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Showing posts from August, 2007

Back in Two Weeks.

I'm taking a two week break from the blog to go on a music writing sabbatical. And yes, we'll be aboard a ship. Jim is taking "Zero Hour" to the high seas and I'll be using our time aboard as a health/artistic retreat.

I hope you've enjoyed the video "reality show" diaries as much as I've enjoyed making them. Next stop: Tuscon! See you there.

Big Voice in SF 13: Last Day

Our little Daniel steals the camera one last time and performs -- well, I won't tell you. You just have to see it for yourself. Also, Amy and Steve drive up Castro. It's our last performance in San Francisco for 2007.

Remember Lepolion?

Back a few years ago, when Jim and I were in Chicago while he was writing and directing a new musical for the New York Fringe Festival, there was a terrific young performer in the cast named Lepolion Henderson -- a kid I totally adopted and have been keeping up with ever since. Well, he recently recorded a new song and posted a video on YouTube. There's no real "video" involved in that it consists solely of a snapshot, but the song and his performance are terrific:

What was that question again?

There are some videos too wonderful to pass up:

Our Final Show.

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Today's final show didn't feel like an ending. It felt like a beginning. We love San Francisco; and we feel loved by San Francisco. I love just saying, "San Francisco." I love how it's such a delicious mouthful of crunchy sounds.

Jim and I also love the people on the staff at New Conservatory Theatre Center. It's a place where the people genuinely like each other. The sheer volume of work, not to mention the focus required to produce, schedule, staff, cast, build and promote full seasons of shows on three stages is mind-boggling. It's an extraordinary achievement to done by just a handful of people. I've been a part of non-profit orgs. It's a lot of stress and requires utter commitment. It seemed to me that Ed sets a very kind atmosphere. Loose and efficient.

You know, a non-profit theatre is a terrific place to just go volunteer/work when you're young and you need some structure -- especially if you're feeling a bit lost. There's alway…

Big Voice in SF 12: Daniel Steals Camera

The video for today features Daniel, who is becoming the most popular person on my blog now that I've posted his picture and put him in a video. He is really a very funny person. Last night, during our show, he sneaked into our dressing room, grabbed the video camera and taped our little hug line after the show. We also had a very special surprise guest who flew in from New York to surprise Jimmy...

Jack Kirby Recognized At Last.

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Marvel Comics would have been nothing without its most dynamic early artist, Jack Kirby, who set the standard for all comic book art, and was kind of forgotten or set aside during his last years as an artist because he fought Marvel for control of his original drawings -- and Stan Lee, much more vocal and visible -- was the "face" of Marvel Comics. But finally, his work and his life is being more recognized. Two new biographies are coming out, and today there's a NY Times op-ed.

My friend, Mark Evanier, is authoring one of the books and he is always reminding us in his entertaining and irreplaceable blog.

Meanwhile, Rev. Haggard Wants Your Money Again...

In a terrific well-researched story in The Stranger, Seattle's alt-weekly, it seems that anti-gay Rev. Ted Haggard, who used to be Time Magazine's Evangelical Preacher of the Year who talked to George Bush every week (while doing crack and having sex with then hustler Mike Jones) wants you to send him money despite his 3/4 million dollar home and steady pay-off from his former church.

Even better, he wants you to send the money to a "charity" run by a convicted sex offender -- a charity that doesn't seem to exist anymore.

Shall we compare the work of Ted Haggard to Mother Teresa? And yes, by all means, let's keep sending him money.

The Doubting Faith of Mother Teresa

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On a discussion board filled with conservative religious people, I was having a discussion about faith and doubt, especially as it relates to the revelation that Mother Teresa felt emptiness and doubt for the entire 50 years of her ministry to the poor. So, I wrote, agreeing with Andrew Sullivan, that faith and doubt go hand in hand. That you can't have faith until you have doubt. Doubt is when you humbly say, "I don't KNOW, but this is what I believe..."

In response, someone asked me, "So doubt is faith?"

And this is how I responded:

Faith is a subject I've been wrestling with for a very long time and I don't think it helps to discuss something like this in snarky, sarcastic posts as we do here (not that I don't love snarky, sarcastic posts).

But it seems to me that Mother Teresa is a perfect example of true faith in that, for 50 years when she prayed, she felt absolutely nothing coming back from heaven. Utter silence. It also seems to me that that…

Beautiful, Majestic, Gritty, Cultured. San Francisco.

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Since we've been here in San Francisco -- basically the month of August -- we have had nothing but the most amazingly perfect weather imaginable. Each morning, there's a bit of a fog. The sky starts out overcast. The breeze coming through the windows is bracing, cool and moist. Then the sun breaks free about mid-morning and the sky completely clears out -- a rich, spotless blue that shimmers magically against the stark concrete of the many skyscrapers.

