Volume 1 Book 9 Episode 20
of Living In The Bonus Round
the online diary of Steve Schalchlin
Life's a Beach (and then you open).

Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20

Joel Traywick, Bob Stillman, Michele Mais, Charles Nelson Reilly, Jim Brochu, Amy Coleman, P.M. Howard

Chip Esten, Ronda Espy & Charles Nelson Reilly.

An Online Diary of the
1998 Laguna Playhouse Production

featuring Jim Brochu, Amy Coleman, P.M. Howard, Michele Mais, Bob Stillman, Joey Traywick, Positoids, NuBiHes and lavish amounts of love.

Part 20.

Laguna Beach.
The Closing Performance.

Since I missed the last weekend of performances, I asked fans and others who were there to contribute their personal observations. I hope you enjoy them!

Please check out Gail's RENT Bennytour.com salute to THE LAST SESSION with pictures!


dear Steve Shaulchlin,

my name is Marie-Reine and i am 17 years old from southern california. i saw The Last Session for the first time this past sunday, the closing show in Laguna (of course, you already know that). i'm writing you to say what a wonderful experience sunday was.

let me begin with how i found the show.

i know gail and tina from RENT. i met them this past august when the show was in town. since then, we've kept in touch. the past couple weeks, i've heard gail and tina rave about the show so much, and tina has urged me numerous times to come out and see the show. i wasn't able to get out to laguna until this past sunday.

so i asked a friend of mine to come along with me. i made reservations for the tickets for the closing show, and i felt really excited about seeing the show. i started to read your site and it's just amazing.

one diary entry that really touched me and compelled me even more to see the show was the entry about katie hess and her essay. i also know katie from the internet. she's so sweet. her essay brought me to tears also, and i was really looking forward to seeing the show.

when i got the the theatre, i didn't really know what to expect. but i saw other people i had met before and they scolded me for not seeing the show earlier. [oops! :)] i walked in and i felt this amazing feeling rush right through me. the i looked around the audience, and on the other side i saw tina, carol, lori, and other fans pass around some tissues. so i took from their cue and took out some tissues for myself, just in case.

bob began to sing "save me a seat" and that was the first time i have ever cried in the opening song. right away i knew the show would affect me dearly. in some way i thought i felt what gideon might have been going through. the show went on. i laughed and i cried. but when i lost control of my tears was in the middle of act II when the group is trying to convince gideon not to commit suicide, and gideon says, something along the lines of "i have nothing left to fight with." from there on, i was sobbing uncontrollably.

i met the cast afterwards, and they were so amazing. i have never seen or heard of any cast member of a play or musical to hang around with the fans for over an hour. i was outside with everyone from 4:30 until 6:00. it was really something special for me.

everything just gave me what i had been looking for. i found some kind of motivation through the show. a new passion for life was found. plus, it made me think about what i believe in what fits into my life.

wow, this letter turned out a bit longer than i had planned, so i'll end it here. i just want to thank you for one of the most amazing and enlightening experiences of my life.

also, i took a *lot* of pictures on sunday. i sent a majority of them to gail for her to put up. if you want any pictures, i'll be more than happy to send them to you.

lots of love, marie-reine

Check out Gail's Laguna Closing Night Pictures.

Dear Steve,

 i cried through the whole show. start to finish. not tears of sadness, not all the time anyway, but there were just so many emotions and it was overwhelming. i felt so incredibly lucky to have been a part of it all. blessed, even. whichever.

i was so grateful for the last four weeks, getting to know, and love, you and jimmy. getting to share the whole thing with some of the best friends i've ever had and making new ones. the love that surrounds this show is unlike anything i've ever known. i loved to listen to the reactions of the people around me, especially the older ones.

you see i know well how gideon feels when he says to jack that if they don't talk about something then it doesn't exist. i think it is a catholic thing. my family is big on that, and while i try to be different, i see myself doing it all the time. my family fears any emotion that isn't happiness or anger. odd, yes. but we don't do sadness or love very easily. and to see men my dad's age crying is a marvel. it just really gets to me. during the last show the man in front of us had to take off his glasses to wipe away the tears after the singer and the song. i loved that. we're talking middle aged straight guy crying.

