Volume 2 Book 5 Part 4 of Living In The Bonus Round
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin

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October-November 2000. El Lay, New York.

October 25-Nov. 8, 2000.
Readings. Readings. Readings.
I had the most peculiar feeling on Nov. 2nd as Jimmy and I sat in the control booth of the Edison Recording Studios in New York City watching a new staged reading of The Last Session. The feeling I had was one of, "This show is done. It's over. Let it die." But there was something just exhausting about watching it all get fired up yet again.

Or perhaps it was because Jimmy and were both just tired. After the long road trips of the past two months, a few days home for rest and relaxation and then back on a plane again for New York, all I really wanted to do was crawl into my bed and sleep for a month.

And of course, I felt TERRIBLY guilty over having these feelings. I didn't want to say them out loud. Aunt Michael had worked like a dog, sacrificing his OWN money, time and energy to produce these readings for film and tv producers. Plus, the cast (Bob Stillman, Michele Mais, Amy Coleman, Stephen Bienskie and Dean Bradshaw) had been working their asses off. I just felt ungrateful.

Thursday's reading confirmed my fears. The whole thing just felt tired. The cast was really committed but the timing was off or the rhythm was off. SOMEthing wasn't clicking and I just wanted to go home. (Others said they thought it was great performance, so it could have just been my mood).

On Friday morning, as Jimmy and I were walking to visit the new, spectacular planetarium at the Museum of Natural History, I confessed to him my feelings. He said he understood, that he had been feeling similarly. I was so relieved

But mostly because there's nothing like being in a room with Jim Brochu surrounded by thousands of screaming schoolkids. He turns into Tallulah Bankhead. "Dah-ling, who opened the floodgates?"

The new space show, though, was worth the effort. I think it's healthy to understand how small we all are in the massive universe. The Tom Hanks narrated show which arched above us was inspiring, colorful and beautiful. We laid back in the huge planetarium seats and looked up at the brilliant laser-perfect "sky". Then we took off around the universe looking at nebulae, galaxies, stars, planets, comets, etc. I felt like Jody Foster in "Contact."

So, by the time we got to the studio for reading number two we were in much better moods. And that's when it happened. From the very first word, the performers and the audience were as one. They laughed, cried, applauded, and generally went insane.

Suddenly, TLS rose from the dead. Like Lazarus. It all came back. Blood pulsed through its now energized veins and suddenly it was as if the show were brand new and completely reborn. But I want to give credit where credit is due. It wouldn't have happened if not for the unceasing faith, work, sacrifice and tenacity of one man: Michael Alden (AKA Aunt Michael). He was the one "who made us believe."

Producer Michael Alden introducing the LA reading

Additional credit for hard work go to Karen, Lori and Julie, the Sessionauts who also had labored long hours on the EL Lay production but who now live in NYC.

By the time we got to El Lay we were all high as kites and ready for a great show. Bev was there in the front row and her pictures pretty much captured the intensity and the brilliance of the performers and the performance that night.

L.A. City Councilman Joel Wachs presents a plaque to Jimmy and Steve.
The inscription thanks us for making Los Angeles a better place to live.
And we didn't even know we were GETTING a plaque!

Charles Nelson Reilly introduced TLS by saying it was one
of three pivotal theatrical moments in his life.
He started crying when he introduced the cast
saying, "And these are my friends..."

Bob Stillman, fresh off his Tony nomination was never better.
He caught all the humor, sillines and tragedy of Gideon.

It was great to re-team with Dean Bradshaw as "Jim."
He has a toughness and vulnerability that shows in his eyes.
He has a reputation for having the "softest lips on a straight man."

Michele Mais was so nervous at rehearsal cuz the others were from the
NY production and she was from the L.A. production.
Her portrayal of Tryshia was passionate, teary-eyed and powerful.

Enter Ms. Amy Coleman as Vicki (Tryshia's nemesis)
and the sparks start flying right off the bat.
"You're not still miffed about the wedding!?"

