BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince everyone I meet that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way.

I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City. That 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 played 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].

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas in New York Photos.

Jim Brochu, looking awfully dashing in his beret.

The crowds were enormous, so we decided to just walk around the outside and not go into the plaza.

And, of course, the mandatory Christmas tree shot.
Only took two shots to get it right.

These Christmas lilies have lasted and lasted. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmastime With Shack

At church yesterday this morning, I was set to sing “He’s Coming Back” but there was something in the air. Father Jeff seemed a little downcast, and I said to him, “Look, there’s this song that I wrote for a children’s musical. It’s a little simplistic, but I could make it into a little sing-along -- and it’s a happy “up” song!
I felt like I knew the lyric. All I had to do was remember that the “poles to the equator” bridge is first. Then, “forests of Westphalia,” second.

I performed it after the "Peace." That was Father Jeff’s idea, to do it right after the Peace instead of after the Gospel. And it was a perfect placement because the Peace is where everyone greets everyone else in the congregation and wishes them “peace.” So, it’s a more informal moment.

I have always been a bit uncomfortable when the congregation applauds after the song when it's placed before the sermon.

Another moment that was strange was when we were singing “Go Tell It On The Mountain.” The choir was just perfect. Then, they said for the congregation to sing it on their own -- and, almost nothing. It was either too early or they were just listening -- which could be the case, given how good this choir is.

So, when it was time for the Peace, everyone from the choir went into the house and all the congregants stood up and greeted each other. I drifted over to the piano, Fr. Jeff announced me -- “our resident composer, Steve Schalchlin.”

And, given the warm informality of the moment, I felt like I could really be myself. Before, the Gospel was read and I was between the Gospel and the sermon. A very sacred moment, really.
But this, everyone was calming down, talking to each other, having a little fun, and I said, “This is from a children’s musical I wrote, and it has a little sing-along. So, sing this...”

I stumbled a bit at the opening since I hadn't planned on singing this song -- and it has a LOT of words, but I survived...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas-ukkah

Last week, I was invited to a holiday brunch with the parents, teachers and school children at Adelphi Academy in Brooklyn. They performed Christmas carols, and then the younger kids all performed "A Charlie Brown Holiday," which included the story of Hannukah, since so many of the children are Jewish. It was just wonderful to see all those tiny faces dressed up like Snoopy, Linus, Christmas trees and all the rest. In deference to the privacy of the kids, I won't post their faces without permission, but I did take one snap of Santa that I totally love. And notice the blue menorah in the foreground.

I have a feeling a lot of parents are gonna need that booth after two weeks of holiday.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

AIDS drugs are safe.

Study shows longterm use of AIDS drugs is safe.


Michael CarterPublished: 08 December 2011A large international study has provided persuasive evidence of the long-term safety of antiretroviral therapy. Writing in the online edition of AIDS, investigators from the EuroSIDA study report that prolonged use of antiretroviral therapy did not increase the risk of death from non-AIDS-related illnesses.
“The main finding of our study was that there was no evidence of an increase in the risk of any non-AIDS-related death with prolonged exposure to cART [combination antiretroviral therapy],” comment the authors. “The results are reassuring that so far prolonged use of cART does not appear to be leading to increased risk of death due to some previously identified cumulative effect, or a drug effect whereby there is a long induction period before disease appears.”

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Craving - Coleman & Shack

I've been posting songs from our cabaret on 11/11/11 at Don't Tell Mama. This one is called "The Craving," a song about addiction.


Monday, December 05, 2011

Two New Songs.


Opening Night Portrait of Cast of "The Man Who Came To Dinner."


Photo by Rick Stockwell.

Opening Night of The Man Who Came To Dinner.

It's been an amazing learning experience for me, watching this cast find all the beats of this complex farce, and especially Jim, putting some blood into the role of Sheridan Whiteside. I've seen every preview and, now, opening night. What most people don't know is that this production is on an Equity Showcase contract. There was a maddeningly brief rehearsal time, three previews to get it on its feet, then the critics in the audience, and then the opening night -- which was a fantastic show, their best performance.

But those early shows were previews. It's the place you figure out what's not working. A large budgeted show would have a much longer time to work out all the kinks -- which is, of course, what this run will do. Jim got some great notices, but also got punched a little, mostly for not being mean enough or something.

Well, just stand back. I don't mean that Jim is going to let others direct him, but I know that the show they saw is not the show that will run forward. Really what they were witnessing is Jim finding Sheridan's beating heart. Why would a person do the horrific things he does?

Now they'll all start having some fun -- and it is a very fun show. I sit up behind everyone -- some seats are roped off because they can only allow 99 seats per performance.

What's great is that the people watching this play, even when they're not laughing out loud, they have huge grins on their faces, and their body language is forward and attentive. They are having a very good time.

But to get to this point, Jim is tired. I'm keeping him in all day, rested and warm. I took a lot of snapshots, so I'll post them over on Facebook, so the other cast members can tag themselves.

But here is a snapshot from the party, where they're all getting ready for the big cast portrait.


Thursday, December 01, 2011

Music For World AIDS Day.

My most recent song about AIDS -- a true story about singing in an AIDS hospice.



Stephen Bienskie live on stage in 1997 in the Original Off-Broadway performance of "Going It Alone."



Here is "The Group" in our TLS reunion concert a couple of years ago.



Kevin Wood rehearsing "Save Me A Seat".



The LA cast of The Last Session singing "When You Care".



Julie Reyburn singing "Going It Alone" for The Spirit of Broadway Awards, in Norwich, CT.



"Connected" is the first song I wrote about living with AIDS.