doesn't happen in my world. enough about that. on to the show.

powerful. bob was flawless. we were on the right side, and though i love the bob/groupie seats, you only get to see his face in profile most of the time. and his face is amazing. the looks between gideon and buddy during going it alone were just ripping my heart out. god. there was so much pain in bob's voice in the monologue before that song.

and joey? jesus. he cried through the whole letter and song. and again, the way bob looks at him....... i'm speechless (wait til you hear the tapes, oh god) and joey looked like he was barely going to make it onto the stool, and he was sobbing by now. when the act was over we just sat there. we were spent. all we could do was hug each other and cry. and the applause went on for days, after every song. it was intense, i tell you.

so then there's act 2. bob is such the rock star in "at least i know....." i love this song and i always think about who it was written about, and that makes me even happier. amy was spectacular in telling her little story. and then during tryshia's story [where she tells about her gay son getting beaten] i don't think there was one of us there that wasn't thinking about matthew. god, i can't go there right now.

connected was wonderful, it's all about bob yet again. carol took my hand and we just held on. connection in an isolating age, to quote another little show. if nothing else this show has made me realize how important it is to be connected, or rather, to allow myself to be connected. ugh, that frightens me like you can't begin to understand.

maisey was bawling through the singer and the song, and amy cried through her "you aren't really going to do it" rant. we're talking running mascara and all. "the singer and the song" is becoming one of my favorite parts of the play. when tryshia started singing to gideon, bob's face once again just tore me up. he was crying, she was crying, the other two up there were crying, we were sobbing. and forget about buddy's line......that was barely choked out. the part where buddy prays over gideon had tears just streaming down all their faces. i think i forgot to breathe.

and when you care was inspired, the best it's ever been. they sang their faces off, as someone i know likes to say. wow.

everyone walked out of the theatre in a daze. it was quite a ride. so jimmy asks me how i'm doing, and i say, "um, i'm a little sad" and he tells me not to be sad because it isn't the end, only an intermission :) as if we ever doubted that. the only bad thing about the weekend was that you weren't there. something was missing. we really really missed you.


What can I tell you about closing? It was emotional from start to finish. I was determined not to let it get to me but the cast's interpretation of your music and lyrics along with Jimmy's words just got to me. I said later that it felt like my church was closing. Each time I've come to The Last Session, I feel the way I've always wanted to feel in church. . . closer to God, closer to people.

It seemed like Bob was trying to make every song last just a measure longer, Amy trying to hit new depths of range and emotions, P.M. fine tuning his guitar and comedic timing, Joey fighting to hang on (as usual) during Going It Alone and the one that got to me that night. . . Maisey breaking into tears during Singer and the Song but still singing the hell out of it as she usually does. No one wanted to wake from this dream . . . this gift.

I must admit I did my share of watching Chip Epsten who sat directly in front of me during the show. It was interesting to see his reactions to new lines and interpretations of the show. Chip seemed to come alive during Bob's At Least I Know What's Killing Me and Joey's Friendly Fire. Wish I knew what was going through that boy's head but he sure was drumming a beat out with his head during those two tunes. I could just picture him as Buddy.

My funniest memory is the strangers around me wondering why so many people came running at me before the show begging for my famous Puffs (which I absent-mindedly left in my car). I made up for it during intermission when Ed Brophy took my keys and got my box of Puffs out of my back seat and I made sure to pass it around to anyone in the theatre who was in need. Sorry guys to let you down in the first act.

I'm not sure what this weekend will hold in store for me. My car won't know what to do without a trip to Laguna on the weekend. Thank you Steve for a month of magic. . . full of meeting new friends and healing old wounds. I hope you like the pictures and the gift I gave to both you and Jimmy at closing. I wish my pictures had been better but feel free to use any or all you want. I have some great pictures with other cast members which I turned over to them to use as they wish as well. Stay in touch. Feeling connected.

God Bless TLS (used with permission by Joel T. Traywick)


I'd seen the play the week before... so this time I invited my mother who lives nearby (Irvine). Since my son Jason hasn't come out to relatives, it was just to go see the play and not about Jason.