Seeing Stephen Bienskie return to the role of Buddy was pure,
unadulterated joy. He left the NY run of TLS to star in a show in Washington DC
where he won the Helen Hayes Best Actor Award.

Amy Coleman singing: "In the town there's an HIV-free circus..."
from Somebody's Friend. This song brought down the house.

"That's all right. You can sing it. It sounds just like I always thought it would."
"Did you write the words, too?"
"Maybe you should listen to them sometime."

"We were militantly adorable."

"Haven't you ever had a three-way? A two-way?..."

"Are the hitmen more humane
When the target is the buyer?"

"Is the song more beautiful
When you hear the angel choir
If you know that they've been sent by

"If I kill him, your career would SKYrocket!"

"Because you haven't listened to my song yet!"

Who's savin' who?

Bows for a standing ovation.

There's little else to say except that our hearts were filled, our bodies and souls nourished and fed. Thank you, Aunt Michael. Thank you for making this happen. We didn't even know how much we needed it.e

Long live TLS!

[An addendum: I forgot to also thank Mandy, Tina, Joy and Lindsey for their work on the LA production. Also Janna the stage manager, Pegge who helped with promotion, Aunt Michael's mother and family who stuffed and stickered envelopes, Ruth and Lisa, and Jay Irwin who house managed. If I left anyone else out, let me know please.]

October 25-Nov. 9-22, 2000.
Back On The Road.

I want to show you the lobby of the Hyatt Union Station in St. Louis (where I sang a showcase concert for the college and university kids from the Bacchus/Gamma peer group organization -- and no, this is not a paid advertisement. When we first walked in I just gasped. A cavernous turn of the century train station that has been converted into a big hotel and shopping center.

Cavernous Hyatt Union Station Lobby in St. Loujis
The Hyatt Union Station St. Louis lobby ceiling
If you look closely at the far wall, you can see that the lights which arc across are actually female figures holding torches.

Wall of St. Louis Hyatt Union Station
The ornate wall has been meticulously restored.

Further inside the station is a mall with lots of shops  -- mostly touristy junk.
And a store that sells only Beatles stuff. In St. Louis. Mmmm. Okay.
The best thing was I got to see Shawn Decker (Jimmy's and my godson) who was there with Gwenn. Shawn didn't feel so good cuz he had a cold, but the kids loved their presentation.

Shawn & Gwenn. Click on the middle picture.
My concert took place Thursday night and it was categorized as "edutainment." Since this was taking place in a hotel ballroom, I went down early to see what they had set up for me. A really nice guy gave me the first bad news: that my voice would be coming out of the ceiling speakers.

"But," he said, "I'm a musician and I can tell you it's not as bad as I've heard in other hotels." He was right. It wasn't terrible. But still, those speakers are never good for music. The second bad news I had was that the piano was a little out of tune upright sitting on the floor next to the stage.

But we put the piano on the stage, pointed a spotlight at it, turn down the lights and viola! Magic!

Lissa from Campuspeak took this.
The audience was so responsive, I didn't want to stop.

I also made an animation from the photos Lissa took. You can find it at here -- don't laugh.

I'm glad I got a few days to just rest there in St. Louis. I went to see "The Sixth Day" -- which was big and dumb and I didn't care. Shawn and I didn't hang out that much cuz of his cold, but we did make a new Hemo2Homo t-shirt and gave it to Jimmy.

Then when I got home I took a couple of days to do some volunteer office work for the El Portal. It was my job for two days to call agents and tell them their clients have been accepted to come and audition for the upcoming production of "Shooting Craps," a comedy play by Tom Dulack.

So weird. You can't believe how many of them were actually resentful of having to take the time to get the info. First they submit their actors, then they treat you like you're trying to sell them a vacuum cleaner when you call to give them the good news! Such a strange business. I wonder if the actors are aware of how abusive their reps are.

Finally, we are taking Thanksgiving to close the doors, shut off the phones and just be together. Our favorite thing.

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© 2000 by Steve Schalchlin.
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