Thursday, December 18, 2014

Jim & Steve on Guiness World Records Official Attempt, Jan. 1 at Metropolitan Room


I'm at 9:30-9:45pm and Jim sings from 10:15 - 10:30pm on Jan. 1st. We are very excited to be given anchor positions at this "official attempt" at "The Longest Variety Show" at the Metropolitan Room in NYC from 7pm on the 1st to 1am on January 4th.

There are tickets available for One Day Passes and a Four Day Pass, which lets you in anytime during the festival.

Don't miss it!

Monday, December 08, 2014

New World Waking to a Sold Out House.

It was such a relief to look out into the house from behind the curtain this past Saturday night and see a house full of people. I knew we were making money for the kids in the summer theater program.

Even more gratifying was how many people said how relevant they found the piece, especially in this era where violence is celebrated even more than in the past.

I will have photos and video soon, but I wanted to thank everyone who sang in the show and everyone who braved the cold rain to be in the audience.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Busy Week Preparing New World Waking.

In response to questions about "how do I get a show produced?"

This past Saturday, director Andy Gale, Jim Brochu and I took the M11 bus down 9th avenue to 30th street and walked east to Urban Stages. If that sounds scary to anyone, you haven't been in New York. This is a thriving, bustling midtown/Chelsea area just a block from Broadway.

I had all these ideas about staging, which I had been dreaming up during my morning piano sessions.

And Andy said no to every single one. And Jim agreed.

It was the best day of my life.

To be in the hands of professionals is the greatest feeling of all. And he was right about every idea. But at least I had some. And yesterday, one of the wackier ones, he loved, so it's going into the show. I tried it out in class yesterday, where we also rehearsed two of the singers, Eileen Tepper and Cindy Marchionda.

This week, also, I wrote up press materials, finalized the casting, rehearsed people at all hours of the day, created the logo (while Jim created the poster), I'm also rewriting the script, rewriting all the arrangements to the songs, promoting the show to all my friends, begging them to come so that we don't face an empty house -- it's happened before -- and am communicating with the tech team and the PR agent (our old pal David Gersten) for the whole Winter Rhythms cabaret and theater festival (of which we are a part),

Oh, how did I get this production? Well, after Jim did so well at Urban Stages with his "Character Man" show, and after I got such great notices for my "Tales from the Bonus Round" show, I had heard about Winter Rhythms, so I told Peter Napolitano I'd take one of the slots this year if he would have me.

And the secret, I suppose, is a deadline.

I could have been working this material over from now until eternity, but it ain't real until it goes onto the stage.

The other aspect, as I've discussed before, was that this was an experiment. Could we fashion a "new musical" without ever needing a big group rehearsal? I've done it before in smaller situations, such as when we did it in Olympia, Washington with their summer theater class.

But this is New York! No just flopping people onto the stage.

Welcome to the glamorous world of how to get a show on.

From the outside, you'd think there would be producers and artists and designers and a press team (and a playwright and composer), all putting on a show. But, in fact, this is a do-it-yourself production, filled with volunteers. And, as creator of this show, who doesn't have a lot of money or "people," I have to do the lion's share of our part.

I'm not complaining. I'm explaining. The reality.

Nobody comes and just whizzes you away and gives you a career. You are the CEO and you have to do it or it doesn't get done.

I suspect this is true, to a large extent for all writers and artists -- at least until they have a fortune and can hire people to do it for you.

No, kids. It's all in your hands. That's the reality.

Stop waiting for someone to give you permission. No, wait.

I now give you permission.

There. Done. Now, go do it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

We Are Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On...

"...and our little lives are rounded with a sleep."

I sat in Andy Gale's class yesterday, after having done Prospero's speech on my feet, loudly and bitterly saying these words, and circling around. A step or two I'll take to still my beating mind.

My beating mind.

With the rehearsals of New World Waking beginning -- soloists coming over to our apartment, the songs are springing to new life, even as I've written new ones to insert.

And it's like magic. With each new singer, the songs are reshaped by their bodies, their minds, their experiences, and now, thanks to being in the middle of a city filled with dreamers and students and magnificently trained voices, the songs are reaching moments of profundity even I couldn't bring to them as writer.

Andy said, "Now just sit and say the words." He said more and I heard, but I don't remember. What I do remember is taking time.

Taking time.

All my life, worried that I wasn't good enough, I've rushed through almost everything I've ever done. I have this persistent fear that whoever is out there listening to me would rather be somewhere else, and that they're giving me a few minutes just as a favor.

Poor guy. He tries so hard. We should let him sing a few tunes.

And that's how I was going after Prospero. A man who's lived his entire life on an island taking care of his beloved daughter, but mitreating his servants -- a misshapen "monster" and a magical sprite he'd saved from imprisonment in a tree.

But then, he realizes how pointless it is when you live your life angry and needing to get revenge. (He causes a storm to trap his abusers onto the island with him, after many years and now they're at his mercy). He survived but his humanity had not. He was so focused on power and control, he suddenly has this moment where he realizes how short life is.

Round with a sleep. We wake from a sleep. We go back to sleep.

"Just sit and let us hear you say the words."

All week long, I have been saying these words. This speech. Each morning, I rise at around 3. And walk down to another little island. Except this one is quite a bit more industrial than Prospero's.


It is, aside from having Jim in my life, the greatest place on earth. Alone with a piano for endless hours of quiet time. It is a luxury beyond all description.


As I approach the door, I actually get a little zing in my belly. The same kind I felt in my more, shall we say, sexually robust days, when knowing I opening a door with a lover inside. I still feel that way when I think of seeing Jim, after even a few hours apart from each other. That excitement that something really fun is going to happen behind that door.



Ever since this became available to me, just a few months ago, I first decided to learn a Chopin Etude. The reason was simple. It gives me a goal that is attainable, but only with hours of repetition -- especially for someone with my particular skills, which aren't that much. I can accompany myself, but the sight of, for instance, a score of a musical, that doesn't have guitar chords written over the top, leaves me terrified.

