January/February 1999. Los Angeles, Cincinnati & Columbus.
[ Vol. 1 Book 10 ] - [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] - [ Book 2 ]
Friday-Sunday, January 28-30, 1999.
Sunday Crash and Burn.I am home today, Sunday, completely exhausted -- lying on the couch in a stupor after a long day yesterday. Jimmy's down at the theatre because Betty Garrett is coming. (Betty read the role of Peg at an earlier staged reading of "The Lucky O'Learys" at the Pasadena Playhouse.)Tuesday-Wednesday, January 26-27, 1999.
This past Friday I had my first "put-in" rehearsal for my big night of playing Gideon in the Tiffany Theatre production. I'm so -- how can I say it? -- pulsating with anticipation. But it's also scary, I suppose. This one rehearsal was it. Do or die.(Ronda, seeing how nervous I was later that night said, "Remember, you asked for this!")I arrived at the theatre a little early so I was able to test the keyboard and get a feel for being on that stage. Joey also arrived early and since he was going to have to leave early, we ran some crucial scenes together, particularly the opening of Scene 2 when Buddy and Gideon are alone, leading up to "At Least I Know What's Killing Me."
He and Jimmy guided me to where I was supposed to stand -- and when to make tea (and when to hand it off), etc. I blew a few of the lines at first but we didn't panic; we just went back and did it again several times.
Then we rehearsed the argument going into "Going It Alone" and the reading of the letter.
The one instruction Jimmy gave me was to NOT ACT. To just be there and say the lines and try NOT to trip over the piano. That was difficult during the emotional scenes. For instance, reading the letter from Jack, I know perfectly well that Gideon "should" break down, prompting Buddy to read it instead.
If I were a trained actor, I could probably just burst into tears. But the idea of having to produce tears on cue is absolutely terrifying to me. Jimmy suggested I just turn upstage at that moment (old actor's trick).
So I did, but it felt so phony. It's not that I wasn't feeling or understanding the emotions Gideon was feeling, it's just that up there on that stage, I felt like I was on the spot and it was a bit "unreal."
Frankly, I'd rather sit there like a statue and do nothing than anything phony. Jimmy agreed and said when I get to that point again I should just stop and look at the letter. "I can see Gideon looking at the words and thinking of all the things he's just said about Jack," Jimmy said.
Once the cast arrived, we fooled around with the glow tape on the piano so I could find the opening notes to Save Me A Seat in the dark. Surprisingly, when I put my fingers on the keys I suddenly realized what Stevie Wonder must feel like.
After the lights came back up and P.M. said his first lines to me, "What are you thinking about...?" the lines flowed out of me to the point where I wasn't even thinking about them. They just came. What a great feeling!
Another great revelation that happened during this "put-in" was now NOT like Bob I was on stage. I mean, I've heard him sing and act this role for going on two years now. His phrasings and attitudes are completely memorized in my mind.
But it all disappeared when I began saying the words. Instead the "preacher" voice came out -- especially during the argument scenes! As the words flowed smoothly, I found myself relaxing and just saying the words. In fact, the only real "note" Jimmy gave me was that I was going too fast! (a note he NEVER gives to anyone.)
Playing the songs also went smoothly, although again I was too fast on them. Nervousness probably.
I play the songs slightly differently than Bob. He being a Princeton man has the arrangements down to the last note, although P.M. says he's such a great musician he never REALLY plays the songs the same way each time.
My style is simpler and more groove oriented I think -- which is NOT to say that Bob doesn't find the groove in the songs. It's just that I don't plan out my parts. I was mostly listening to the bass and playing the least amount necessary so I could avoid getting in his way. What can I say? I'm a band musician.
Joey left early so Michael Buster, the Buddy understudy, took over. We didn't miss a beat. The only song I really messed up on was "Singer and the Song." It's more complicated than it sounds.
I was feeling anxiety over one other place: When Gideon and Vicki fight. I hate fake fighting. But there was NO problem there. I *DO* hate how AIDS controls my life and I *AM* tired of hospitals and doctors and test and symptoms and shots and pills so I had no problem showing my anger. I think I scared everyone.
And then before we knew it, the rehearsal was over, Bob was back in the house helping them through their warm-ups and I was back out in the lobby with the Sessionauts meeting and greeting people.
Then Aunt Michael came up to me and said, "Hey! Your night is selling like crazy. We've already sold 60 seats!" [Out of 99.] "We're going to sell out."
Yesterday, Saturday, a group of netfriends from the Bridge Across project came into town to see TLS and to meet face to face. Some came from San Francisco, some from Dallas, and Philly -- A mix of "Side A" (religiously gay affirming) and "Side B" (those whose religious beliefs reject a gay identity).
I know this whole thing is confusing for a lot of people, but the reason I reach across the divide is to prove that not everyone who struggles with the gay/religious morality conflict is stuck in War Mode.
(we all lose the war, soldier...)
Anyway, Ken McPherson from San Francisco stayed with Jimmy and me. (Ken is the host of Hibernia Beach, a teen call-in show in the Bay Area. I've been a guest on his show twice.)
Randy and Jeralee from Dallas. Plus Sonia and Maggie. So, you want to know what I do when I'm around women who don't wish to be lesbian anymore? I turn on my undeniable and irrestible charm of course! "After all," I tell them, "if you want to turn hetero I'm only here to help out!"
(This is all joking, of course. I think we're all sick of the Gary Bauers, the Coral Ridges, the Focus on Family groups which lie about gay people in the name of God and proclaim how THEY are the ones who are righteous. It's all politics but most conservative Christians do not realize this. We're hoping that our work across the divide will illustrate that not all conservative Christians hate gay people and have no sense of humor.)