At noon, the sun is bright. The sky is perfectly clear. The ocean breeze warms up a bit so that when you're standing in the hot sun, the rushing air is cooling your skin -- clean, brisk and fresh smelling. Unlike L.A., there's not a trace of smog.

San Francisco Center

The fog is a funny thing here. It kind of has a ghostly mind of its own. You can be driving in the clear sun, hit a fog bank, and then come out of it three minutes later, perfect skies above. This is particularly likely to happen if you pass over water. The ot…

Big Voice in SF 11: GLBT Museum Pt. 2

We finish our visit to the GLBT Museum and Archive with Executive Director, Paul Boneberg.

Big Voice in SF 10: GLBT Museum Pt. 1

Steve visits the GLBT Museum and Archive with Executive Director Paul Boneberg.

Big Voice in SF 9: Kate and the Cats.

Jim's Goddaughter, Kate, comes for a visit and meets the cats.

"Cool By Default" LIVE with Preoccupied Pipers

This is what happens when you bring your video camera onstage with you to sing lead vocals on a song. Good thing the band totally rocks.

"Zero Hour" A Sell-Out Success.

Last night's performance of "Zero Hour" was nothing less than electrifying according to all the people I spoke with in the lobby afterwards. It was fun being there before the show -- so many people coming up and saying how much they enjoyed "Big Voice" -- and then again at intermission and afterwards.

Ed Decker called this morning and said that the event sold $4000 in tickets, produced $4000 in additional donations from attendees, and then that total will be matched with a matching grant of $8000, bringing the total for the evening to $16,000 to help fund the New Conservatory's Educational and Production programs.

And Jim was brilliant.

Warning of new biased "Ex-Gay" Study

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2007

E-Mail: wbesen@truthwinsout.org
Web: www.TruthWinsOut.org

TRUTH WINS OUT WARNS REPORTERS OF NEW BIASED 'EX-GAY' SHAM STUDY ON THE HORIZON

TWO Challenges 'Ex-Gay' Researcher To Have Study Subjects Submit To 'No Lie MRI' To Prove Tales of Change Are True

NEW YORK - Truth Wins Out warned news organizations today that a biased new politically motivated "ex-gay" sham study will reportedly surface later this year. A controversial "researcher" at a right wing religious university will release it and the goal of the study, known as "The Thomas Project," is to show that ex-gay therapy is often successful. Unfortunately, an early report by the website Ex-Gay Watch indicates that the research likely consists of calling handpicked ex-gay lobbyists and ministry leaders on the telephone and asking if they had "changed." There is no indication that key physical measures or tests were included, suc…

Video Mob Alert for San Francisco.

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VIDEO MOB ALERT FOR SAN FRANCISCO.

If you plan on attending the Wednesday night show (11pm) at the Red Devil Lounge for the world debut of the full band version of "Cool By Default," bring a video camera and shoot the band. Shoot whatever looks interesting to you on stage. Then, send them to me and I'll cut a music video of the event using all the footage.

Now, more about this:

The Preoccupied Pipers have suddenly and mysteriously activated a MySpace account.

As I said before, I am an extended "member" of the Preoccupied Pipers but they are as mysterious to me as they are to everyone else. All I know is we're singing "Cool By Default." I will not get a rehearsal with the band. They are going to learn the song, rehearse it and then I'm going to jump onstage, video camera in hand, and sing it.

This once-a-year band reappears out of the ether, the members gather from around the world, they perform for the International Pop Overthrow, and then disappea…

Big Voice in SF 7: Jim's Birthday.

It's Jim's birthday. Is anyone going to remember? Also: Ed makes a proposal and we meet Daniel, the boy with the big ideas. The Big Voice: God or Merman? episode 7.

Living in the Bonus Round, The Reality Series.

It hit me today that the video diary has evolved into an internet version of a reality show.

I don't have to be fancy or artistic or anything. It's enough to just point the camera and just be ourselves. All the time people come up to us recreating little bits they've saw and laughed at.

And yes, Alexandra, Jimmy's "spit take" at the radio station was absolutely real. It's not easy to make Jim laugh, but when you DO make Jim laugh, it's worth every penny.

I noted today that I have 95 videos up on YouTube. 95. And there are still more that preceded YouTube, with a number of them at Ourmedia.com -- an early video-hosting site. I have to get into my archives and put them up on YouTube. "Living in the Bonus Round: The Early Years." Like the one in which I took off my eye patch and could see normally for the first time in years.