Chopin doesn't write chord names over his music.


I also bring with me a folder filled with song titles and other ideas. I have been writing scenes for a play, for instance. And it's funny. We've done some of it in class. I don't know if it's great writing. These actors have skills that make everything sound good. But in their hands, the scenes were really funny.

And I have written a lot away from the piano. But the first time, I had a piano like this, while we were working the ships, I wrote "How Do You Fall Back In Love" and the whole score to New World Waking.

Oh, god! New World Waking is suddenly upon us! I have no idea if anyone will be in the audience. Maybe it sounds like a boring night of theater. New World Waking. Ugh. I don't know. Doesn't matter. I'll give it a new name if that one doesn't work.


Flu season. I bought this and brought it down here. Lots of people play this piano. They should have easy access to sanitation.










The thing about New York that sets it apart from most cities, is that it's not only filled with the greatest talent in the world -- whether they live here or are passing through doing a show -- but that everyone wants to do things!

So, the clubs are beginning to put together theme nights, where they celebrate something, but what makes it great is that you can fill the stage with great singers. Because they want to sing!

A play isn't a play until it has actors saying the words. Without the performers, it's a stack of paper on the table.

So, you don't know what's going to happen once great singers start singing your songs.

In LA, I couldn't get anyone to sing my songs.

I love LA. But it was either I have to become a superstar performer or I don't exist.

Don't exist.

Unless I am Kim Kardashian, I am nothing.

Like Richard II alone in that cell at the end of his life. If I am not king, I am nothing.

But Prospero goes the other way. If I am not a human, then I am nothing.

Being a king is nothing. Being a magical wizard is nothing.

Prospero breaks his magic wand. Throws away his magic books and is standing alone.

He realizes that all of this was to attain that: A life well loved, in my own sentimental interpretation.

Billy Block, now in Nashville, used to tell me, as I was producing The Acoustic Underground shows with Paul Zollo and Blythe Newlon, When it comes to your music, turn your back and make something really interesting, and make them look over your shoulder.

Stop telling them how good you are and let them find you. If what you have is worthy of attention, then it will stand like a rock, outside the boundaries of time and space, the time and space being claimed by media. They don't exist.

"The great globe itself, yeah, all that it inherit, shall dissolve
And leave not a rack behind.":

Which is why living in the bonus round takes all that into account.

I know when I finish my Chopin, that if nothing else happens in my life, I am going to be able to play that etude.

And if I write a song or spin a tale or inspire someone else to push on, no matter what, no matter who, doing it for themselves, but always with an eye remembering that none of it matters,

I saw this thing about self-help gurus. I don't want to be that, though I never turn down a chance to sing and tell my story, What I want is more connection to the humans that made me. The ones who have always loved me.

And I see through the eyes of what I call the bonus round.

I had to almost die of AIDS for it to get hammered into my head for real. Some of us are stubborn.

I don't do that part well, for some reason. I think it's partly because I felt I had to leave home to survive my sanity, as a gay man, but also partly because I'm just selfish and self-centered. But at least I'm aware of it and I don't celebrate it. I, instead, try to catch myself being like that and then stopping it.

I'll be performing at the LA Lab School for their AIDS Awareness Day. Last year, we were introduced and this year some of the students will be joining in with me.

Oh, and New World Waking on December 6. Kids from their summer theater program are also going to be on stage with us.

What started this whole thing?

Oh, I got a note from someone who has just started reading the bonus round diary from the beginning.

Hello!

If I sound like I'm bragging when talking about all this, I apologize. For me, it's like, "Can you believe all this is happening to me? That great singers are lined up wanting to dig into my songs?

And that almost every performance is a show-stopper. You know, it's only an hour long. I'm sure someone will think that it sucks, which is totally fine,

But I've been jumping around the apartment all week with excitement.

So, unlike Prospero, I am not done yet. I am not going to throw away my magic wand yet.

The bonus Round clock is ticking! Must reach for everything!

And on that note, I finally made a logo. That came from the University of Steve in New York Graphics Arts classes. Some day, he will be able to afford a professional. But, for now, this will do.


I know this blog makes no sense, but I'm too rushed to rewrite it and make it more professional. The piano doth call.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Photos from TRU Benefit





Yesterday, I joined a group that consisted of cast members from several companies of "The Last Session" to sing "When You Care" honoring one of our New York producer, Michael Alden.

Danette Sheppard, Stephen Bienskie, Amy Coleman & Gary Bankston.


Emcee Valerie Smaldone, Jim Brochu, Nancy Nagel Gibbs, Michael Alden.

Broadway stars Cady Huffman, Lee Roy Reams, Anita Gillette and myself.

Tickets for Dec. 6 New World Waking now on sale.

http://goo.gl/iQ9i8K

I am very excited about the new benefit production of New World Waking at Urban Stages. The cast is AMAZING and it's only $25. 


COMPOSER/WRITER STEVE SCHALCHLIN
Additional lyrics by Rev. Peter J. Carman, Paul Zollo, & Avril Roy-Smith
DIRECTOR ANDY GALE
MUSICAL DIRECTORS STEVE SCHALCHLIN & MARK JANAS
CREATIVE CONSULTANT JIM BROCHU
ARTISTIC DIRECTOR FRANCES HILL
PRODUCER PETER NAPOLITANO
TEXT BY HISTORIC FIGURES
ADDITIONAL TEXT BY STEVE SCHALCHLIN

 CAST Jeremy Abram, Maria Fernanda Brea, Jim Brochu, Natalie Dixon, Brian Dorais, Danika Dorais, Stephen Elkins, David Fuller, Bill Goffi, Kimberly Faye Greenberg, Cindy Marchionda, Steve Schalchlin, Jake Wesley Stewart, Lucia Spina, Eileen Tepper, Clayton G. Williams.