Steve's Concert at Highways.I was totally nuts tonight.
It was a total blast.
But my brain was wacked. Hormones again.
So, since I couldn't think, Jimmy told me to just make the whole show a request show. It felt more like a private party. All the Sessionauts were there so I got to sing all the songs I normally don't sing when I perform for "strangers."
Shades of Blue. One New Hell. A Simple Faith. Oh, and I don't know what possessed me, but when I sang Save Me A Seat, I sang the "Mongoloid Kids" verse, which was cut during the Zephyr run -- I don't know why they suddenly appeared in my head. (Have I talked about them before? They contain a zeugma, which was pointed out to me by a dramaturg. But that's another story...)
What I really loved was that I had a REAL piano so I started off by playing an instrumental version of Save Me A Seat. I so love playing a real piano.
Cool moment: Ronda asked me to play and sing the really true original "I Will Trust The Lord" which I wrote -- and which got published by the Nazarenes -- when I was 19.
After the show Mandy and Carol told me they had sung that song when they were young. Very surreal.
Amy sang "Breakin' Mama's Heart" written my David Robyn and Maisey sang "The Singer and the Song." We all sang The Group.
I think I finished the concert saying, "Okay. Can I go home now?"
DICKIE:Steve's performance tonight was VERY interesting, I thought. I learned somestuff I never knew. But the big thing I learned was just HOW great a performer Flamin' Amy is! Wow! Amy was incredible tonight! Maisey was dynamic and wonderful as usual!
LORI:steve started off the concert by doing a fantastic instrumental version of save me a seat so he could get used to the piano (or so he said, i think he just wanted to show off :) it was really really cool.(this is an inside joke started by Michael Alden at the Garland Awards when he referred to the Sessionauts as "Lori's staff.")
then he sang that faces in the music song that i just love. and here is where it starts to get hazy for me. he told us the steroids were altering his mood, so he was kind of feisty, WE like him this way, he's turning into one of us ;) heh heh. and this is when the night got really really good. he said, "see what i have to go through to stay alive and entertain you people? lori? it is all about lori." and i am SO not making that up!!!
then karen, my own staff member,screams from the peanut gallery,KAREN:
W H A T E V E R ! !" she was bitter, party of one.michael and steve have no idea what they have unleashed here. they soooo have no idea. be frightened, everyone. be verrrrrry frightened. and don't ANYONE else say that i'm bitter....YOU all haven't been around lori for the past few days. oy.LORI:steve and amy did one of david robyn's songs, a blues song called "breaking mama's heart" which was afreakingmazing. WOW. that's all i can say. and steve told the story about her audition, which is too funny.KAREN:
then maisey sang "singer in the song" and the three of them sang "the group" for practice :) cuz you know, it's only one week til steve is gideon again!! w00h00!!
steve sang the real version of "i will trust the lord", we so did not sing that song in my catholic church. the pope is in my hometown right now, and my mom is there. do you see why i got the hell out of there at the earliest possible moment. organized religion ::::shudder:::::
and steve sang shades of blue, and that was it, he was SO DONE. loved it, bizarre little concert it was, but great, really really great. i wish i would have video taped it, but we were almost to the damn theater when we remembered that we had forgotten the damn camera. such is life.yeah, and her coughstaffcough sooo reminded her before we left her house to bring the videocamera and she still forgot it. w h a t e v e r.LORI:by the way, michael alden was the emcee for the night and he did a wonderful job, as usual, because, as you know, it is all about michael (except when it's all about steve, of course :) my my my, what a spectacular day it was..........
Tuesday-Wednesday, February 2-3, 1999.
L.A. Drama Critics / Steve as Gideon.This is a letter I sent to the "Cast Recording" email fan list about an announcement in the L.A. Times today:Monday, February 1, 1999.
Hi all. Steve Schalchlin here.
I'm beginning to really understand what it means to be "somewhat famous."
Today, for instance, was a great day. In the L.A. Times we read that the L.A. Drama Critics nominated The Last Session for for Best Writing --"Stephen Schalchin" for lyrics/score. John Bettis and Marie Cain for Additional Lyrics. Jim Brochu for book. Michele Mais for Featured Actor and Musical Direction *Bob Stillman.
I have to tell you, it's quite an honor to look down at the LA Times and see your name listed next to Terence McNally. Very humbling.
But they misspelled my first name and Bob's name wasn't even there. They mistakenly substituted Musical Supervisor Barry Fasman's name, whose name was misspelled "Fassman."
I'm NOT COMPLAINING. IT'S PERFECTLY FINE WITH ME IF THEY MISSPELL MY NAME.
Looks like Stephen Sondheim.Or Stephen Spielberg , doesn't it?
[Reality Check. Just saw that Spielberg is "Steven."]
To tell you the truth, I don't really care how people spell my name. It's just so unusual for them to get the "Steve" wrong! Normally, if my name is misspelled in a newspaper somewhere, I don't even give it a second thought. I've misspelled it myself!.
But Bob Stillman is one major talent and I want to make sure he gets credit for the superb musical direction. As every reviewer in town has noted, we do have the greatest cast on the planet.
Earlier tonight I was granted the honor of playing the lead role of Gideon myself for the first time since the original workshops when I was still on an I.V. (very dramatic story for you newcomers...). The place was sold out. The ovation was incredible. Tears, Hugging. Etc.
So should I just change the spelling of my name? Should I say something?