It's all very primitive and basic, but it's all real, too.

Here in San Francisco, the critics have been comparing us…

Big Voice in SF 6: KALW Radio

Steve and Jim drive to a radio interview:

SF Bay Times Review.

Great notice from the SF Bay Times, but it's a strangely written review where he matter-of-factly spends a lot of time describing the play, plot-point by plot-point, revealing punchlines. That kinda drives me crazy when reviewers do that. Then, finally, he says this:
The story, with its emotional range, is warm and touching. The performances by Jim and Steve are brilliant. Steve with his gaunt face plays completely deadpan, firing off some hilarious lines without cracking a smile. Burly Jim has a very motile face and uses unabashedly nellie gestures. When they move around the stage together, seemingly independently, they are professionally, unobtrusively and totally aware of each other’s presence. Their comic timing is quick and precise, never stepping on each other’s lines and always coming in right on cue. Their singing voices through the fourteen songs are generally well controlled, but with little musicality.

When Jim sang “You Are a Stranger,” the slow romantic ballad allowed h…

Cat's Map of the Bed.

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Two Favorite Photos.

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I saw this little girl standing in a little princess dress by her dad at an ATM, with tears rolling her face. And I just snapped the photo without even thinking. I just loved the image. (Click on image for larger version). And, below, is Jim in stage make-up sitting with our favorite new buddy, Daniel, who sits in the room before the show (he's a dresser for "Greater Tuna") and is so naturally funny, we can't stop laughing with him. And what a smile. But the boy really needs to eat a couple of meals!

Former Ex-Gay Leaders Apologize.

As everyone who has studied the issue at all knows, sexual orientation cannot be willfully changed. No amount of deprogramming, praying to Jesus or laying on of hands will ever change someone from gay to straight. A few years back, the leader of Exodus International in England finally went on record saying that over the many years he led the group, NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON CHANGED from gay to straight.

Now, my friends over at Beyond Ex-Gay and Soulforce have reported that three more leaders of ex-gay ministries in Australia add their names to the long list of former leaders apologizing for their part in the destructive and indecent lie called the Ex-Gay Myth.

EDIT: More info here.

A Busy Week of Things To Do!

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This past week, we attended a number of things that I haven't had a chance to blog about yet. So, here we go. First, music producer and actor Jim Brewer along with his partner, Amy Donder, gave us a little barbeque dinner party. He invited Jim's old friend, super club pianist Houston Allred.Amy Dondy, James Brewer, New Conservatory Board member Caitlin Morgan, her husband Patrick Irwin, Norman Anderson, his partner Houston Allred, and Jim Brochu.

Then, we had a surprise visit from our very good buddy, actor/director Travis Terry, who was up from Los Angeles doing Shakespeare. Here he is with Steinbeck, the monster cat:

Then we visited Jim's goddaughter, Kate, who lives up on a hill. The view from her place is astonishing (click on pic for larger size):
We visited the longest running show in San Francisco, called Beach Blanket Babylon, which is, to put it mildly, a hoot. But the big surprise was that the musical director is the man who first hired me for a theatre gig, Bill K…

Happy Birthday, Jim Brochu.

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I Know What Brian Boitano Would Do!

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When we were on the ship earlier this year, we met a great singer/actor named Franc D'Ambrosio. He got his big break when he was chosen to play the opera-singing son of Al Pacino in Godfather 3. Then, he was the "Phantom" in San Francisco, playing the role longer than any other actor. He tours constantly as a soloist now. Anyway, we totally fell in love with Franc. (Who wouldn't?)


When we told him we were coming into San Francisco, he said he had a friend he'd like to bring. So, imagine how we felt when we were standing in the receiving line hugging Brian Boitano (who is a total sweetheart). Katelyn, our stage manager, was having major heart palpitations, doing triple lutzes backstage at intermission. I just felt so honored. And, of course, Franc is being deluged with mp3s from me, begging him to sing my songs!

Jim Brochu, Franc D'Ambrosio, Brian Boitano & Steve Schalchlin
at The Big Voice: God or Merman?
New Conservatory Theater, San Francisco


(Click on image…

Steve Gets Quoted!

Both Andrew Sullivan and Joe.My.God. have posted a quote by me from the recent interview in the San Francisco Sentinel regarding the relationship between gay people, church and theatre. Here's the quote:
"Gay people who are raised in a religious environment, a conservative religious environment are basically told, 'You're not good enough / you don't belong here / you need to change / you need to be something else.' And so, in a lot of our lives, we end up leaving the church and hating God or hating Religion or hating the whole nine yards. But an inherently spiritual person doesn’t really lose the core of their being. So it’s going to come out somewhere."

