BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince you 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 "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.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Jeff Kinman has passed.

He was one of the most talented and beloved performers in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. He played Buddy in the Uptown Players production of The Last Session. He is now gone from us. It's deeply, deeply heartbreaking. Love you, Jeff.


Friday, December 21, 2012

"Gloria Jubilus" to debut Christmas Eve in Brooklyn.

December 24
9:30pm Carols.
10:30pm Eucharist

Christ Church Bay Ridge
7301 Ridge Boulevard
Brooklyn, NY 11209

"Gloria Jubilus" is my own composition, a three-minute "Gloria" for choir and organ from the full Mass, which will debut in the Spring. On Christmas Eve, it will be a part of the "Eucharist"* section. The organ in the church is just newly installed. This will be our first major concert with this incredible instrument, which will be played by Kalle Toivio, a virtuoso organist from Finland, conducted by Mark Janas, composer, Leonard Bernstein protege and teacher at Manhattan School of Music along with the Christ Church Bay Ridge choir, Fr. Jeffrey Hamblin, MD.

I hadn't made a big deal out of it here on the blog. because it's a schlep to get to Brooklyn. I didn't want my friends to feel obligated. We all get so many invitations for things in this town. Friends doing shows. Other people doing shows. It never ends. And everything costs money, which no one really has. And Jim and I much prefer staying home.

However, it is happening and a few people asked for details. I do not believe there's any kind of admission charge. The congregation is friendly and from every station in life. If you're curious and have no other plans, join us on Christmas Eve. I'll be the tenor in the back row.

*EDIT: I just discovered that it will be sung during the Eucharist at 10:30. I've changed it in the text above, which used to say "Carols."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jeff Kinman is in hospice.

Jeff Kinman on right as Buddy in "The Last Session." Scott A. Eckert, L. as Gideon
Uptown Players, Dallas. 2002.
I was just informed that Jeff Kinman, who played the role of Buddy in the highly-acclaimed and much beloved Dallas Uptown Players production of The Last Session, is in hospice. Apparently, he has been sick for some time but was being very private about it until now. Jeff is one of the best singers I'd ever heard. He was a gentle soul who's humanity filled his characterization of Buddy with innocence and strength paired with a heartrending fragility.

Jeff Kinman's version of "Going It Alone" from the Dallas cast album has been posted to Sound Cloud by Mark Lowry.



I would appreciate all the TLS Family raising a glass, a prayer and lots of light to Jeff and to his devoted partner, Adam C. Wright, and hold them in your hearts.

Adam C. Wright and Jeff Kinman
from Jeff's Facebook page.
Jeff Kinman in "Wild Party"





Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Singers of the Street - "Stand By Me"

I was clicking through random links and found this video from a group called Singers Of The Street, which was started, in San Francisco, by Dr. Kathleen McGuire, who helped shape New World Waking. Homeless people sing in the choir and then get a hot lunch. Since I think singing is the healthiest thing a person can do, it just made sense.

Anyway, I hadn't checked in on them in awhile, so I click over.. what do I find? They were invited to London during the Olympics and they made this video. I don't know why, but it just made me cry. I get very sentimental when I think of people pulling themselves up from nothing. And to do it by singing together!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

SantaCon in NYC






See, what you do is dress up like Santa and then you and your mob of other Santas, elves and other assorted ornaments run around Manhattan hitting a bunch of designated bars, getting drunker as you go along.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Where I Sing on Sunday Morning.


This is the first thing I see after entering Christ Church Bay Ridge. It's a beautiful building which the members dearly love and protect.


The beautiful stained glass lets in lots of sunlight. Also in the picture, Minister of Music (and my mentor) Mark Janas in the black. sitting. "Stage Center," posing is Danielle Erin Rhodes, who decided to this was a shoot about her. 


She and I have great fun in the choir. Like myself, she was raised in an evangelical style church. We're like the two good kids in class who always bring an apple for the teacher. Always sitting up straight and listening to Mark. But, secretly, we're naughty, naughty. Always causing trouble.


 Now, behind her is Kalle the organist from Finland. I'll get better pictures of them another time. I was actually testing out a new snapshot camera.