Does it matter? (No.) I know! I'll use both!! In L.A. I can be Stephen and in New York and Boston I can be Steve.
who is allowed to be sollipstic as long as he doesn't do it too much
FROM THE TLS LIST:
To whom it may concern (and those unable to be in West Hollywood, CA this evening:Steve Shalchlin was SO F_CKING GREAT tonight. I was only able to see Act 2 for reasons I will not go into at this time, but Steve sang great, acted great, looked great and was completely of the caliber of the rest of the note-perfect cast. Someone needs to organize a petition to get Steve cast in the national tour of "The Last Session."FROM DICKIE: "THERE'S A REASON HE'S CALLED OnBiHe":
[OnBiHe means "One Big Head."]He proved himself worthy of the title tonight. With great anticipation and some speculation about whether the OnBiHe could pull off the performance of his lifetime, a packed house watched in awe as Steve gave a truly wonderful performance as Gideon. He was charming, witty, subtle and altogether magnificent in the role. He added a dimension to the character we had not seen before...and he did it well!FROM ME: I called it "It's never too late for OnBiHe to be a star...POOF!"
He didn't screw up his lines or his stage directions or anything like that. And he didn't wear pink shoes, either (they were gold-glittery little numbers).
Members of the audience and the cast alike raved about the evening.
He wasn't just adequate. He wasn't just decent. He was fantastic! Bravo! It was one of the greatest nights of theatre you could ever hope for!
( who liked it. )
Stephen does Gideon. I'm actually pretty good. I didn't forget the lines. I made Joey cry. Maisey was astonishing. Amy and I were starting to really have fun looking at each other and "believing."
I'm NOT an actor. At all. And it shows. And my piano playing is not disciplined at all. I just kinda go on feel. I don't think I handled the group numbers as well as the solo numbers. It's harder than it looks! But I did okay. Sloppy, but functional.
I think the one comment I heard all night long was that everyone could see how much of a good time *I* was having. They weren't nervous for me, although I think we got off to a slow start. So everyone just relaxed and we had a great time together. What could be better than that???
At the end of the show, after the first bow, Joey suddenly just picked me up and carried me piggyback out onto the stage. He's nuts.
Gail flashed this picture. There are more at http://www.bennytour.com/tls.
Bob was in the audience and afterward he just ran up to me and hugged me enthusiastically, even asking me to show him some of the things I did musically. Jimmy said the show knocked Bob out. This was his first time to ever really see it. He had even called me and asked me if it would make me too nervous with him there. No way!!
Funny stuff: I got LOST fiddling with all the prop sheet music. Bob is so meticulous with which sheets he uses and which ones he takes off the stand. I finally just had this big wad of paper on the downstage music stand. It must have looked ridiculous! His Gideon is this perfectionist control freak. My Gideon is this sloppy grinning idiot.
Gawd I had fun tonight. It was stunning. Every writer on the planet should have the privilege handed to them that was handed to me tonight.
I have to thank Michael Alden and Ronda & Kim and the other producers for giving me the opportunity. Oh, after the show I couldn't stand not being in the lobby. So, I just changed shirts and left my gold sparkle sneakers with red shoelaces on while hugging everybody (my favorite part of the whole night).
(in the rest of the country)
Steve Gets A MACHA Report Card.I got a report card in the mail today! Did good, too, I think. It's from when I sang at the Mid Atlantic College Health Association meeting this past November in Pittsburgh.
By way of introduction, when they first asked me to do this, I had to fill out a form describing my educational objectives so the attendees could get college credits for listening. I had to come up with academic phrases to justify the piano rental.
They even gave me a little dictionary to make sure I used the proper syntax. What I didn't realize was they would grade me on these objectives! So, below here when you read my test scores next to the objectives I outlined. Quoting from the form:
USING THE SCALE (1-NONE, 3=ADEQUATE, 5= VERY EFFECTIVE):
1. Please evaluate the extent of your accomplishment of the educational activity objectives; the participant should be able to:
a. Explain the importance of effective communication in healthcare provider/patient relationships.
b. Describing how musical techniques can mitigate the problems of living with a fatal disease.
c. Discuss how personal care, when combined with compassionate communication can accelerate the healing process.
2. Please evalutate the expertise of the presenter:
a. Steve Schalchlin.
3. Please evaluate the appropriateness of the teaching strategies utilized.
4. Please evaluate the relationship of the objectives to the overall purpose/goal of the activity.
5. Please evaluate the appropriateness of the physical facilities.
Thursday-Thursday, February 4-11, 1999.....4.65
Should have been an opening to the meeting
A bitter man
Every health care person should hear
God bless this young man
Very very moving*
A memorable ending to a find conference*
A gifed communicator
I cried, I lauged, I reflected, Thank you
Great to see him again looking so healthy Thank God
*indicates more than one response
Of course you KNOW my favorite response was "A BITTER MAN." I figure that was the one person who didn't give me all 5's. Probably someone who never talks to his patients and who thinks he knows everything.
Bitter? Me? HAHAHAHA.
Boston and stuff.Just before I left Los Angeles to go on this trip I went to see Dr. Peter. My mood was extremely dark. I just kinda sat there and I felt like a dark cloud had drifted over my head. He asked me if I was depressed. I said that I guess I was. Then he gave me some anti-depressants.Thursday-Thursday, February 4-11, 1999.
But *THEN* he checked my blood sugar level and, once again, it was over 300. No wonder I was feeling so intense. And I know a lot of this is from stress, worrying about the show, Joey's last weekend, looking for a new Buddy, etc.
So, he added glucophage to my arsenal of Friendly Fire and I'm to take that twice a day with meals. I don't think I'm going to take the anti-depressants, though. It's too depressing a thought. :-)
On that happy note, Jimmy and I spent our last evening for several weeks together watching TV and falling asleep in our respective chair/couch combo.
