Skift Take

"Craving for Travel" is geared for a mass audience, and not for people schooled in discussions of segments, surcharges and fare classes. The play undoubtedly fits in well with the messaging of its travel industry sponsors in a light-hearted way, but also celebrates the feats of a now 79-year-old woman entrepreneur, and the behind the scenes challenges that travel agents and travelers at almost every turn.

Could there be a more comedic and dramatic premise, a situation more pregnant with angst, anguish and possibilities for redemption?

Yes, as the advertisement puts it:

“Thirty travelers.

“Two agents

“Tons of baggage.”

That’s the backdrop of Craving for Travel, an off Broadway play slated to run for a “limited engagement” January 9 to February 9, 2014 at the Peter J. Sharp Theater on 42nd Street in Manhattan on the outskirts of Broadway.

The two-actor play is the brainchild of Jim Strong, president of Strong Travel Services in Dallas, who produces the play, taking some inspiration from his mother, agency founder Nancy Strong, and their real-life experiences catering to the needs and whims of their clients, the Dallas Morning News reports.

This is how the show, described as “a two-actor, thirty-character comedy of international proportions,” sets up:

“Gary and Joanne, rival travel agents and former spouses, are vying for their industry’s most prestigious honor: the Globel Prize. With their reputations on the line, they’ll tackle any request, no matter how impossible, and any client, no matter how unreasonable.

“Full of overzealous travelers, overbooked flights, and hoteliers who are just over it, Craving for Travel reminds us why we travel … and everything that can happen when we do.”

Strong Travel Services kicked in a “significant portion” of the close to $300,000 raised for the production, with other sponsors, including Four Seasons, Virtuoso, Holland America Line, Seabourn, Viking River Cruises and the Sabre Travel Network,  contributing the rest, a spokesperson says.

Strong tells Skift that he’s “honored to have all of these travel industry bigwigs” supporting such an unusual undertaking.

He says the show, using much exaggeration for comedic effect, portrays some of the “crazy requests” that travel agents get from their customers, and shows how travel agents can be very resourceful in using their networks to solve problems.

The sponsors were attracted to Craving for Travel because “the talents of travel agents are put in a favorable light,” Strong says.

However, none of the sponsors have seen the script or been privy to an early screening of the play, Strong says.

Other potential travel industry sponsors turned down the opportunity to sponsor Craving for Travel because of budgetary reasons, timing issues, or they didn’t want to share the spotlight with other sponsors, Strong said.

Craving for Travel definitely didn’t take the usual route to the environs of Broadway as Strong acknowledges that he has no background in theater, “not even the high school play.”

Strong hired Andy Sandberg as director, and Sandberg co-authored the play with Greg Edwards after extensive interviews of Strong, and separately with about 20 hotels, airlines and clients.

Strong’s initial idea was for a play based on his mother career, but the creative trio realized they would have to try something else to stoke an audience’s interest, and they settled on the idea of two travel agents, who are former spouses, doing battle to capture the Globel Prize.

What would a travel-oriented play be like without some travel involved in the script-writing?

Strong says he, Sandberg and Edwards did some of the fine-tuning of the script on a beach in Turks and Caicos in May 2013.

Will the play also deal with the myriad challenges travel agents face because of the Web and social media?

Definitely, Strong says, although he wouldn’t tip his hand about how Craving for Travel highlights these sorts of issues.

Meanwhile, when informed that Craving for Travel deals with sometimes off-the-wall requests by travelers, one travel agent who is not connected with the production quipped: “I’m thinking it must be very violent if it’s true to life. LOL!”

Ticket information is here.


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Tags: travel agents

Photo credit: A play about travel agents and travelers is slated to open Off-Broadway in Manhattan for a one-month limited engagement. Craving for Travel

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