Get tickets here: http://goo.gl/iQ9i8K 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New World Waking at Urban Stages December 6.

7pm.

New World Waking, my ongoing experimental theater/concert project, at this stage, is an idea more than it is a set piece because each iteration has been in a different form, though the songlist has remained the same. It's been done several different ways.

At Urban Stages, it will be a benefit for their Summer Youth Program, which is perfect because it begins and ends with the stories of two real life gay kids and their PFLAG moms -- one, a tragedy that ended in death. And one, a victory that transformed a school system.

 Anyway, the date is set. December 6. And now I start "casting" it,

But you know what that also means, don't you? Yes. I have to design a new logo.

The problem is that I don't know how to tag the piece.

It used to be New World Waking, a song cycle for peace. But that sounds meh. Then it became something else, and then something else. I don't remember. Or, I have them but I don't want to look at them because it's hard to describe this.

In a way, I wish I could call it a community sing. A concert and community sing. Because I do want the audience singing at the end. New World Waking, in its own way, is a call to action. A bit of theatrical agitprop, so to speak.

But community sing connotes handing out little booklets with old folk songs. Doesn't it? Does anyone actually do that anymore? Did they ever?

But there is an audience involvement I would love to implement without it seeming corny or coercive. We did it when I presented it with an acting class in Olympia, Washington. And it played beautifully.

But titles. What to call something you consider to unique. And is it a tie and tuxedo piece or is it a folks sittin' around the campfire piece?

I suppose it can be both. Which is the point.

I could also use the term "crowd source," since I've been inviting all my friends, and whoever else wants to, to join me on the stage. (Urban Stages has a lot of extra stage space for a small theater, which is why I love it, along with loving their staff and programming.)

So, we'll see. With Andy Gale, Mark Janas and Jim Brochu involved, it will not lack for entertainment value.

Maybe that's it! New World Waking, An Entertainment Value.

Gahhhh. I hate marketing. But it's what we have to do. If you don't tell someone what you have, they can't know until they see it. But they won't see it, until they know what it is.

I love show business. Either way, we're supporting a great program for youth. And that's worth it all.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Catch up!

Had a great birthday party. Sheldon Harnick and Jim sang "Do You Love Me" from Fidder On the Roof with Jim singing the Golda part. Too hilarious.

Also, because our new building has a rehearsal room, I'm able to have access to a piano in the middle of the night, like on the cruise ships. So, it's exciting to be playing at 3am all through the morning.

I've been learning a Chopin Etude to increase my pianistic abilities. (Opus 10, number 1). I've been learning it for several months and finally have it memorized, but I play it at about 1/10 the speed it actually requires.

We love our new apartment. We finally feel like we have a home.

Also been singing at St. Clement's Church once a month.

And on December 6th, we'll be presenting New World Waking as part of Urban Stages' Winter Rhythms Cabaret Festival.

More soon!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Death of Steinbeck.

[I didn't know, when I began writing this diary entry that morning at 3am, that Steinbeck would be dead by the end of the night. He had had a stroke and couldn't eat. We thought about having him put to sleep, but it was a holiday and nothing was open. What you'll read was written in real time with only slight editing. As you might expect, this is a very emotional diary entry, so if you are prone to crying and don't want to do it in public, I suggest setting it aside and reading it later.]
Steinbeck asleep in his favorite place: Jim's chair.

DEATH OF STEINBECK

SEPT 1 2014

He can barely walk
Tonight, for the first time, I heard him whimper
When he tried to get up
His bony hind legs like teepee sticks
Collapsing this way and that
And tonight, for the first time, I can hear his breath.
There’s a catch in it.

I can remember when he fit into the palm of my hand
On the day the man delivered him
His mother killed by a truck
On a movie lot
they were gonna bury the newborn kittens
Our friend called, “You guys want a blond boy?”
“Never turned down a blond boy in my life.”

A man the size of the doorframe
Held a tiny ball of fluff in his hands
Like in those Warner Bros. cartoons
Where the tiny kitten nustles into the back of the huge dog

He chased our feet and conquered the other cat
The previous top cat
Without the flick of a wrist

He was barely old enough to drink milk
Suckling on the folds of my fingers
Unweaned.


Now he’s hiding in corners
And under tables
Ashamed to show his age
And his back legs fall when he tries the floor

He doesn’t drink
The kitchen seems so far away
He cannot find it
I bring him tuna juice
Which is normally like kitty crack
He turns his nose up

It’s time for him to die
And I want to help him die
But all I do is listen to his breath
Rattle in his dry empty cage of ribs

He wanders from corner to corner
Beneath chairs and tables
Hiding

Just now I heard his nails haltingly
Scratch the floor in the hall on the way to the kitchen
Or to the catbox.
As if, in his fight to find comfort,
He vaguely remembered being pleasured
By the contents of something in that direction

But, halfway between them, he shlumped over
Exhausted by the effort
And tried to breathe some more

Hu- Hu- Hu- his mouth open
His lungs gasping
His tiny, atrophied muscles trying desperately
To separate that towering rib cage
And jerk some air into his lungs

Hu- Hu- Hu-
I crawled to him earlier, but it only annoyed him
And he stumbled four or five steps to get away
So, now, I just let him lie
And my heart is breaking
And rivers of tears
Are pouring out into the JC Penney carpet

Hu- Hu- Hu-
Like a “huh” but cut off.
Hu- Hu- Hu-

Wait. I can’t hear him now.
Like a ghost, he has vanished from the midway point.
It’s dark. Early morning. Before sunrise.

The A/C is humming and churning
Outside, the air is thick and moist and warm
The kind of weather I detest

I tried to go out there onto the back porch

We have a terrace which we call the back porch
Steinbeck loved the back porch.