At the crack of dawn on Tuesday, Lori the Luscious picked me up in her van to take me to the airport. I love riding around with Lori. She's the most blunt person I know and we give each other permission to be totally rude and mean. So we pretty much just ridiculed everyone we knew as we happily slogged down the 405 parking lot to LAX.
When I got on the plane, I don't what possessed me but I suddenly just started writing. Like a madman, I was throwing down words and words, pages of words pouring out of me in a fury of syntax and metaphor and dialogue. It felt so good to feel the rush of creation gushing from the great creative beyond.
By the time I got to Boston, I felt like I had been on the plane no longer than 10 minutes. Pinky, Dr. Dorrett Hope of the Wellness division of Northeastern University picked me up and took me to a guest suite in a student housing building right across from NU's elegant urban campus.
Separating my building from NU was a wide street which was itself divided by subway tracks which one has to walk across in order to get to the campus. The light at the corner where the crosswalk is never turns green -- well, I never saw it turn green -- so you have to cross New York style: Stand at the corner and watch for a hole in the traffic and then dart across.
When you land on the island across the first part of the road, you hit the railroad tracksk of the subway so you have to stop and look both ways in case a train is barreling forth.
A very exciting place!
I immediately called my ol' buddy Jarvis and also Will at the Center for Adult Education. Jarvis came over and was impressed by how lavish the little suite was. A living room, a bedroom and a fully appointed kitchen. The suite was heated by steam heat and it was stifling in there so I opened all the windows. How funny to be in the dead of winter with all the windows open.
On Wednesday, the day of the concert, Pinky took me over to the campus and to the ballroom where I was to play. As regular Bonus Round readers know, ballrooms are the very worst venues for music. They are too big, badly lit, with terrible acoustics and too flat.
But this one had an 11 foot Baldwin grand piano! The acoustics were cave-like with a deep echo. They supplied a microphone but it was hooked up to a speaker which was set dead center in the tall ceiling. My sound would be coming from BEHIND the audience.
So, inwardly I groaned. But there was really nothing I could do. Pinky had done her very best for me and all the recital halls on campus were in use. We were lucky to have the piano! And I knew it would be okay. (Because it's always okay if you're peaceful enough to just let things happen as they happen.)
So we went out for lunch and came back just before the 5pm concert. I went over to the piano and checked it out. And when I looked back, there was JESS and her dad! I was so excited to see her!!!
(Jess is a teenage girl who became a fan through the internet and who came to see me sing the last time I was in Boston. I don't think she's seen the whole production yet. Jess and I have been writing each other a lot.)
And if you look below at her description of seeing me, the only thing she left out was how thrilled *I* was to see her! Same thing with Stacey, who I met for the first time. Stacey is another teen fan who saw TLS in NY and I've been anxious to meet her since the day she donated money to Being Alive for our ticket program. Stacey drove from New Jersey with her friend Dara and Dara's mom.
The concert itself was pretty wonderful. It took a few songs to get used to the room and the way it sounded, but soon -- and I don't know why or how this happens -- it was like the room suddenly came under control. The mix of students and faculty grew and grew until they were bringing in new seats and taking out the portable wall they had set up.
Also, early on, Will MacMillan came in. So when I got to "Going It Alone" I just said, "Will! Come up here and sing this with me." He did and it was beautiful.
But the time limitations were fierce. I had about 45 minutes and that was it. I felt like I barely did anything before it was time to go. The next day I did a little presentation for some drama and music student. But again, there was so little time it felt to me like I barely did anything.
One great thing happened (among others). I met a man named Del Lewis who is the head of their new Arts Center and we talked about my coming there and performing the role of Gideon with students in the other parts. He is trying to organize a theatre festival for this summer, late August or early September. So cross your fingers. I'd love this.
That night, Thursday, I was invited to a theatrical presentation called Langston and Martin with Danny Glover and a friend of his, Felix Something or other. Felix "preached" a Martin Luther King sermon and Danny Glover read poems by Langston Hughes. It was mezmorizing.
And the one thing I got from the King sermon was his insistence that the worst thing you can do while fighting for your rights is to humiliate your opponent. He said you must find the humanity in your opponent and address him or her in a respectful manner.
At this I am the worst. How easy it has been to ridicule the Jerry Falwells and the Pat Robertsons who are so wound up in finding demons under every bed, every childrens show and in the streets of Florida. How easy it is to make fun of their bigotry and igorance.
I thought, Please Dr. King, don't make me have to like Jerry Falwell. Don't make me have to treat Gary Bauer with respect. I hate these people. I hate what they teach. I hate how they pervert Christianity and twist minds into advanced states of bigotry.
But his words stuck with me and I realized that my work at Bridges-Across is exactly the kind of peaceful, respectful dialog Dr. King talked about. So, I guess I have already begun walking down that road.
Friday afternoon, I got on the plane and before I knew it I was asleep and then landing in Cincinnati. But then, that's the next story...
(By the way, we have cast our new "Buddy." His name is Jeff Juday and wouldn't you know it, he's from here in Cincinnati. Now I can ask around and find out all his secrets!!)
Others respond to my Boston Concert.On Wednesday I sang at Northeastern University. I'll try to write my own pov soon. But right now, here are some emails to the TLS mail fanlist. I have to warn you that they are very lavish in their praise so here is a heavy "could make you sick to your stomach" warning. Told you I was gonna make myself into a rock star this year!Friday - Tuesday, February 12-16, 1999.
