BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
NEWS UPDATE: I have been given the Editor's Choice Award for "Excellence in Songwriting" by BroadwayWorld. I am most grateful. If you've never been here...
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince you that music is a Super Power, and that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way. And that you can accomplish great things if you just push ahead and don't let anyone tell you no.
I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas who is "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City-- which is my way of describing how I feel having cheated death. (In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better.) Accepting my death changed me. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle.
Last year, I turned 60 and I had a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album (selling 10s of copies), headlining to a sold out house at a major night club in New York City and playing the lead role in a staged reading of a play not written by myself. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve [SHACK-lin] and we're just getting started.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Prof. Temple Grandin is the subject of an HBO film, an accomplished scientist, a renowned animal welfare advocate and a prominent autistic professor. But last night, in her last lecture as Cornell’s Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professor, she focused on the causes and solutions to animal behavioral problems.My brother, Scott, tells me that in his own work with the State of Texas, he's met Temple Grandin on several occasions.
Staying calm: Prof. Temple Grandin gives her final lecture as Cornell’s Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professor, titled “Animal Behavior and Welfare,” at Call Auditorium in Kennedy Hall yesterday. - By: Jaser FaruqOne of the best ways to alleviate behavior problems — which account for half of all cases where animals are given up or abandoned — is to keep animals calm, Grandin said.
“A calm animal is easier to handle, and when they get uncalm, it’s usually because they’re getting scared,” she said. “If you get an animal scared, it’s going to take half an hour to get it to calm down.”
And, tomorrow, Michael and I are going to get him a new kitten. His beloved Jett finally passed away, and Gregory, the remaining cat, needs a companion. Kittens! I'm gonna get to go play with kittens!
That reminds me about tomorrow night when I'm going to be singing for Animal Night at North Hollywood's Kulak's Woodshed, which you can view online. It starts at 8pm, PCT which is 11pm EST.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Monday, February 22, 2010
I love it. Just as we are moving in to the Daryl Roth DR2 Theater, there appears this great profile about her online at Woman About Town. I particularly liked this:
Daryl says she’s attracted to stories that show people overcoming odds or who are in a position of not being believed in by others.Sounds like William's Song, to me.
Singing 'rewires' damaged brain
By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News, San Diego
Singing words made it easier for stroke patients to communicate
Teaching stroke patients to sing "rewires" their brains, helping them recover their speech, say scientists.
By singing, patients use a different area of the brain from the area involved in speech.
If a person's "speech centre" is damaged by a stroke, they can learn to use their "singing centre" instead.
Researchers presented these findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego.
Hey, Mel Tillis, a most famous stutterer, was a terrific singer.
So, how do you do it?
During the therapy sessions, patients are taught to put their words to simple melodies.
Professor Schlaug said that after a single session, a stroke patients who was are not able to form any intelligible words learned to say the phrase "I am thirsty" by combining each syllable with the note of a melody.
The patients are also encouraged to tap out each syllable with their hands. Professor Schlaug said that this seemed to act as an "internal pace-maker" which made the therapy even more effective.
"Music might be an alternative medium to engage parts of the brain that are otherwise not engaged," he said.
But it's that last part that intrigues me.
Music opens up areas of the brain that are not otherwise engaged. That's why we need more music in the world. Because I think there are a lot of disengaged brains out there, myself included.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Painters. Craftspersons. Musicians. A farmer's market. And right there, across from all this, on the east side, are the rising pillars of a huge, majestic bank building.
We ran into Jane Klain, from the Paley Center, who told us about a woman who rescues kittens and then adopts them out. She had a booth over on the Square.
I told Jim we should tag Zero Hour as "Look Out!"
So, the set needed some adjusting. Jim posed and set things, and then we took off, letting the tech crew do their thing. We also saw the rigger who showed us around Fuerza Bruta yesterday. I think his name is Antonio. Their show offices are in the same place, down in the basement, next to our dressing rooms. Which is cool cuz we'll see each other a lot.
And there we are mugging in front of Jim's poster, reproducing all his poses.
This is gonna be fun!
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Dylan told us to be there about 7:30. We found him right near the front of the long bar, which extends way into the room. A bunch of guys were crowded among a bunch of other crowded guys, and every had a Cosmo.