I think she's doing Liza in this pose. Not sure.


Unfortunately, this whole bank of organ pipes were damaged and need repair, but there are very few organ experts alive anymore. Also, this was built by a famous organ maker. They're doing a capital campaign to raise money to fix it. I hope they succeed. It's an incredible instrument. And to sit beneath those pipes and sing Handel is beyond description.






And here's Dani up close. How can you not love that face? And, for the record, she's hugely talented. Her voice is angelic, she has a natural comic flair and she is a superb actress. That's Kalle Toivio behind her. He recently played at Carnegie Hall with his sister on cello. She and I were the only ones who wore purple in accordance with the season. We never plan these things. It's about our competition to be teacher's pet.



It's most fun getting into the Christmas season. The music starts getting really interesting. Plus, we always do bits from The Messiah!

Monday, December 10, 2012

WTC from Greenwich Village.







42nd Street. Sunday Morning. Dec. 9

Off to church on a Sunday morning. As I walk east to the 1 train on increasingly revived 42nd Street, the improvements of which reach all the way to the Hudson River, there are a couple of old relic buildings still standing. Here on 9th avenue is an old hotel that finally closed not very long ago. It was probably more like a flophouse. You can't see it in these photos, but each one is blacked out with the words "HOTEL CLOSED."


The halal cart hasn't opened yet. Best street food in the universe, this stuff. And they're everywhere! The food is way better than at the hot dog carts, which seem to be disappearing. I always thought a good thriller movie would involve a conspiracy involving halal carts and al qaeda. The Falafel Incident!


Just across the street is Holy Cross Catholic Church that's been newly refurbished.


Closer to Times Square, the gigantic Leonard Cohen poster is still up there. Almost a year. I wonder if they made some kind of deal.

Next is the wax museum, a concept I still don't understand.


And then there's this McDonald's which obviously took over an old theater back when the street was falling apart. I keep imagining a McDonald's Musical. But I would want the South Park guys to write it.



Saturday, December 08, 2012

Gift Steinbeck.




Trudging Out To The End of the Earth.

Now that I can't upload photos here at Blogger, I can't show you the really cool pictures I took of my adventure trip to the Lower East Side.

Okay, that's not the real reason. The real reason is I was going to an exclusive party. Very hush hush.

Special invitation only.


A Train to 14th. 14A bus, which runs east and then down the east side. Gets off at Jackson. Walk a block. Perfect.

I even stopped off at a place called Green -- what was it? Green Paradise? Green Pastures? I forget. And got some Indian finger food. A place Andy Gale showed me. And it's right on my own street! Didn't even know it was there. New York.

The exclusive party? It was at Andy's. All the students he coaches.

No secret. Just a Christmas party with friends.

I just thought I'd make it sound dramatic, which is very appropriate for a group of actors.

You could also say it's a big therapy session, but then you'd be giving away the secret.

I even got to stand up and give my good news about London.

Sometimes, in class, I feel I'm at an Anonymous meeting for an addiction I can't name.

I've spoken about him before. Andy is really, I think, doing me a favor by letting me be a part of his advanced acting class. I'm not an actor. Or maybe I am. It's just that...

The people in there are so experienced and so good. It's kind of scary to be around them. Just when I think I'm getting good at a scene, someone comes in and just has that natural ability to take the room and put it in their pocket -- and they do it so effortlessly. AJ Dean in London was like that. Well, all of the TLS cast did, but I think of him because, you know, it's always all about Buddy.

Now, where was I? Oh yes. It was a cold, rainy night. I had a sweater on beneath my hooded coat. The bus was filled with people also getting off at Jackson to go to a dance concert. They were also from the West Side, and also felt like they were in a foreign country.

But the bus driver was kind.

We got a little Christmas tree for our window, but I can't upload any more photos to Blogger.

You'll have to use your imagination.

EDIT: BTW, I didn't take any really cool pictures of the lower east side. I just forgot the camera. But I thought it was cooler to say it was an exclusive club.

EDIT AGAIN: I finally signed up for extra storage space. Even joined something called Google Wallet in order to do it. So, new pictures will be coming. First, though, I have to shoot some.