FROM DIANA (new to TLS):Hi all. I'm timidly posting for the first time after lurking for a bit. I had the absolute pleasure of being at Steve's Boston concert last nite, and Karen C. told me I *had* to post and report, so it's all her fault. Anyway, I only first heard TLS about 2 weeks ago, after Gail was great enough to send me the CD out here in the Boston backwater. So it was just great serendipity for me that Steve was coming here.From Jess, a teen who drove with her daddy from Connecticut:
I didn't know whether he was going to be just talking or singing (I should have known), so I was psyched to see a piano when I walked in. The concert was in a pretty small space, and there were maybe 100+ people there, a real mix of college students, lovely older ladies (?? nursing faculty - I was unclear who sponsored the event), and a smattering of TLS cyberfans (Stacy, who does have great hair. I felt like the KGB observing all this).
Long story short, Steve was wonderful - such amazing presence (and very handsome, I thought, if I'm allowed to say so). His passion for the material and for the message he brings just shines through. There were not many dry eyes for most of the evening. As a medical student and the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I found the whole event very inspiring...I'm home and I'm beat to Hell from jazz band, so this is gonna lack its original vitality or what have you.And this came from Stacey, another teenage girl who I hadn't met yet but who saw TLS in New York last year:
WELL WHERE SHOULD I START???.....
See, I've got too many things to say! I could go on and on and on about the concert (which was so great but TOO SHORT) and how I kept wanting to grab all these people who had just kinda casually come and shake them and yell "Look! It's STEVE! I've been waiting FOREVER for this!!" You know, to make them feel how important it was, hehee. (Me, obsessive? Never...)
I COULD talk about Stacey because she is adorable and fabulous and very very cool and smiled a lot and was MUCH more talkative than I was the first time I met Steve. I could talk about how shy I was (because *sigh* I was- when my old man and I wandered into the room and I saw Steve doin' his thing my knees actually started shaking, I DO NOT know why, maybe excitement hehee) and how Steve had to dare me to look in his eyes (another curious thing, because they are SO BEAUTIFUL!)..
BUT I THINK that I'll talk about how terribly, terribly, wonderfully, fabulously GREAT it was to see him again, and what GREAT hugs he gives, and how great the whole night was all together and (have I mentioned hugs? Eyes? Singing? I'm going down a "Things I Love About Steve" checklist, see...)
I just wish I could find the words to tell you guys how MUCH I am in love with Steve, and how incredible it is just to watch him perform, and to hold on to him, and how thankful I am to the New York Times and Crixivan and Jimmy and God that he somehow stuck around long enough to meet me. My life is just overwhelmed with blessings. Thanks, Steve.
Hallelujah.Hey Everyone!!!See why they call me One Big Head? Who wouldn't get a big head after all that???
NJ Stacey Here!!! I'm sitting in a car right now, 2:44pm speeding down the Mass. Pike…(I'm on my laptop, I shall cut, paste and send this letter later :o)).I just left Boston..and BOY CAN I TELL YOU…….WHAT A TRIP THIS WAS!!!!
Two days ago, Tuesday, Dara ( my best buddy) and Linda (her mom, my foster mom) jumped into our little Honda at 4:40 and belted out showtune after showtune as we bolted straight to Boston. 4ish hours later we arrived and made ourselves at home in this quaint lil' city.
The next day, Wednesday I would finally meet Steve. I went to bed that night with excitement bubbling through my body ( ooh! What imagry!). The next day we kept ourselves enertained as we watched the hours pass until 5:00 when Steve performed at Northeastern University.
We strolled the streets of Cambridge and flopped on the ice skating rink in Boston Common, and FINALLY it was time!
We evenutally found our way to the University and meandered into the Curry Student Center…walked up the staircase to the Ballroom….edged our way in to the room….and THERE STEVE WAS!!!! My eyes darted around the room to see if I could recognize Jess..at first I had no idea then I see a girl who looked around my age sitting with her dad and I knew it was her!
We hugged and then it was Steve time! He engulfed me in the most WONDERFUL hug that I shall NEVER EVER FORGET!!! The show began and….whew…..NO WORDS!!!
To see Steve perform was such a treat…so WONDERFUL ….I just sat there listening and watching as all the times that his words have ran through my head, almost guiding me as I faced some tough times, flashed before my eyes. It was SO surreal that I was ACTUALLY THERE!!
As I said to Steve later that night. I really never thought I'd get to see him perform, let alone meet him! You know….us east coasters get discouraged everyone now again… :o)! Anywayz! Steve is SUCH a performer!!!
Every word full of such depth! And the CHARM! The CHARM that Steve exudes is so adorable!!!!! The performance was just OUT OF THIS WORLD! And Steve played A Simple Faith which was EXTRA SPECIAL since I've never heard it. I just LOVED IT!!! I shall NEVER forget the performance..
When it was complete, I just sat there…FROZEN! But knees shaking and all! I got up! And ANOTHER AMAZING HUG from Steve!!! :o)The reception afterwards was great and later we went to dinner….and I GOT TO SIT NEXT TO STEVE!!! WAHOO!!!!
We soon said our goodbyes and it was back to the hotel for me. I was simply ROLLING!!! The whole night was just perfect! Thank you Steve!!!
THANK YOU STEVE!! THANK YOU JESS!! THANK YOU EVERYONE!!!
LOTS OF LOVIN!,
Stacey….from NJ…who's STILL SMILING!!! and who apologizes for the overuse of the words WONDERFUL AND AMAZING,...tis a habit of mine..But, hey..I can't help it when it comes to Steve and TLS!
Resting in Kentucky.On this day, Tuesday, I am sitting in a big three story house built over a hundred years ago in Covington, Kentucky just across the river from Cincinnati. I have a well-stocked refrigerator, an adorable 9 month old orange kitten named Chi-Chi (who looks and acts like Steinbeck), a piano, a computer, and complete silence and aloneness.EXTRA! Wednesday, February 17, 1999.