That's when Jim ran into Kevin Chamberlin, who was next to us, crowded into that corner under the big hi def TV, which was showing the Olympics downhill skiing. I kept wincing, wondering if anyone has ever sailed so far out that there was no more downhill slope.
So, they talked about Surflight Summer Theater. We have this great video of Kevin as a kid doing a song and dance number at the ice cream store next to the theater. "Better money!"
They reminisced about Joe Hayes. Kevin is enjoying great career right now. He Uncle Fester in the new huge Broadway musical, "The Addams Family,' which has been the subject of much conversation on the blogs and gossip columns, like Michael Riedel in the NY Post over certain problems with the show when it debuted in Chicago and had to change directors. Kevin was bubbling with energy and excitement about Jerry Zaks. Jim said he also loved working with him.
It all seems very exciting! I just finished reading the new book about Stephen Schwartz's musical career, andhe talks about how brutal it becomes when you have this huge beast of a show, with orchestra, sets, costumes, millions of dollars, etc. on your back. At the first meeting of "Wicked," when someone said, "This is going to be fun," he said, "No. This will not be fun."
I think that's why I like doing things simply. Set up. Do the show. Go home.
Around The Monster's bar, unplanned, were pics of Mae West (in a gay bar?), and it made us think of Danny again. He wrote a show about her. It was his magnum opus. He died two years ago.
As Jim and I walked back to the bus, we passed by a building that used to house a club called "Waverly Waverly." I used to play that club under the name of Steve Austen. Some day I should resurrect Steve Austen. Or maybe I still am Steve Austen.
She's a hell of a town.
Friday, February 19, 2010
I'm having a lovely time in New York.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
That's what the great character actor, Fyvish Finkel, said to Jim when we saw him at a Barnes & Noble event where his son, our friend Ian Finkel ("the world's greatest xylophonist") was promoting his new book, "You're Not Supposed To Be Here."
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
She was even cited by PETA for her work, despite the fact that Temple helps design slaughterhouses -- and the amazing part of her work is that she not only figured out how to more humanely treat animals, but demonstrated that by using these techniques, the ranchers can cut costs.
Friday, February 12, 2010
The Steve Schalchlin penned "William's Song", a true story about a mother who stood up for her gay son at his school in Arkansas, got the crowd responding in a triumphant roar. As the song goes, "William was a boy in Arkansas [who was] a little bit different," and this resulted in him being harassed by school bullies. His mother, Carolyn Wagner, wasn’t going to let this happen without a fight, so she promptly confronted the school. When the man in charge accused William of "walking so funny, she said ‘that’s gonna cost you money’", the chorus sang to the delight of the crowd. She sued the board and won, putting the school to shame. Indeed, "tell me why does it take five great big guys to beat up one little queer," and Schalchlin was on the money with an answer: "I think it’s fear." This song was especially relevant to Redding, where a gay couple together for 14 years was murdered in 1999 because they were a little bit different.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Monday, February 08, 2010
Jim will be once again appearing in Project Shaw on February 15. The play is The Philanderer. It's part of a series where they do a staged reading of a different Shaw play a month at The Players.
Monday, February 15
7pm @THE PLAYERS
A topical comedy in four acts of the early Eighteen-Nineties
Written by George Bernard Shaw in 1893
ACT I: Mr. Joseph Cuthbertson’s Flat in Ashley Gardens.
ACTS II & III: The Library of the Ibsen Club in Cork Street.
ACT IV: Dr. Paramore’s Rooms in Savile Row.
Period: During the first vogue of Ibsen in London, after 1889.
THE PHILANDERER CAST:
Leonard Charteris - Mr. Chad Kimball
Mrs. Grace Tranfield – Ms. Julia Murney
Julia Craven – Ms. Cassie Beck
Colonel Daniel Craven, V.C. - Mr. Paxton Whitehead
Joseph Cuthbertson – Mr. Jim Brochu
Sylvia Craven – Ms. Emily Young
Dr. Paramore – Mr. Robert Stanton
Narrator – Mr. David Rooney
16 Gramercy Park South
(20th Street east of Park Av)
Produced and directed by David Staller.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
The arguments for preserving “don’t ask” have long been blatantly groundless. McCain — who said in 2006 that he would favor repealing the law if military leaders ever did — didn’t even bother to offer a logical explanation for his mortifying flip-flop last week. He instead huffed that the 1993 “don’t ask” law should remain unchanged as long as any war is going on (which would be in perpetuity, given Afghanistan). Colin Powell strafed him just hours later, when he announced that changed “attitudes and circumstances” over the past 17 years have led him to agree with Mullen. McCain is even out of step with his own family’s values. Both his wife, Cindy, and his daughter Meghan have posed for the current California ad campaign explicitly labeling opposition to same-sex marriage as hate.