Friday, December 07, 2012

THE LAST SESSION Best Original Music Award Nomination.

Nominated against Marvin Hamlisch for 2013 for London's What's On Stage Awards??

Wow. I think I'm going to faint. Me and Marv. If he wins, I won't feel bad. But this is great news for the production, and actors and for the cast album that's being mixed even now at JAY Records (plug, plug).

Thanks again to CliMar Productions/Rob Harris for pulling together the greatest cast imaginable who sang their hearts out. And thanks to Tom Turner for playing the score so beautifully.

Hey, am I already making an acceptance speech? Why not!

But, first, fans of The Last Session should go vote!


New World Waking Benefit concert in NY

I had a meeting with a man about putting together a benefit concert of New World Waking here in New York City. Perhaps in the Spring. Nothing concrete is set, so this may be the last you hear of it.

But a plan is forming. :)

Monday, December 03, 2012

VIP Celebrity Master of Ceremonies? Really??

It's really fun to go to a place where people actually think you're a celebrity. Here in New York, when you're surrounded by REAL celebrities, no matter what you've done in life, you tend to feel dwarfed. Hell, I'm not even the "celebrity" in our apartment. People are always asking Jim to do stuff, like when he sang for a fundraiser last night at the new hot spot 54 Below. I mean, he does have that Drama Desk Award, after all.



But, me? I don't even strive for "celebrity." After all, I'm mostly a writer and you know the old joke about the  Polish actress who slept with the writer...

Anyway, when I got up to Norwich, Connecticut to host the Spirit Awards for the Spirit of Broadway Theater, I had more than a few people come up to me who said they bought a ticket to the gala just because they saw my name on the program. How sweet!

It was held at the beautiful Norwich Inn and Health Spa -- I should remember to use their spa next time; I'm not really a spa person -- where, at lunch, it's filled with ladies wearing big fluffy robes. At least they had vegetarian choices on the menu, though I joked later with writer Sean Hartley that they spelled "entrees" with an apostrophe. (He said he ordered his apostrophes on the side).

The real star, though was Steinbeck the cat doing the Steinbeck Stretch. It seems like everyone had seen him on this video Jim posted at Facebook.

So, I guess I know who the REAL celebrity is.

Anyway, the event was to celebrate the 15 years of original programming by Brett Bernardini, the artistic director. I mean how many theaters, honestly, can say that they not only survived 15 years, but did it by providing NEW and ORIGINAL musicals?

Most theaters think they have to play it safe in order to survive, running an endless series of Hello Dollys or Man of La Manchas in order to keep an audience. But Brett has carefully nurtured the audience there to expect new and daring works every season. It's remarkable, really. And you may have to be in the business to truly understand how rare this is. But he manages to do it -- and he does it with only two weeks of rehearsals!

Im. Possible.

I began the night by holding up a folder with pages in it and I said, "This is what a musical looks like without a producer. How many of you are going to pay to see a book?"

Producers are largely ignored, scorned or ridiculed for being little more than names above a show. The actors and composers and authors usually get all the praise. But it's really the producer who finally makes it all happen. They choose the material, gather the creative team, and focus the vision of what people will actually see on that stage.

We who toil over computers doing nothing but putting words and notes on the page would be nothing without a great producer putting flesh and blood under the spotlights. So, when they gave Brett a Lifetime Achievement Award -- which he was totally not expecting -- it was well deserved.

I went on to tell them that producers do more than that, especially if they're running their own theater. They're also unplugging toilets and endlessly, endlessly, endlessly begging for money and audiences. It's a job I wouldn't take for all the money in the world -- which I would no longer have if I took it to produce.

So, when Brett asked me to take the train up there, I was only too happy to do it. He also did a revival of The Last Session up there which was an enormous hit for them -- and which he's promised to revive again. (He usually includes at least one revival in each season).

So, the big shots can make fun of small theaters like Spirit of Broadway, knowing it will never make a fortune for the people who toil and clean and fix the pipes and make it work, but for the lowly writers who need to see their work before they even know if it will work, it's the kind of place you beg for and dream about.

 So, here's to the jewel box called the Spirit of Broadway, to their 15 years of life -- and to many years more.