I do miss Jimmy. He always makes me laugh, which is the secret to our longevity, by the way, except for all the other stuff he does to make my life amazing and joyful.
I can just picture him now as he reads this diary. He's at the computer in the living room. He's watching "The Price Is Right." He had to make his own coffee since I wasn't there to make it for him. He's about to take a shower but first he will need one more cigarette.
The mail hasn't arrived yet but he's already had at least two (TWO!) phone calls with Aunt Michael who is probably in the office alone (or with Lori, Julie or Karen) fielding a hundred and fifty phone calls. And Aunt Michael has probably spoken with Rebecca about yet another rejection from some TV show.No matter how many awards we get nominated for, no matter how incredible our reviews have been, we have gotten ZERO attention from the electronic media. No TV. No radio (except for three minutes the other day on a show about AIDS), no major articles in newspapers, nothing. It's a miracle (and a tribute to the producers, volunteers and cast) that we are still running.Anyway, back to Jimmy, just before I left to go on this trip, he was starting to write again. His play THE LUCKY O'LEARYS is going to have another staged reading and he's been rewriting it. Like me, he finds it difficult to write with another person around.
On the other hand, yesterday I got two inquiries from theatres asking about TLS and possibly producing it in Denver and Omaha. Plus, I got another note from Rochester and though we haven't set dates or made it official, there's little doubt that I'll be playing Gideon there.
And since I've been writing, too, I consider this trip to be a creative retreat. Writing is difficult for me. I usually do everything I can do to avoid getting to the piano. For instance, writing this diary page is an excellent avoidance of responsibility. So I will go to the piano.
Meanwhile, here is a description of Joey's last performance. It was posted on the TLS fan email list.
From Karen:Joey told us Saturday night that he had some things "planned" for his last day. Well, I spotted a couple of funny moments during the matinee. In Act 1 after "Preacher," Tryshia went off on Vicki as usual and when she said, "As for the diva, it is never too late for her to be a star...POOF!!!" Joey wiped his eye as if a spit wad had landed in it.[note from steve: this also happened last week when i saw the show for the last time. the emotions were so intense during the number, no one could move when the lights came back up. no one wanted to disturb the silence. i remember joey's grandma -- when his family came to see the show -- looked at me and said, "Can you feel it? Can you feel it?"]
In Act 2, right after Buddy took his tape to Jim's booth and Jim said, "It's not a tempo-setter, it's a CLICK TRACK!!!" Buddy came out of the booth and Gideon said, "It's a click track," and Buddy said, "Yes, click track." And then Joey made a "W" with his hands and mouthed the word, "WHATEVER!!!"
During "When You Care," Amy sang her verse as usual, and for those who haven't seen the show, when she says "it might be a friend," she reaches over and takes Maisey's hand as a sign of solidarity. Then she says "or someone you don't know" and points to Joey. Well, this time when she said "or someone you don't know," she pointed to Joey as usual, but Joey offered his hand out to her. She was taken by surprise, but she reached out and took his hand. It was a very nice gesture and it made me tear up a bit.
For the evening show, all the regulars came to the theatre. Carol, Lindsey, Gail, Dickie, Roberta, Michael/Marky, Stacey, Mandy......oy, I can't remember anymore....but you get the idea.
During Act 1 "Going It Alone" Joey was so overcome that he cried openly throughout the letter, and when Bob said "Sing it," Michael said that Joey had a pained "please don't make me do this" look on his face. There was a full 25 seconds of silence as Joey stood there, struggling to begin the song.
Supportively, Bob said, "Take your time..." and Joey was finally able to sing. Lori and I could hear from the door that Joey was in tears the whole time. There was no sound from the audience at all except for a lot of sniffling. When the song was over, the audience remained perfectly still - the only people who moved were the ones weeping.During Act 2, Lori, Michael and I set the lobby up for the champagne reception. We made sure that we kept track of how the show was moving along so that we could listen to "When You Care" at the door. The cast really rocked on the song...wow...[maybe we could auction off the pieces that touched his face.]
After the show was over, we had our Valentine's Day champagne reception and we brought out Joey's goodbye cake. It was a chocolate cake with white frosting, and in light blue lettering it said, "Goodbye Joey, We will always be connected." He posed for some photos with it, and it was a good thing because it didn't take long for Joey to plunge his face right into the middle of it.
He must have had his face in the cake for 30 seconds before he finally came up for air with his face full of frosting. Well, Lori did her best with what was left of the cake. She cut around where Joey's face had been and passed out pieces to everyone.It seemed like everyone got a chance to say goodbye to Joey individually, and we all took lots of photos, got our last autographs, gave our last hugs. For those who know (and for those who don't), it's been a rocky road with Joey since Laguna, but deep down, we all know that there is a lot of love among us all. We will miss him.
Good luck, Joey.
Report from the homefront.LORI:Friday-Saturday, February 19-20, 1999.
