Life During Wartime
Volume 2 Book 9 Part 11 of "Living In The Bonus Round"
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin

[ Diary Index ]
[ Book 8 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ]

February 2002.
Rochester, NY.

Singing "Connected" in TLS-Rochester.

February 11 - 17, 2002.
The Last of Rochester -- NOT.
On the last night of our four week run in Rochester NY, I was sitting in the dressing room when Sue (Ginger's mom) came up and asked if there were any chairs we weren't using. The line of "standbys" was out the door and people were clamoring to get in. So they were running around looking for anything resembling a chair or stool to seat the people.

It was really, really thrilling for us up there in our little room. There is no way to describe the energetic butterflies that rush through your stomach when you are sitting upstairs in a relatively quiet room knowing that downstairs is a lobby and theatre full of people who are buzzing and fighting for seats.

We all looked at each other with knowing glances. And sure enough, from the first notes of "Save Me A Seat," I could FEEL the audience in that room, in the dark, hanging onto every single note. Sometimes they felt like a single being, holding a breath during the quiet one moment and falling into the aisles with laughter the next.

Dannette E. Sheppard singing "Preacher and the Nurse"

There were those who had already seen the show three or four times -- one guy came three times in the last week alone -- and those who were told to "just come and see it," who had no real notion of the emotional roller coaster they had just been strapped into.

I began the week on our two days off and I was tired. I was also cranky and ready to be home. After five weeks on the road -- it's really too much -- I was in good shape physically, but there's a reason I'm married to Jimmy and the cats. They are my touchstone to emotional stability. They are my family. Five weeks is a very long time.

Plus, I have limited kitchen skills which only get worse as I'm away from home. I was starting to get tired of the daily diet of eggs, oatmeal, hummus, frozen veggies and sliced turkey. They might be healthy and I shouldn't complain considering what other people in the world have to eat but too much of the same gets very old after awhile.

The one thing that was sustaining me during the days was my "new" friendship with Amy Coleman. She said to me, "I don't think I ever really knew you before. I mean I got to know Jimmy really well because he was our director but you were just kind of around."

Amy Coleman telling "...a funny Gideon Story."
"It was summer..." "FLAG DAY!" "The smell of musk hit me like a steel boxing glove..."
I reminded her that Jimmy always used to tell me to "Stay away from the actors." LOL There was a reason for this, of course. Me being the composer, if I was giving my opinion on one thing and Jimmy was telling them something else, it was like they had two directors -- not a good or a professional way to lead a cast.

So, here Amy and I are in Rochester sharing a house (and a phoneline). And this time we have PERMISSION to talk about the show and the characters. Sometimes we would talk about the pain between "Vicki" and "Gideon" and just cry our eyes out. I really just started to fall in love with her as a person. The crystal moment for me -- the one I can't get out of my head -- is a look that passed between us one night after "The Group."

Jay Falzone reads the letter from "Jack"

Earlier that day I had said that "The Group," for me, is the song where Vicki starts to realize that there's something going on here more than just making a record. Nothing she could identify, but something that changed the whole emotional equation. So that night, after singing the song I looked over at Amy and there she was just STARING at me -- and as "Gideon" I found myself reacting to her in a guilty realization of what he was about to do (commit suicide, betray Jack and his friends) was only just dawning on him.

It was a chilling moment because my emotional reaction was completely in character. It was as if I was discovering this play for the very first time. And I have no idea if an audience would have seen this look or noticed it, but it added a layer of realism for me and as a non-actor, I started to realize what it is that turns good actors on. It's this moment by moment thinking through of what each character is thinking every single moment of the play.

And I think I got better as the run continued because we'd keep finding these moments. Both Jay and Danette were equally good at doing this but it started with my "new" friendship with Amy.

Danette as Tryshia tearfully performing "Singer and the Song"

My feelings going into the final weekend were totally mixed, of course. I was sad that this experience was ending, but happy to be going home soon. But those weren't the only shows on tap.