But, other great people were there too! And were so nice to us. I got worn out trying to explain how I knew people and wondering if anyone would ask about my son afterwards, so I told her about him being gay during intermission.

As I was telling her, Ed and Debbie and others (I was sort of dazed so I saw this blur of people - lol) walked up and everything happened at once!!! It worked out so well. She got hugged and asked questions and everyone around was so supportive and nice.

Afterwards I asked if she wanted to go to the bar and she did. She seemed to have a lot of fun and people made both of us feel so comfortable. I asked her how she liked everything and she talked about how much the play meant to her, having been close to several deaths recently; and really enjoyed the impromptu singing, and the whole thing. She marveled at each of you, by the way, and talked about wanting to know what else she could go see.

She seems fine with Jason being gay, except worried that he'll have a hard time in the future. It was not the best way to tell her, I didn't think at first, but as it turned out it was ideal. She had a lot of questions about Steve and was quite impressed to meet Jim and Steve. She kept saying, even during the play stuff like "that tall guy I met, is Jim!!" (Jim, you made a true fan!!!!!) And since I'm so completely "down" for music, she already knew that Steve would be there. The next day she read the whole program and called me about it, asking more questions about Steve's health and all.

Admittedly my family is kind of "different" - I don't actually expect any of them to be negative about Jason being gay, except in their awareness that the rest of the world may be hard on him. But perhaps surprised.

Ed and his friends were so very good to her (and to me,too), I can't begin to explain. And Debbie, I didn't hear what the 2 of you were whispering together, but it must have been the right thing to say.

So, Steve, this isn't exactly about the play itself which I thought was great!! I lost a friend to AIDS in 1995 and spent a lot of time with him the last 6 mos. after he was diagnosed. It brought a lot of that back, but that was a good thing. I miss him; but he ignored all the signs for years before he ended up in the hospital and was diagnosed. So, keep up your treatments, please!!!!!!

To all of you who're HIV positive or have AIDS. The survival rate is so much more encouraging. With love and hugs and thanks and prayers, a mom.

Steve: Oh, Lord, but you do assign difficult homework, don't you??!! Ok, well here goes and I can already tell that this won't be easy:

Because of other obligations, I could not attend on Sunday for the last show. It really broke my heart but I just couldn't be there for closing. Instead, Karen T. and I had wonderful front row seats, JOEY-SIDE, for the last Saturday matinee. I knew from the moment I sat down that this was going to be an incredible show for a whole lot of reasons.

First, row-mates included a very nice returnee named Roberta (yeah, another Roberta--can you believe it?!) and her friend Linda. Carol, Karen and I knew immediately that we had lucked out. When I handed out first act kleenex to everyone in row one, I just knew that Linda and Roberta II were our soul-mates regarding this wonderful play.

Then the show started. I could tell from Bob's opening words that he was really "on". There was soooooo much emotion and electricity from that corner of the stage. And Bob stayed "on" for the entire show. His voice was strong when it needed to be, fragile and plaintive when that was called for and HIS EYES, his eyes told the story behind the story.

Bob wasn't "acting" Gideon--Bob WAS Gideon.

Maisey was full of that "animal" magnetism, just like her car seats [which are covered in fake leopard]. I felt like I was in some old revival tent watching her "preach" to us that day.

And Amy must have been visited by the combined ghosts of Janis Joplin, Mama Cass, Billy Holiday and Mae West--she was pure grit and human frailty and sexuality and despair and hope all rolled into one and I especially loved her that day.

Now for Joey--What can I saw about that youngun that hasn't already been said??? His performance was full of truthful struggle and I just knew that he was honestly aching inside, not only for Buddy, as he always does, but for Joey who was hating to leave this show, even for a short time.

Before the second act, the entire row behind me asked for kleenex and wanted to know more about you and the play and actors. These people, who appeared to be in their 60's, were very much into the show. In "real life", these people and I probably never would have spoken but because they had "connected" with the play, they also had "connected" with us. Isn't that both wonderful and powerful? Something like your play bringing diverse groups together. Makes you think, doesn't it?!!!

After the show, I was surprised and very pleased (ok, so I am selfish, a little) that there were not as many "regulars" as usual. I guess that they were saving their pennies for the Saturday evening and Sunday last show.