McCain aside, the most common last-ditch argument for preserving “don’t ask” heard last week, largely from Southern senators, is to protect “troop morale and cohesion.” Every known study says this argument is a canard, as do the real-life examples of the many armies with openly gay troops, including those of Canada, Britain and Israel. But the argument does carry a telling historical pedigree. When Harry Truman ordered the racial integration of the American military in 1948, Congressional opponents (then mainly Southern Democrats) embraced an antediluvian Army prediction from 1940 stating that such a change would threaten national defense by producing “situations destructive to morale.” History will sweep this bogus argument away now as it did then.
Those opposing same-sex marriage are just as eager to mask their bigotry. The big arena on that issue is now in California, where the legal showdown over Proposition 8 is becoming a Scopes trial of sorts, with the unlikely bipartisan legal team of David Boies and Ted Olson in the Clarence Darrow role. The opposing lawyer, Charles Cooper, insisted to the court that he bore neither “ill will nor animosity for gays and lesbians.” Given the history of the anti-same-sex marriage camp, it’s hard to make that case with a straight face (so to speak). In trying to do so, Cooper moved that graphic evidence of his side’s ill will and animosity be disallowed — including that notorious, fear-mongering television ad, “The Gathering Storm.”
The judge admitted such exhibits anyway. Boies also triumphed in dismantling an expert witness called to provide the supposedly empirical, non-homophobic evidence of how same-sex marriage threatens “procreative marriage.” In cross-examination, Boies forced the witness, David Blankenhorn of the so-called Institute for American Values, to concede he had no academic expertise in any field related to marriage or family. The only peer-reviewed paper he’s written, for a degree in Comparative Labor History, was “a study of two cabinetmakers’ unions in 19th-century Britain.”
The more bigotry pushed out of the closet for all voters to see, the more likely it is that Americans will be moved to grant overdue full citizenship to gay Americans. It won’t happen overnight, any more than full civil rights for African-Americans immediately followed Truman’s desegregation of the armed forces. But there can be no doubt that Mike Mullen’s powerful act of conscience last week, just as we marked the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro, N.C., lunch counter sit-in, pushed history forward. as we marked the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro, N.C., lunch counter sit-in, pushed history forward.
Friday, February 05, 2010
Thursday, February 04, 2010
***CHANGED FROM ORIGINAL POSTING. DATE IS NOW FIRM. JUNE 23.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
By John Rowell
‘ZERO’ IS A TEN
It’s nice, in these uncertain economic times, to report on a surprise hit. The acclaimed new play Zero Hour, about the life of theater legend Zero Mostel, has been successful enough to rate a transfer to the off-Broadway house DR2, with performances beginning Feb. 24. The great stage and screen star of “Forum,” “Fiddler,” “Rhinoceros” and “The Producers” is brought to life in all his complicated and volcanic glory by actor Jim Brochu, under the direction of three-time Oscar nominee Piper Laurie. If you missed it the first go round, here’s your chance. Check out www.ZeroHourShow.com.
Monday, February 01, 2010
"William's Song" is, of course, the song I wrote about Carolyn Wagner and her son, Bill. For readers of this blog, Carolyn is very ill right now. So, prayers and love and good wishes are definitely welcomed.
Looking for answers
Rednecks in those towns can sneer - singers said they experienced a few catcalls - but the 90 unapologetic gay men, many sporting wedding rings, came to town asking tough questions. They performed "William's Song," the true story of a high school boy who was beat up because of his sexuality. And when they sing the chorus - "Why does it take five great big guys to beat up one little queer?" - they expect some answers.
This weekend, they proved harder to ignore than the local cowboys may have expected.
There were several conservative Christians in the audience. They said they were there supporting a friend or family member, but I defy them to say they weren't moved.