"I think that what we discovered is that it comes out of theater, because theater and church are essentially the same thing. They are story-telling, they are inspirational, and they are true. Theatre brings an even higher truth sometimes. Church basically repeats the same old story over and over again.…

How HIV Hurts The Brain.

AIDS virus is a "double hit" to the brain: study(Reuters) The AIDS virus damages the brain in two ways, by not only killing brain cells but by preventing the birth of new cells, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.The study, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, helps shed light on a condition known as HIV-associated dementia, which can cause confusion, sleep disturbances and memory loss in people infected with the virus.It is less common in people taking drug cocktails to suppress the virus, and why HIV damages brain function is not clearly understood.The virus kills brain cells but it also appears to stop progenitor cells, known as stem cells, from dividing, the team at Burnham Institute for Medical Research and the University of California at San Diego found."It's a double hit to the brain," researcher Marcus Kaul said in a statement. "The HIV protein both causes brain injury and prevents its repair."The cocktail of drugs known as highl…

SF Weekly Reviews The Big Voice.

The Big Voice: God or Merman?A musical comedy with a big heart By Nathaniel EatonPublished: August 15, 2007 Subject(s): Eaton on The Big Voice: God or Merman? I have been reminded that it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight, if you're young or old, or if there's a fancy set or a bare stage — an amazing love story transcends it all. The Big Voice: God or Merman? proves this point nicely.
After a successful off-Broadway run, Jim Brochu and Steve Schalchin bring their small and truly moving autobiographical show to the New Conservatory Theatre. Billed as a "musical comedy in two lives," the first act charts their journeys separately until they eventually meet and fall in love on a cruise ship. Brochu employs his broad flamboyant charisma to describe growing up close to the Broadway lights, finding himself caught between being the next pope or a stage queen. He's larg…

Extensive Interview at San Francisco Sentinel.

There is an extensive interview with Jim and me at the San Francisco Sentinel, written by By Seán Martinfield.

This may be the most exhaustive interview ever published on the two us -- with lots of pictures.

Steve Sings With Preoccupied Pipers at Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco. Wednesday night, Aug. 22 at 11pm.

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In "The Big Voice: God or Merman?" I have a line that comes after, "I grew up in a Baptist home in a Baptist town, going to a Baptist Church. And then they sent me off to a Baptist College. But what I really wanted was to be in a rock and roll band." And except for very brief two weeks as lead singer in the LA punk band where we never sang a song or did a gig, I was mostly in cover bands doing our own demos on the side in studios on the road while singing at night at the Rodeway Inn nearby.

Then, the band broke up and I got gigs singing standards in New York City. Then, found Jim, moved to L.A., worked behind a desk in the music industry, got sick, wrote a musical, created this diary, almost died, and started into the Bonus Round, started singing solo concerts and even though I love all those things, I miss having a band. Or I did. Because I actually do belong to a rock and roll band, though it's more fair to say they adopted me. Their musical skills so overwhel…

A Letter From Ethel Merman's Son.

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When the history of "The Big Voice: God or Merman? is written, there will be one moment that will shine, for us, above all. And it happened this weekend. The weekend we met and then received a loving, gracious and rare (for him) plaudit from the one person on this planet we most dreamed would give us his blessings for our show: Bob Levitt, Ethel Merman's son.

We knew that Bob was a very shy man, rarely, if ever, interviewed -- and never one to run around seeking attention for himself. So when friends of his, who saw the show in New York, told him about us, we were put in contact and he said he'd like to see the show, but that he would come on his own, without fanfare. We wouldn't know he was out there when he did come and, frankly, weren't even sure IF he would come. Still, we had great hopes and he did say he really did want to come.

So, this past Saturday night, as we were standing in the lobby greeting the audience members, as we usually do, this one man was hang…

Trailers From Hell!

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There is a WONDERFUL new website on the net called Trailers From Hell! featuring movie trailers from all these old classic movies, most of them grindhouse or horror flicks. But along with the original trailers, they have commentary from some of today's most celebrated directors and other movie insiders talking about both the movies and the trailers.

This is popcorn viewing at its finest. (You can watch the trailers with or without commentary).

Here's an example featuring "The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" with commentary by Joe Dante.



I also love this commentary by John Landis on a music concert movie called "The T.A.M.I. Show" where Lesli Gore is the biggest star on a bill with The Rolling Stones, the Beach Boys, James Brown and Smokey Robinson.

Friday Night.