Just to breathe and listen to the sounds of the city
On a Labor Day weekend at 3:39 am

It’s weirdly silent
the partiers have finished at the gay dance club down the street
And they’re moving; a silent pack up eastward on 42nd street
Trying to catch a cab
Sometimes, if there are too many drunk ones
The cops will come along and “loud speaker” them along

“Head east! Everyone head east! Move along”

The gay hotel is next to the police station.
Life has changed a lot in my 60 years here.
The gay hotel is next to the police station.

I can’t hear him
I don’t know if he’s trying to hide in order to spare me the pain of hearing it
Or if he is just annoyed when touched
Like, “Jeeesus, people. A little dignity here.”
The same look he gives me when I would spy him pooping in his box

He hasn’t pooped for awhile

I hear his nails on the wooden floors again
Distant. Maybe in the bedroom where Jim is asleep.
I go and make sure the door is open for him.

I imagine the worst.
That he’s in such pain, that he’s just adjusting
To find a place where it hurts the least
Like when I had those kidney stones
And had to take the horrible narcotic
Does he need a narcotic?

It’s Labor Day.

Jim found, online, people who will come
And euthanize your cat in your home
Right now, that seems so comforting

Down on the floor, earlier,
I knew we were in trouble because
He rejected my offer of water on my fingertip.
I stroked his body lightly.
I told him I loved him and that it was okay for him to go.

I know he didn’t understand those words.
But could he feel it in my stroke?
I want so badly to cuddle him and hold him
Upside down in my arms like we used to do.

DIE IN MY ARMS! IT’S OKAY! I WILL HOLD YOU! I LOVE HOLDING YOU!

Jeez. Now my eyes are burning again.
Words getting blurry

What’s he feeling?
No.
WHAT’S HE FEELING?!!??
I direct that cry, noiselessly, to God
Who noiselessly doesn’t respond

I’m not angry at God anymore
I used to be REALLY angry
Like, we’d pass a church and I’d
mentally toss a bomb through the colored glass
I could never actually do it, of course
I hate religions that feel they have to erase other religions
Don’t they realize that people,,,

Oh, who cares. Human nature.
And we do have a human nature.
We are not blank slates.
And human nature is an awful lot like animal nature.

Sometimes I want to crawl off into a quiet place

I find it here in the early morning hours
Places to vent my rage

I keep it bottled up, usually.
Not because I’m a martyr but because
I like other people.
And I want them to want to be around me
And I hate being around rageaholics.

Unless they let me laugh at their rage.
Then, it’s funny. Otherwise, it’s just


I can’t hear the cat
I don’t want to go looking for him.
Earlier,
He vomited up the baby food chicken puree
(a trick Jim picked up online)
Stupid Internet

Jim has been crying almost non-stop. Oh my god he loves that cat.

The games he and Steinbeck used to play
Steinbeck as a hat
The roll the cat up in the belly of the t-shirt
little orange paws sticking up
“Where’s the cat?? Do you see the cat?”

And Steinbeck
Would lie still as a sack of salt
Until he had enough
And then, he’d push his way out
At parties, they were a Vaudeville team

I want to go find him
But he wants to be left alone
Or he’s trying to save me the pain
Of watching him suffer

In all these 15 years together,
I never really knew what was going on in that brain of his
His gaze was as mysterious as a sphinx
Well, duh
I wonder how much he understood of me
It would have been the understanding of a being
That thinks in images, smells and touch
But no real language. No dialogue.
No holding his attention for a chat.

A chat with a cat.

I used to watch Jim talk to the cat
And then turn to me and inform me
Exactly what the cat had said to him.

That, for instance, it was perfectly all right
For us to go on that trip.
Daddy has to work.

And he developed relationships with the people who cared for him.
Michael. Jerzemiah. Jake. Mark. Lori and Eddie.
Lori and Eddie gave us a bag from a fancy store one time, and
Steinbeck all but live in that bag for a month

He had this way of accepting everyone.
At parties we’d throw, like back when I was similarly dying,
He’d splay himself in the middle of the room
His big fat white belly like a fluffy moon
And everyone would rub his belly
And step over him
And he would just stare at us
Or wait for someone to service his chin

Oh, god. I’m crying again.

This is the longest night of my life.

That hovering between life and death.

I remember it. Is this what Jim felt every night,
Back then
Me wheezing next to him?

This pain of this grief is almost unimaginable.
And there’s no soundtrack. I have no music on. Just the hum of the AC
And he’s somewhere going

Hu- Hu- Hu-

I get up and find him on the bed

Jim, teary-eyed, is stroking him,
“He was just lying there on the floor.
So I picked him up and brought him here."
I see Steinbeck’s little mouth open

And I go into the other room and find myself wailing.

Unconsciously, to relieve the tightness in my chest,
I start beating it. I’m beating my chest, facing the Hudson.

I go back in and crouch down and stroke his spiky back
And Jim and I are bawling and I say something like,
It’s okay. You can go.
And Jim says, It’s okay. You can go.

A moment later, Jim says, “I think he’s gone.” We look down.
Check for breathing. Can’t tell.

Then his head jerked twice.
Then his legs jerked twice.
Then his head, twice again.
Not a jerk. More like a shiver. The shiver from the Steinbeck Stretch, A comedy bit he and Jim used to do.


And that was it.
Jim said, “He peed on the bed.”
We wrap him in a towel, strip the bed.


And then we hold each other and weep. And cry out loud a little.

Steinbeck lying in state.
Special bonus video curtain call. Steinbeck and Jim singing:

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Brief Update.

Because of the death of Steinbeck, we are mostly staying to ourselves. 

But I am singing at St. Clement's again this Sunday. This time "Lazarus Come Out." If you want to join me, just show up at 10:30. 46th between 9th and 10th.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Singing at St. Clement's.

It was great fun to sing again at St. Clement's, one of my favorite places in New York City. Because of the personal nature of my relationship to this church, I didn't bring a camera nor did I take any video. So, bad blogger, I know. But, having been one of the first to blog and record his life on the Net, I've learned that now that everything can be recorded and broadcast, sacred private spaces take on new gravity.

