. Or what it’s like to truly allow yourself to live in the moment, and what magical things unfold because you’re able to be present.”
McCoy and her partner, illustrator Justin Groom, started Leafmore Studios in January of this year. It’s a multi-faceted creative house and fine art studio, utilizing their combined talents for everything from custom illustrations to voiceover work to curated art shows.
The newly-remodeled Studio Grand Central lobby has been configured into a pop-up gallery and gift shop, with canvas and framed prints of many of McCoy’s Extraordinary Travel photographs. “This is a performer and a venue co-creating. What can we each do together, when we have a sandbox and an idea?”
This show, McCoy says, “is about what happens when we pursue what’s possible.”
The stories themselves, she adds, “are very entertaining, I promise. We have ghost stories, stories of wild nights that just unfolded without my being able to control them, magical times at the theater, magical times on the other side of the planet.
“I promise I will not send you home this close to Christmas without feeling good.”
The Year of Extraordinary Travel runs Dec. 8-18. Find all info and tickets here.