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The shows this week have been excellent. Nicely full houses with each evening, with each succeeding night topping the next. This is the part of the run where we see if the word of mouth and the good reviews will actually sell tickets. So far, it seems to be working. I remind the reader that we don't have a commercial "hook" going into this run. That is, no big headline stars. No immediately identifiable commercial subject. This means our show is at the mercy of two things: The marketing department of the theater (which is doing a SENSATIONAL job; in the past week, we've had several live interviews and there are ads for the show everywhere. They seem to know exactly where to spend each precious dollar to achieve maximum visibility. And they also seem to know how and when to twist an arm to get us a feature or an interview.)

And the word of mouth. People go to see shows because their friends tell them to do so. But word of mouth means nothing if that media visibility is…

Bird Improvising Jazz.

Talk about music in nature! I got an email this morning from a doctor who has a site focusing on healing music. He had stumbled across my website and wrote to me. So, I went to his webpage and found this wonderful video of this bird singing improvisational jazz. It's unbelievable.

Talkin's Broadway Weighs In.

Richard Connema of Talkin' Broadway has always been an enthusiastic supporter of theater in San Francisco. He loved The Last Session and in this review, reminds us that he saw The Big Voice in it earlier incarnation at the NYMF Festival in New York.
The Big Voice: God or Merman? is an Entertaining and Entirely Beguiling Evening of Musical Theatre

by Richard Connema
Steven Schalchlin and Jim Brochu have finally brought their charming and hilarious The Big Voice: God or Merman? to San Francisco. I first saw the show at the 2004 New York Musical Theatre Festival on a rainy night in Manhattan and I thought it would be perfect for our city by the bay. The Big Voice: God or Merman? is entertaining full houses at the Decker Theatre in the New Conservatory Theatre Center through August 19th. This fast-paced comedy is full of indisputable zingers, with Steve and Jim telling their stories with self-belittling humor. Jim Brochu tells of how as a staunch Catholic growing up in the Bronx he wante…

SF's Chinatown Photo Album

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Click on the images to see them in their full splendor.








The LOGO/HRC Presidential Forum on Gay Issues.

Joe.My.God. has posted a link to all the individual Democratic Presidential candidates being questioned on gay issues. We were on stage last night, so we couldn't watch it (and LOGO is not on the cable here). So, thanks to Joe for live-blogging the event with his opinions and for sharing the videos.

Review on BeyondChron.

I would reproduce this review on BeyondChron but it gives away so many punchlines, I'll skip down to the end. I think the reviewer, "Buzzin' Lee Hartgrave," was trying to demonstrate how funny he thought our show was -- and that's really nice. But, honey, save the punchlines for the show!
This show is more hilarious than I can relay on paper. You have to see it to believe it. I’m not usually an out-loud laugher. I usually just smile. But, this time I was absolutely doubled over with laughter. I could hardly catch my breath at times. It’s the freshest, most honest show I’ve seen in many a year. There are touches of “The Smothers Brothers” now and then. Especially remindful of that is the low-key Steve, who just drifts off into his music making, and talks softly. The whole evening was a beguiling celebration of love and storytelling. It’s wonderful, uplifting and fabulous fun. You’ll love it!

RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! (Highest Rating)

Announcing San Francisco Extension & One Night of Zero Hour!

We have just gotten the word that the New Conservatory Theatre Center has extended our run of The Big Voice: God or Merman? for an extra week thanks to rip-roaring reviews, enthusiastic word of mouth and very healthy ticket sales. That means we'll run through Aug. 26th. But that is as long as we can go since they have a booked season and we have other commitments. So, if you're in San Francisco or have friends here, tell them to call the box office IMMEDIATELY, if not sooner. (415) 861-8972.

Also, Jim will be performing a one night only special benefit performance of ZERO HOUR, his one man show about Zero Mostel on August 21st.

Bette Davis on Dinah Shore Show.

I just love it when Bette Davis was out of control. Richard Dodds, a journalist here turned me on to this video. See, Bette recorded an album. In this clip, she complains that the record label is not promoting it -- then she proceeds to lip sync.

Roar of the Crowd Award!

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There is a website called Gold Star Events where members can get discounts to area theater events. Then, the people who see it, report back and write their own reviews of what they've seen. Well, this week we are the highest rated show on Gold Star Events receiving the Roar of the Crowd Award. Above is a screen shot of how our page appears on their site.

Big Voice in SF Video 5: Opening Night Party.

We Meet Celebs!

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The view out our window.


Jim with Bruce Vilanch.

Me with Joey McIntyre.

Jai Rodriguez of "Queer Eye"

Our friend Nikki Derrick Wright from England (who was with us on the Galileo when we met) and Jim's goddaughter, Kate.)

Us with Richard Connema from Talkin' Broadway.