Nothing dramatic happened. So, don't read this expecting a big revelation or profound epiphany.

It's a church with a small congregation, but there's a community food pantry that provides groceries on Saturday. There is also a theater inside the old building, with the largest Off-Broadway stage in New York that doubles as the sanctuary -- and this past Sunday, there was no set on the stage. It was completely black curtains.

The piano, altar and candles were right there on the stage. It was beautiful. (During the run of Zero Hour, the altar was placed amidst the empty picture frames and half-imagined paintings in a cluttered artist studio).

Sarah, Erika, Clayton, Mark, Jeff and Robin also sang with me. (Did I miss anyone?) We did what I call the "down and dirty" choral arrangement of "My Thanksgiving Prayer," where the instruction on the last chorus is "Sing anything you want." Very Ives-ian, I think.

And we made music!

It was so beautiful.

Darryl Curry, who is the musical director/pianist, even did a little improvisation on the musical theme of "My Thanksgiving Prayer" as they set something up for the next part of the service.

As much as I enjoyed the people in Bay Ridge, it is a long, long subway ride. St. Clement's is three blocks away. I even had a chance to see Dan and Kevin who run the Peccadillo Theater which resides there in the building.

September 7th will be my next "spot." Who wants to sing with me? Someone requested "Lazarus Come Out." I think that's a grand idea.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My New York Life - Pre-release Video





After much encouragement from friends who wanted copies of this after hearing me sing it live at random open mics, I've recorded "My New York Life." It should pop up on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and all download and streaming services worldwide soon.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Real Texas in Paris (with a surprise bonus round ending)

Saturday night. Jim Morgan, artistic director of the York Theater, says to me:

"Hey! You look like you could play a grizzled old Texas singer of cowboy songs. Want to do a reading? It's a new play. Two characters."

Since I say Yes in the Bonus Round, the script arrived the next day via email.

I've never played a lead in a new play that Jim and I didn't write ourselves. What an exciting adventure!

I saw that the play, Texas in Paris, was based on a true story. Two old Texas singers. One, a white cowboy. And the other, an African American Gospel singer. Plucked up from obscurity (and poverty) by a young hippie-looking student from Boston searching for "real Texas" singers, whom he recorded and then booked to headline a series of concerts in Paris, France -- the birth of a lifelong friendship.

John, a man who mostly played for himself or at tent revivals and Osceola, daughter of a sharecropper who only ever sang at home or in church. (It was her church members who suggested her). A woman who lived through the days of intense racial violence, whose mothers, to this day, still whisper the words "white people" even in their own homes. (Just in case they are out there in the bushes waiting for a reason to beat you).

As I read it, though I didn't live through that period, I recalled us moving to Buna shortly after they desegregated the schools, the buildings of which were on the same plot of land, but on opposite corners. (The Black school became the new Junior High while the larger White school became the high school.)

But, everyone was "pore." No one down there had much money. They lived off the land or had a job at the paper mill. But it was really country. I remembered encountering some very racist people. And the KKK Store, with robes in the windows not 30 miles away.

John is a devout Christian who grew up just as poor as Osceola and there's a moment in the play where these two connect -- a story he tells about sharing a water scoop out in the fields where he worked alongside the Black kids, where he has a spiritual revelation that everyone is equal in the eyes of God.

I remembered getting the "you're no better than anyone else and you're not less than anyone else; all are equal in the eyes of God" speech from my own dad, a Baptist minister who did grew up in a form of John's world over in Arkansas.

In previous readings, I was always nervous, feeling like an amateur who doesn't belong.

But, thanks to my friend Andy Gale, who invited me into his Sunday scene study classes, I sat there feeling totally confident.

Tuesday. 3pm. (I got there at 2:30 because I hate being late for anything.)

In comes this amazing bear of a man with whom I instantly fall in love.

"I'm Akin Babatunde!" Huge smile. Warm handshake. The Director!

I love the name so much, I say it back to him and then "That's a great name! I'm Steve."

Akin is a Brooklyn man who lives in Dallas. So we talked about Dallas for a moment. He also registered that he had heard of The Last Session, but we didn't put the pieces together.

Then came Debra Walton -- who looks 60 years too young to play this role (but then, so do I), but this is just a reading. The point is not to give a performance, but simply read the words, with some direction, so that the author and a select few can hear what they've got, so they can move onto the next rewrite.

I think that's also why I wasn't nervous. My job is to enunciate. I can do that.

I also asked if I should use my Texas accent, which I do anyway. Jim and I almost never speak to each other, when we're alone, any other way. His current favorite show is Hollywood Hillbillies. Memaw is currently the best character on "the teevee."

Jim Morgan came in and also Alan Govenar, the very music scholar and author who found and recorded them and who is also the author of the play. He is on NPR a lot and has written all these books about Texas blues (and more).

He said neither of them had ever sung professionally. She had only one dress, held together with safety pins, along with a few "amazing" hats from the ladies in her church. John just brought some jeans and jean shirts. And now they were headlining in Paris.

 Looking at the script, I knew the Gospel songs, but I did NOT know all these cowboy songs and there was no score written out. So, the plan was for Debra and me to simply recite the lyrics unless we knew the song.

However, I went on Spotify and found all the songs, made a playlist and just kept playing it over and over. I thought I could learn them at least well enough to give the sound of the songs. The problem is that those old songs kind of sound alike until you really know them. I would start to sing it without a prompt and it would inevitably turn into "Wabash Cannonball."

But it was fun to Hear Pete Seeger or Woody Guthrie or, my favorite, Marty Robbins. And also, a raw, guitarist/singer named John Burrus, who wasn't a technically great singer or player, but whom you could imagine out on a campfire, with just friends.

As we began to read, I was grateful that Akin gave us a few performance notes. Like, "not angry" here or "more defensive" there. He really knew the play inside and out. It was a great relief to have those signposts written in my script. In fact, at one point I told him to just tell me fast or slow, loud or soft, it was all good to me.