Jeff Juday is officially one of the family and none of us could be happier.
so, karen and i just walked in the door from a festive mardi gras evening in west hollywood, and can i just tell you that not only was it a blast, but we are both loving jeff more than we can even say.
a truer statement was never said. jeff rocks!! (and did we mention? hottie!)
karen and i were actually the first to arrive at the love lounge for dragalicious night. i'd been before, and it is quite an experience, let me tell you. waiting for the ladies room takes on a whole new meaning in a place like this. anyway, i digress. it is all good because no one loves gay men more than me :)
who should arrive next but bob stillman. this is an historic event, seeing as how bob is ALWAYS late.
heyyyyy, no fair - bob has been a very good boy for the last two weeks, showing up EARLY at the theatre for shows *and* rehearsals. (not to mention he has been KICKING ASS, singing- and acting-wise.) so there!
so i sent karen and bob inside to grab a table and i waited oh so patiently outside for the others to arrive. well, momma arrived first, she is the drag queen who hosts dragalicious night and is a HUGE fan of the show. maisey arrived next, then michael and amy, and finally jeff. as an aside, i called jeff's house to find out if he was on his way and his roommate told me he was on his way to "some weird gay dance club or something." to which i responded, "cool! he's so on his way then." :)
so, we got to watch 5 drag queens do their thing first, then it was time for us. momma introduced the cast and said how very very much she loves the show and how everyone should come and see it. then the cast sang "preacher and the nurse" and it was fantastic! they sounded amazing, jeff fit right in, and the crowd loved them. and, as a special bonus, jeff looked incredibly happy to be up there.
i can't tell you how great jeff looked up there with the cast. it seemed like he was with them from the beginning, he fit in so well. it made me so happy to see him absolutely beaming as they all sang together. and he can dance too (bob said that watching jeff dance is like watching the backstreet boys - wait till you see his "there's a woman named louise" segment in "friendly fire," it's spectacular). jeff was back behind our table during the show dancing along with all the drag acts. did i mention that we love him? he's adorable!
at first he was going to sing bob's parts in "somebody's friend" because bob wasn't going to be there, but when bob decided he could make it after all, jeff said he still wanted to be there to show how committed he was to the show. so, how much do we love him? he is afreakindorable.
and you know what? i think jeff is bob's long-lost little brother. anyone who has ever seen bob perform away from the show knows how anal he is about finding his note and such, so he is stressing about how to find it onstage. the next thing you know, jeff pulled out a pitch pipe! eek! this is more than a little frightening, i can tell you that.
this is *almost* as scary as bob's tuning fork at children's hospital.
so, we passed out flyers as they sang, they were worshipped by all, and when jeff got back to us, michael hugged him and said "welcome to the family." who knew you could get teary-eyed at a drag club? by this time it was 11:30ish and the cast left, leaving karen, michael and i behind to watch nearly naked men doing this pole-dancing thing.......oh my god. that was quite a sight........ and, leave it to our friend deme to get hit on by the only "straight" guy in the whole damn place. hate her.
and now it's after 3 am and i must sleep now, i'm sure karen will fill in any of the details i may have missed, but i just have one question. if a guy makes a pass at you at a drag club, does that mean he thinks you're a guy dressed like a chick?.......just wondering.....
Baptist Nurses and Ushers.Saturday morning was my time to sing for an all African American High School rally sponsored by the Red Cross and the Baptist Nurses and Ushers organization. I'd never heard "nurses" and "ushers" used together.
Martha drove me over to the Red Cross downtown and we arrived early, so I could get a feel for the room and meet the people. Tamara who was running the event was a warm and very professional person. Once I met her I knew I was in good hands. They had a little Yamaha electric keyboard which had been donated.
But the microphone for me to sing into was on a short, foot-high stand. (Picture playing the piano and having to lean over to sing into a mic down by your feet).
The room was not that large. A grand faded mansion office building -- Cincinnati seems to have a lot of these and reminds me of the midtown Manhattan, Superman's Neighborhood. You can feel the history.
(Last year, the PFLAG banquet was held in an old "gentleman's club" that had just been restored -- not shiny and new, just cleaned up. Ancient yellowed crystal chandeliers backlit the whole evening in hazy sepia.)
(I was on TV in Cincinnati one time. The band that I played with, a lounge act named Taylor and Cole did a guest appearance on the Bob Braun Show, a local daytime talk/variety show with an audience, live musicians -- the whole nine yards. Luanne Gideon (who was called "Loren Taylor") sang with Mr. Braun in the opening number -- an island set, Louann in a grass skirt, Bob Braun in a straw hat and the two of them together singing, "A Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts." That was my life back then. And you thought I was Steven Sondheim.)*Sarah just asked, "How long ago? Musta been 1982 or 83. I can't believe I'm telling you all this. Sarah says hi to everybody. If you go back to the New York diaries -- Gail, will you find the URL and put it here? -- you will see Sarah's entrance: A young social worker in Columbus who worked in a dialysis ward and who printed out diary pages for the patients -- and who flew to New York and attended the first Midnight Concert at the Currican with online friends from my diary.This Red Cross building in downtown Cincinnati had tall ceilings, big windows on one side with the sun flooding the room with bright light. Room for maybe a couple of hundred people on folding chairs.
It was Sarah who described the experience: "Like walking into a living novel."*
When we entered, the room was not quite half full. The folding chairs were facing away from us. I quickly tested the piano to make sure it worked. When I saw the tiny mic stand, I kinda panicked inside, especially when she suggested just placing the stand on the piano in front of me. The PA consisted of teensy speakers in the walls near the ceilings, the kind you usually see in hotel ballrooms. So, letting in proximity as opposed to singing right into it was...
"Perfect," I told her.
Since it was sponsored by the Baptist churches who brought their kids there in buses, the emphasis was on celibacy as the best method of AIDS prevention.MARTHA WROTE TO THE TLS LIST:Steve: The first thing they did was an ice breaker that consisted of questions like, "Who was the first African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff?" Each person would take the paper around and ask others for the answers to the questions, writing their new friend's name next to the answer. Great way to meet others. I waded right in and immediately started giving out answers, half of which I got wrong.
First a brief background of the group in attendance. Every year the Red Cross holds this education rally using a different subject...prior years have been drug and alcohol abuse. This program is sponsored by the Church Nurses & Ushers of the local African American churches. They bring their youth groups ranging in age from 12-18. I'm not very good at guessing numbers, but I think approximately 50 persons were in attendance, including adults.