Because of this, Karen T., Carol, Lori and I had a wonderful opportunity to talk to the cast which was hard for Karen T. and I, this being the last hurrah for us. When we told the cast this was it for us, they were especially warm and caring. But when I told Joey, all he could do was grab me and hold on for dear life. I swore that sweet boy wasn't going to let go and that I would never be able to take in a deep breath again as long as I lived. And I just wanted to hold him forever, I am such a Jewish Mother!!!!

Let me tell you what I believe that I have gained because of this wonderful show. First, I have had the honor of meeting two talented men, you and Jimmy, both of whom hopefully will end up at my dining room table in the very near future!

Steve, the first time that I got to meet you in person, remember what I said to you after the first act? I came out of the theater and was trying to compose myself into my very grown-up, professional lawyer-like mode. You asked me, "Well, what did you think?" and all I could do was cry.

You grabbed me and held me in your arms and all I could say was something like, "I am so sorry for the pain that you had to go through so that you could bring us this play". I still ache, even more so after meeting you, to think of the hell you went through. But your experience also teaches us that G-d's ways are truly mysterious, inexplicable and, ultimately, joyous.

For out of your pain and the pain felt by Jimmy in caring for you has come the most beautiful gift for all of us to learn from and enjoy. Gam zu l'tova!!!

Secondly, I have had an incredible theater experience which touches the heart and soul and contains music that is as near to prayer as anything I have ever heard. Truly, "art" at its finest.

Thirdly, I have met and have had the opportunity to talk with five wonderful actors whose talent I admire beyond words. And lastly, and I think even more importantly, I have gotten to know some wonderful people who are YOUR fans and now my friends.

Their commitment to this show and its message of love is reflected in their love and commitment to each other. Steve, this play has attracted some of the best people in the world, some new and some old friends that I am privileged to call my buddies. So Steve, thanks for bringing us all together and adding immeasurably to our lives in more ways than I can count and now recount in this missive. You and Jimmy and the cast and the fans are the BEST!!!

Teacher, I am worn out from this!! Can I go home now??? :-)

Love and Kisses, Roberta

My friend's mom: "This show was just the most beautiful... it was fabulous!"

My friend: "This was like the best show I've ever seen. It's definitely up there with my top shows."

My wife: "I liked this show more than I liked 'Les Miserables', and I loved that."

Me: "This show is incredible. It gets better each time, and its impact is undeniable and inescapable." (Okay, I didn't rally ever say that out loud. But I've been thinking it.)

Joey Traywick: "See, Jeremy, the way I look at this show... it's like this total gift. I'll never leave it. I'd do this before I'd eat. I mean, I've got a personal investment in it. It's like I have to do it. I am a better person for it. I will stay out here and talk to everybody until everyone goes home - it's like that. I just love this show."

Jim Brochu (on how funny the show is): "Look, some people can fix air conditioners. I write comedy."

Jim Brochu (on Steve Schalchlin's non-attendance at the Laguna closing): "Y'know, he wasn't there when we closed in New York, either. Maybe it's good luck."

Bob Stillman: "I gotta go home and see my dog. When I come out here next time, he's coming with me."

Michelle Mais (on her gold, Xena-like bustier top which looked like a breast serving dish): "Is it too much?"

Michael Alden: "Oh, I'll always be a part of this."

Me (to each member of the cast, individually): "You were incredible today."

FROM CJ LIOTTA [who was not at the show but was reporting on a candlelight vigil for Matthew Shepard at the Universtity of North Texas. CJ played "When You Care" for them at the end.]
IT was a different scene here at UNT tonight. Nearly *400* students, faculty, staff, and supporters gathered for a vigil and lecture tonight. More and more people as I have returned from the vigil have told me that what made the perfect impression was When You Care.

400 people in texas...I'm still reeling. We're also making a $300 donation to the memorial fund from funds gathered at the vigil.

Steve... Thanks for giving us such wonderful music.

But that's not all! There are even MORE STORIES FROM THE CLOSING WEEKEND on the next page, 20a.

All photos and text are © 1998 by Steve Schalchlin.