I think if this were me four years ago, I'd have been terrified and sweating and feeling nauseous. Instead, I just read the words and sang the songs about as well as I could remember them. I wrote numbers of the scale over the words to help me remember the shapes of the melodies. Or I made up my own melodies.

I think the Alan, the author/musicologist, took a liking to my singing. He said, in an intriguing way, "I've never heard anyone sing quite like you before."

I was thinking he was like Henry Higgins in "My Fair Lady" listening to people talk and trying to figure out which area of London the accent came from. Except Alan does it with singing.

A BONUS ROUND ENDING
By the way, remember I told you about the raw recording that I found featuring a singer named John Burrus? Turned out that that's exactly the person I was portraying who I knew only by his first name, John.

There was something very bonus roundy about this. Someone (Alan) knocked on his door, pointed a microphone at him and said, "Sing."

So, he made a kind of "last session" record. 30 years later, another songwriter (me) unknowingly stumbles across his music and studies it in order to play him in a show about that guy's life.

Funny, that could happen to some actor or songwriter in the future. long after I'm gone, who is cast to play Gideon. He may not even know the backstory of the show and was just randomly listening for recordings -- exactly what happened here.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Health Update.

Great results today after three months where I've run almost every day for at least an hour. It's only what I call "maintenance" exercise, but it's something, and that's the key to staying healthy.Just do something physical every day that gets you breathing hard and keep it up for five minutes. It's like a miracle medication. And it's free!

My t-cell count is right where it has been for awhile, in the 600 range and there is ZERO free virus in my blood. That means the drugs are working -- and that has as much to do with my compliance record as it does with the drugs themselves. Quite simply, I do not miss doses.

Other great news: My A1c, which measures blood sugar is 5.9, so it's finally down in the normal range.

The only negative count was in triglycerides and cholesterol, which are abnormally high. This is a consequence of side effects of my HIV meds, but also, I confess I have been hitting the french fries a bit heavily lately.

Everything else is in the normal range.

So, the lesson here is keep up the daily exercise and cut down on the french fries.

(And my other weakness: cheddar cheese popcorn.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Boxes and Bubble Wrap.

That's an idea for either a song or a horror movie.

We are still putting our new home together. Boxes and bubble wrap. They are my life right now.

But I have a couple of announcements for fans.

First, the London Original Cast Recording of The Last Session is now on iTunes. I would most appreciate it if you'd spread the word far and wide.

Secondly, on August 3rd, Jim Brochu will talk with Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Wicked, Pippin, etc.) Called "A Conversation with Music," it will feature vocalists Michael McCorry Rose and Kelli Rabki -- at the spectacular night club 54 Below.

I also will be performing "My Thanksgiving Prayer" on August 24th at St. Clement's here in mid-town for their Sunday morning services.

Okay, back to unpacking.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Moving, Moving...

After 11 years on the waiting list, we are finally moving into Manhattan Plaza, the subsidized housing for actors and other miscreants. So, this week has been about boxes, boxes, boxes. Packing and tossing things out and moving things around.

At the same time, Samuel French, who licenses "The Last Session," has asked for an electronic version of the score, which we never had. The old photocopies are wearing out and they need new!

Trouble is, we never had one of those. It was made back before electronic scoring was really available. So, this has given me the chance to look at the score and make all the changes I've been dying to do for the past 20 years.

Back then, I didn't know how to write out a score, and also I was just too sick. So the version we have now is a transcription of single performance done in New York one night, complete with all the improvisations the cast and musician were doing on that night -- which sounded great then, but which are not really a part of the score. (I want new casts to do their own improvisations.)

So, as all this packing is going on, I'm taking the score one note at a time, revising and reworking everything. Not that it will sound all that different to the untrained ear. But each time we've had new productions, I've had to talk to the various casts and musical directors, explaining that, "No, you don't have to sing that note." And "No, you don't have to play the part that way."

Luckily, I had begun this process already when I met with Tom Turner for the London production. He had a great instinct for how I preferred the songs to be played, and when we tried it out, it worked beautifully. For instance, "Save Me A Seat" should be sung in A-minor. Bob Stillman sang it in B-minor, which is fine, but it's too high for most singers. And it got frozen into the score in his key.

But it's little things like that which I'm now working out. It's a HUGE job and I'm devoting massive amounts of time to it. But this is my chance for the score to look and sound like what I originally intended and I'm loving it. But boy, this is a lot of work.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

A Most Unexpected Honor.

On Broadwayworld.com, a new article by Stephen Hanks includes me in the list of "The Best (and Favorite) 20 Shows and Performances (So Far) of 2014."

Given the fact that I'm listed alongside such cabaret present legends as Ann Hampton Callaway, this is really, as my folks would say, walkin' in high cotton.

I don't think I ever thought of myself as a cabaret performer. To me, a stage is a stage. An audience is an audience. And most of the best stages in this city host cabaret perfermers, which is alive and thriving like crazy in New York despite not exactly being in the middle of the current electronic cultural stream. And the definition of "cabaret" has morphed to encompass a simple singer/songwriter like myself as well as the more traditional and jazz performers. The American Songbook is dead if it's not also growing and adding.

Also, all the electronics, pre-records or auto-tunes in the world will never match the emotional intensity of a human being connecting with a live audience in a small space with great acoustics. 

I only booked myself, you might recall, out of frustration that I wanted more of my songs sung in this city. As a relatively new arrival on the scene, getting the word out is tough! And if others aren't singing them, I would do it myself. Why not?

I more or less secretly invited Stephen Hanks, who reviews everyone in this town, to my show because I knew he didn't really know my music and I wanted to see how a stranger with great ears would react.

Little did I know what I was in store for when he finally wrote his mind-blowing review.

