This is how Broadway’s Schele Williams keeps her priorities straight, from always packing a swimsuit to embracing the bus (or a cruise) in a new city
by MARK ELLWOOD
Schele Williams started her career as a dancer, actor and singer on Broadway.
She was part of the original cast of Aida and performed in 42nd Street and Rent, in which she was the glass-shattering soloist for the song Seasons of Love.
Williams then segued to directing, with credits such as the national tour of Motown: The Musical and multiple benefits and events, including the marriage-equality-promoting Defying Inequality starring Liza Minnelli. Her next project is directing a top-secret musical production with Disney, set to bow in 2020.
The daughter of the drummer in Ohio Players, she travelled constantly as a child. “It’s always been in my blood, and my dad is 68 and still on tour,” says Williams, who now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.
Williams logs about 80,000 miles (128,748km)in the air each year. Her favourite airline is JetBlue for domestic trips, while Marc Newson’s business-class seats on Qantas are her choice internationally.
Think like a construction worker to always have great coffee when travelling.
Coffee is not only essential, it is a religious experience for me. I’ve taken a lot of red-eyes, and I used to wake up before arrival with this nagging dread of the impending crappy brown water in a cup the size of a thimble.
This is a solvable problem, and now I never take a trip without my Stanley French press travel thermos. It’s what fancy construction workers carry with them — it’s so well-made, it’s steel.
I prep the press with good coffee from home, like La Colombe, along with a Tupperware of extra ground coffee that travels in my suitcase. Whenever I need a coffee on the plane, I simply go to the flight attendants’ station and ask them to fill my thermos with hot water.
Forget gym shoes and pack resistance bands instead.
I often don’t pack gym shoes because they take up so much space in your luggage. Instead, I’m a big proponent of exercise bands.
These tiny little bands are the size of socks and fold up to absolutely nothing. And they give you that resistance. So, you can do your arms and legs in your room.
Embrace the bus — and take a booze cruise — in new cities.
I tell everyone: “Take the bus!” I love taking local transportation, and I do prefer it be above ground. Buses and trams allow you to travel slowly, and I can see where I’m going. I can clock how they pronounce the name of things, too.
In Berlin, if you take Bus 100, you’re going through Winged Victory, you’re going through the Brandenburger Tor. You’re literally seeing all the sites on East and West on this one bus.
If I’m in a “water city” — Budapest, Vienna, Amsterdam — I like to take a booze cruise the night that I arrive. It’s going to sound totally touristy and gross, but I love it. You get on that booze cruise, and you get oriented in the city. Because what it’s going to show you is the water view of all of these sites. And you’re going to get a little primer about them.
And then you decide what you actually want to see. Plus, it really helps you stay awake if you’ve just arrived in Europe from America.
Never get caught hungry by room service.
When I check into a hotel, I always look to see what time room service ends, because I’ve been shocked (in the past) at how early it ends. And because I’m a theatre person, it really matters to me if room service ends at 11pm and I’m not getting home until 1am or 2am.
I’ll preorder something I know won’t go bad — some yogurt and fruit, maybe a cheese plate. And I’ll put it in the minibar, so I know that I have something waiting.
On your next trip to Europe, don’t miss this postcard-pretty Swiss town.
Montreux, Switzerland, is the perfect Swiss village. Located on Lake Geneva, it’s a quaint picturesque town with amazing wines, skiing, and a lovely opera house. I was there in the winter on tour of Porgy and Bess, and we felt like we had the whole town to ourselves.
Booking a hotel with a balcony and lake views is a must because those panoramas are not only one of a kind, they’ll melt your heart. On my first visit, I got up and I opened up the terrace doors, and it was so beautiful I just laughed, because I felt like Eva Gabor in Green Acres, with this Technicolour vista.
If you do decide to go in July, you’ll be surrounded by the coolest cats on the planet as the town starts to swell with the Montreux Jazz Festival.
Solo travelling? Ask someone to take a picture of you.
One time, I did that with a couple I’d seen for a couple days on the beach, and we just struck up a conversation. They were on their honeymoon. The next night we all went to dinner together and just had such a good time. We also went parasailing.
And I remember two men who said, in response, “Honey, you look fabulous.” And I was like, “Ohh, these are my people.” We ended up hanging out in the Dominican Republic, and I went horseback riding with them.
Always, always pack a swimsuit.
There’s always an opportunity to go to a spa or a hot spring, or whatever. Before I started doing this, I was in San Francisco and heard about Vichy Springs, which is the same kind of place they have in France, and I had to find a swimsuit in January, which is impossible. Eventually, I found one in Old Navy.
I’ve also been in a couple hotels that have pools open through the night. When I get home from the theatre, and I’m really stressed out or tired, I really like the fact that I can decompress by going for a swim.
The one person you can always ask for late-night food recommendations.
As I’ve certainly done that many times in my travels, you go into the bar, and you’re like, “Hey, I’m starving. Where can we go?” And any bartender will tell you what’s open late, because they’re walking out late, too.
Once we turned a bar into an impromptu party in Amsterdam when we did that — we asked him if we could come back with (the food we bought). — Bloomberg