The program began with a very good interactive introductory game, which of course Steve participated and the kids really enjoyed it....although at that point they had no idea who he was or what he would be telling them.
But then it was time for the Red Cross Players!
Six teenage actors appeared in front performing a half hour play "licensed by Samuel French. We have to say that because we don't want to get into trouble." The play itself was, a little potboiler where one person tested positive for HIV so they all finally tested postive for HIV and one of them died.MARTHA: Then the Red Cross Players, a group of high school age young people, did a short drama re HIV/AIDS. IMO it was very well done; this group also goes to schools and churches presenting this play. It is very educational in nature.Steve: The melodrama was effective and the troupe got big applause whereupon they were invited to sit up front and participate in the Q&A. In the answers the group leader kept emphasizing abstinence (from sex, drugs and drinking) followed by admonitions to get tested if they have indulged in risky behavior.
Following the play there was an African American woman who lead a discussion of the play and answered questions re HIV/AIDS. Across the aisle from me were several older ladies from the various churches....all of whom I suspect may have never actually met a person who actually had AIDS.
I was next and I asked Tamara to introduce me very simply, "A songwriter whose daddy is a Baptist preacher and whose mother is a nurse."MARTHA: FINALLY, it was Steve's turn, by this time it's now after 11 AM...we had been there since 9:30! Steve was introduced as a Baptist minister's son living with AIDS. I thought that was a terrific intro! Right now I honestly can't remember what song he began with, I think it was "Connected". (Just a side note...if I'm this tired, no wonder Steve is exhausted, he's napping as I write this). After the first song there were several young people in the front of the room who immediately stood up and applauded. They were really into the music.Steve: It's instructive to state here that I never plan my shows in advance. As I sat, the high school students in front, the nurses and ushers in the back, I spoke about how I was afraid of getting tested, about how that was a terrible decision based in fear, that to me abstinence was romantic, etc.
There were two girls in the second row on my left who stood and applauded every single song!MARTHA: Steve then sang "Preacher & The Nurse" and he really got the older ladies in the back of the room 'into it'. They were smiling and clapping, not knowing what was coming next. Steve spoke so gently to this group, I was truly impressed. If I myself were not involved in PFLAG (for those who don't know, both my kids are gay) I would not have even suspected the music was coming from a gay person. Watching these very conservative older ladies I could tell by their faces they took Steve at his word when he opened by saying he was going to let the music speak for itself. The words would tell the story.
Even when he sang "The Group" he changed the word f--- to 'slept'; on another song, which right now I can't remember, he used the word 'stupid' in it's place. So there was absolutely nothing offensive at all in the music. About half-way through the program one of the ladies quietly came across the room to me and asked me if Steve were my son or how I was related to him. I just laughed and said he was a close friend. I know I looked fairly tired...but give me a break, I'm not old enough to be his mother...sister yes, mother no!
The lady continued to tell me "you are so lucky to have such a nice friend". I said I agreed! Well, Steve interweaved his AIDS education into the music between songs, then sang "Going It Alone". That did me in....I've cried with this song many times, but not like today. Now I understand why Steve takes so long to write a Diary page and says he has to 'process' everything before he writes. I'm still working on why this hit me so hard today.
Oh, off track, earlier he did "Friendly Fire" and got the group to sing along and they were really into it. But at the end after "Going It Alone" he did "When You Care" and I began crying even harder. Then he had the group sing, I guess you would call the chorus, along with him. I wish I had a picture to share of the faces of these ladies in the back. They were absolutely mesmerized by Steve's performance.
Afterwards they asked me why he was in town. So I gave them a PFLAG flyer and invited them to come next Saturday to hear him at the banquet. It was amazing, I was expecting them to suddenly 'let me have it' after they looked at the flyer (PFLAG and what it stands for was spelled out explicitly on the flyer), but instead they actually said they would give some thought to coming.
I don't know if they will, but should I see them there next week I know I will personally give each one a very big hug. That will make 6 more people in Cincy who are beginning to understand that gay people get up every day and go to sleep every night just like everyone else. "It just doesn't matter, it only makes a difference when you care".
Following the performance Steve showed the kids all the pills he had to take, it was 12:30 and he was a 1/2 hour late taking his meds. Then he joined them for a pizza lunch. Many requested his autograph and wanted to know how to get his CD. We didn't take "The Bonus Round" with us because didn't think this venue would even be able to afford it, let alone buy it. So we'll see how many really are interested as Steve told them to check his site and purchase from there.
I know one thing for sure, after watching Steve in action today I've learned two things.....one is I now understand why he tires so quickly and it truly amazes me he is even able to tour. God truly is blessing TLS and Steve.
The second is TLS must be produced here in Cincinnati. Either with a local production under Steve/Jimmy's guidance or bring in the tour group!! We have to educate this town. I felt this after reading everything about Laguna, now I am more convinced than ever.
Some good news when I got home, but haven't had the chance to share with Steve yet, is we are now up to 150 and climbing for the banquet. That is last year's number and I like the 'climbing' part! He hasn't been to Columbus yet...so hope to have a few followed the 'piper' back here from there. If any of you are out there and still haven't made your reservations...the deadline is Wednesday if you are thinking of coming. Email me for info if you are new to the list, live near Cincinnati, OH and need details. The event is next Saturday, February 27, 6 PM.
Who is going to miss Steve next week while he's in Columbus.
ON TO EPISODE FOUR>>>>>>
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© 1996 - 2001 by Steve Schalchlin. Please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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