And now this:
Steve Schalchlin: Tales From the Bonus Round, Metropolitan Room/Urban Stages--Schalchlin presented this intensely personal set of original songs in two different venues between late October and March, and it was arguably one of the surprisingly satisfying shows of the year (the CD was a 2013 BWW Award nominee). Many numbers chronicled the songwriter's emotions when he was near death from AIDS in the 1990s, but the set was also uplifting and life affirming, and he delivered his own songs with clarity and passion. Projected BWW Award nomination category: Best Male Vocalist

The Evidence of Your Life.

We are moving across the street into Manhattan Plaza after 11 years on the waiting list.

It will be our home. I feel like I'm moving into a retirement community. But it's filled with actors and musicians and dancers and singers. And we know so many of them already! It'll be like moving home to a home you haven't lived in yet.

But the process of moving. Even though it's only across the street, Jim is now sitting and going through every single piece of paper in the place. Papers found in folders in boxes, in drawers.

It's a weird sensation to go through the evidence of your existence on this planet from materials that pre-date the Internet. News clippings. Like one from Omaha where my face and my newly-googly eye graced the top half of the page, with the cast of The Last Session rehearsing behind me.

I did this four years ago when I single-handedly, with a few close friends, did this. Went through every piece of paper. And I jettisoned a lot. Especially if there was two of anything. But I kept stuff that didn't need to be kept, but which I wanted Jim to look at.

Emotions and memories of your life come crashing like waves. I can feel it in my chest when I think about it, even as I'm typing these words.

I like the evidence of my life. When I worked on the cruise ship, when I sang with bands.

The most embarrassing papers are stacks of notebooks of lyrics I wrote along the way, on my journey from hippie church musician to rock and roll to theater to musical directing to acceptable songwriter to composer.

Hundreds of lyrics! All terrible! And the worst part is that when I read them, I can go back to how I felt when I wrote them. I usually felt they were terrible, too, but only after trying them out and singing them, thinking that maybe I was wrong and someone would hear something I don't hear. (They didn't).

Except for one or two. Sitting the front seat of a car with Bobby Cox, my guitarist, both of us jamming out on a cassette of a recording we just made. The song is juvenile, but boy did we have fun. I'm a lead guitar junkie/groupie.

And so it goes.

The great thing about living in the bonus round is that I get to relive those days. They are rich and they make me cry. And they make me remember that life is less about events than it is about the moments when you were with people who made you feel good.

People want to be rich so they can do big things. But all the money in the world couldn't give me a more 'scream out loud' and laugh ourselves stupid experience. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

When the piano's dead.

I sat there playing, but it wasn't music coming from those keys. It was just noise. Damn Charles Ives. I started listening to this amazing album using Spotify of two people I never heard of before. Susan Graham and Pierre-Laurent Aimard singing a selections of songs from Ives, along with the amazing Concord Sonata.

I had it on in background while reading a new biography of him that was just released. And this music is like a magic trick. Sometimes the songs sound like the voice is in one key and the piano in another. And yet, my brain doesn't process the dissonance as dissonance. It sounds right. And yet, logically, I know that these are not "normal" note/chord relationships.

I suppose it takes a bit of an "educated ear" for this to happen. I don't see putting this on in a bar. It would probably sound like noise to a lot of people.

But what's also doing is making my brain crave it more, like craving sugar. And when I sit down to write my "song of the week" for the Jack Hardy Exchange, all the chords sound boring. Everything sounds boring next to Ives. It's like rock and roll for the brain.

In his own time, after the turn of the previous century, he was departing from conventional harmonics and rhythms and was mostly ignored or ridiculed. So, he wrote largely in obscurity until a concert of his ridiculously difficult Concord Sonata was played in New York in 1939, I believe.

Then, he was criticized for copying other similarly bent composers even though his works predated them.

So, what am I saying about myself? What Ives did came from his heart. His dissonance is used in service to what he's hearing in his head. Many "modern" composers work almost from a place of mathematics in putting together tone rows and other forms of dissonance. Clever but soulless, not that I am all that educated about them. Perhaps I'm just displaying my own ignorance.

Well, I take that back. It does have something to do with me. I put moments of dissonance in my Mass because there was a narrative going on in my head that was a comment on what was being sung. In the Agnus Dei, instead of writing something really beautiful, I thought of it asking for peace in a world where there is no peace. I had this gut instinct to just clash all the voices together like a trainwreck.

Not saying I am on the level of virtuosity of an Ives. Far, far from it. Just that I listen to his songs and they cut right through me. As the book explained, he almost seemed to be able to write what a songwriter thinks before he turns it into a song. It's mesmerizing.

So when I hit the keys and "pretty" sounds boring, maybe it's because there's something more beneath it all that needs to be excavated. I do hope so. I also hope it makes sense.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

First Review of the London Cast Recording of "The Last Session."

LINK TO REVIEW.

Rob Lester sums up his rave review on the website Talking Broadway, "...the recording crackles with energy and drama, capturing the performance of a committed cast-in a show with a lot to say (still)."

ORDER ALBUM FROM AMAZON.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Report of World Premiere of Mass.

Here at the University of Steve in New York, we performed the Mass I've been composing for the past three years. Part writing exercise, in that it was an attempt to learn more about music and choral arranging/composition, and part gift to the community of Christ Church Bay Ridge, as well as a few statements of my own about faith, I guess I'd call this a graduation project, maybe.

The day was long in the beautiful building. I did not bring a camera. I know why. I needed to just be there, fully engaged. Not thinking about anything but the performance. I didn't want to be an observer of my life. I just wanted to live it.

However, Stephen Anthony Elkins brought a camera and took a few shots. This is with Andy Gale, who directed the evening. You may ask, why would we need a director? Aren't we just gonna stand there and sing? Well, no. Because I had some ideas about moving the choir into the "audience" or surrounding them, etc. but it was all vague.

Having Andy (and musical director Mark Janas) there to guide the evening, I didn't really have to do anything except run errands, rehearse my own solos -- yes, I sang three, along with playing the piano on "Antarctic Suite I: Landscape," which turned out better than I ever dreamed. It's a tricky little piano riff, and it's so in my bones, I just played it myself. 