Amy and I both were doing "cabarets." In her cabaret -- along with Chris Burley -- I was the musician (and foil). It was postponed till Sunday. Mine would be the day before, on Saturday.

This was one of those things where, going into it, I wasn't sure what I was gonna do. I had all my new songs but no real thread to tie them all together into an "act."

So I thought about it and thought about it. Then Wednesday morning, I woke up at 3am, got out the laptop and just started writing. It all came to me in a flash. I called it "God and Rochester." I opened the act by sitting on a stool under a spotlight, wearing my glasses and reading stories about my experiences in Rochester.

"In Rochester I found God. Okay, maybe not God..."

I told of how Brother Jerry believed in me enough to give me his whole Sunday night church service (first time I'd been in a church in 20 years) and how Chris & Ann Marie believed in me *and* TLS enough to wait four years to get it right. Then I made it to the piano and was joined onstage by Brian, Debi Joffee and Danette E. Sheppard.

Brian, Debi and Danette

The whole script with pictures by Bev Sykes, who flew in from Davis California, is here. (For text readers, the address is

On Thursday, I drove to the train station to pick up my favorite internet activist and best pal, Maggie Heineman. She traveled 8 hours by train just to see me do the show. (She liked it). Anyway, Thursday was a sell-out. Friday was a sell-out and then Saturday I did my cabaret. Saturday night was standing room only.

Sunday afternoon was Amy's show and I'll quote Chris who said it was one the greatest afternoons of music he had ever seen. I'm so used to seeing Amy standing in a blues club, belting out blues standards standing a pool of beer.

But for this, she was in a very elegant black gown and her repertoire ranged from Gershwin, to blues to a hilarious Marlene Dietrich take-off, to "House of the Rising Sun" to a gorgeous ballad about how everything changes. Halfway through the song I looked over and huge tears were streaming down her face.

She ended the show with "Beyond The Light" followed by "Going It Alone." The combination of her "exquisitely damaged" voice, her emotional state and her love for these songs gave them a punch I never heard before. A perfect set-up for the last performance that night.

I have already described the feeling of Sunday night's sold-out, standing room only, "let's steal chairs from the dressing room" night. When the show was finally over, I gave the curtain speech and was proud to announce that we were coming back in May for three weeks. In the hugline, there was much laughter and tears.

"Your career will SKYrocket!"

One person telling me his brother died a few years ago and that the show helped bring up powerful and warm memories. Another saying how she'd been through cancer treatments and that she remembered the exhaustion, the chemo and the wish to die.

"Friendly Fire"

Church people telling how important they felt the message was, PFLAG and other GLBT reps telling me they were so happy to see such a positive and uplifting message against bigotry and discrimination.

Me, I just accepted the hugs with a big grin on my face. What else could I do?

We had proved once and for all that TLS can find an audience in a small market -- partly because of DCT's constant marketing but also I think because this "hugline" gave the audience a chance to really connect with us as human beings. Producers do not need to fear our strong message and seemingly dark plotline, not if they treat the material AND THE AUDIENCE with loving care.

After the show, we had a little wrap party but it wasn't long before I was starting to pass out. I was tired. The plane ride home seemed absolutely endless, but once I saw Jimmy; once I hugged the cats and felt the sunshine of El Lay, it took a little while, but I finally felt like I was home -- like waking up after a long, beautiful dream. (Plus, no snow on the sidewalks!)

And now, I take time off. This will be the last diary entry for about three weeks. Jimmy and I are going to huddle together to work on a new piece, I'm going to be working on the new CD, and I'm going to be offline (which means my responses to emails will be slow), but mostly I'm just taking a vacation.

So, this isn't the end of the diary. It's just the end of Volume 2, Book 9.

See you in Book 10 in about three weeks.

[ Diary Index ]
[ Book 8 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ]

[ Hannah, Hospice Social Worker ] [ Shawn Decker's ]
[ Jimmy's Sunday Sermons ] [ My Lynchburg Diary: Meeting Jerry Falwell ]
Subscribe to THE LAST SESSION fan and support group
© 2002 by Steve Schalchlin.
You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.