Composer Steve Schalchlin with Director Andy Gale.
Composer Steve Schalchlin with Director Andy Gale.

Steve Schalchlin in church watching rehearsal.

Kalle Toivio

Conductor Mark Janas rehearsing in the warm afternoon.
Conductor Mark Janas rehearsing choir at Christ Church Bay Ridge.
Magnificent organ pipes displayed.
One of my goals was to demonstrate how valuable a music program can be for a church, and that when we relegate "arts" in our culture to a sideline activity, it's like cutting off our hands and feet.

For the members, it promotes community. For the church, it fills the halls with beauty.

And for me, it has been a school. An institute of higher learning. It's a safe place to try things and fail. When I began this journey, I never thought I'd write a Mass. It just seemed like a good idea. Not having grown up with Masses -- being raised Baptist -- I didn't really know what one was. I actually had to Google it.

But, slowly and painfully, for the past three years, I've written the "Ordinaries," one by one. These are five statements or chants or affirmations that compose the Mass. What I tried to do was to just write, musically, whatever emotion each one brought to me. For instance, the Kyrie made me feel a yearning from a place of feeling helpless. And on and on, each one was written in the original Latin, which is why I called it Missa Appassionata.

Then, after going to Sewanee last year, I learned that Episcopals prefer everything (but the Kyrie, which is in Biblical Greek) in English.

Steve Schalchlin and parishioner Lynne Pagano with
Jennifer Bassey.
Oy. Do you know it's like to take the music you've written according to the Latin and try to re-translate it back into English, and not just sorta get the words, but the words are specific, in a specific order. I compromised just a little, but it's all there.

I also, in putting this together, made it too hard for most choirs. It wasn't intentional. When you know something, you tend to think it's easy. But, we learned in rehearsal, this was not easy material. At all. In fact, it really complex and hard to learn. I felt sorry for my singers.

As for the concert itself, our friend Jennifer Bassey schlepped all the way out there -- she's an actress from All My Children. She played Marion Colby. She seemed to like it. Jim liked it.

A few people cried all the way through it.

It was an out-of-body experience for me. I was just glad I got through it and didn't make any mistakes during my parts.

As a composer, the best part was hearing the other soloists. It felt like every song was tailored just for them. In fact, the reverse was true. I knew their voices, so Mark and I picked the ones we thought would best embody the material. And man, were we right. These kids were amazing.

CONDUCTOR/MUSICAL DIRECTOR
Mark Janas

ORGANIST
Kalle Toivio

DIRECTOR
Andy Gale

SOPRANOS
Rebecca Aparicio
Maria Fernanda Brea
Natalie Dixon
Claire Gierber
Yunnie Park

Danette Sheppard 


ALTOS
Kendra Broom
Elise Gaugert
Emily Lockhart
Lori Lusted

TENORS
Grant Bowen
Adam MacDonald
Aaron Sanko
Jake Wesley Stewart
Carlos Saenz
Stephen Wilde

BASS
Bobby Gamez
Sean Grant
Paul Kolecki
Greg Hoyt
Christopher Whipple

Missa Appassionata: The Bay Ridge Mass

1. PROCESSION/DEDICATION
“Fill It With Music” Soloist: Steve Schalchlin
2. KYRIE
“Kyrie Tremulare”
3. THE FIRST LESSON
“Water in the Wilderness” (Isaiah 43: 16-21) Soloist: Natalie Dixon
4. PSALM (CHANTED)*** -- Psalm 29:1-4
5. ANTHEM RESPONSE
“The Waters Have Lifted Me Up” Soloist: Adam MacDonald
6. SOLO RESPONSE
“Sea Glass” Soloist: Claire Gierber
7. CREDO
“Credo Sine Cera (ENGLISH)”
8. EPISTLE
“Every Day, A New Amen”***  (2 Corinthians 1:20)
Soloists: Steve Schalchlin / Elise Gaugert
9. ALLELUIA
“Alleluia Celebrare”
10. GOSPEL
“Lazarus Come Out”** – (John 11: 38-44) Soloist: Sean Grant 
---------THE PEACE--------
11. ANTHEM
“Antarctic Suite I: Landscape”
12. SANCTUS
“Sanctus (Holy, Holy)” Soloist: Maria Fernanda Brea
13. ANTHEM
“My Thanksgiving Prayer”** Soloist: Steve Schalchlin
14. AGNUS DEI
“Agnus Dei (Lamb of God)”
15. COMMUNION
“Let the Living Waters Flow”* Soloist: Kendra Broom
16. GLORIA
“Gloria Jubilus”
17.  RECESSIONAL
“My Rising Up”**
Soloists: Steve Schalchlin / Danette Sheppard

For this concert, the traditional order of the Mass has been slightly altered.

Music & Lyrics by Steve Schalchlin except where noted.
*Music & Arrangement by Mark Janas **Lyrics by Peter J. Carman  
***Music by Steve Schalchlin & Mark Janas

Sunday, June 01, 2014

My Mass begins rehearsal Tuesday night.

I never, growing up, would ever have guessed that I'd compose a Mass, but Mark Janas and I have been working non-stop for the past week, editing, revising and getting the 17 numbers into rehearsal shape. 

This is the first time I've just taken a breath.

Rehearsals start Tuesday, there's another on Thursday and then the concert is Saturday.

Because this is completely new, no one knows what to expect. That's the exciting part. I think it's going to be one of best nights anyone will ever have. Not that I'm prejudiced or anything. 

It has only energized me, doing this project, and it's thrilling to finally see it come to life. It's all thanks to Fr. Jeffrey Hamblin, who has financed this entire music program out of his own pocket from his work as a doctor working graveyard shifts at the ER. And also thanks to Mark Janas, who gave all of his time this week to me, to edit and revise all the arrangements. It was a massive undertaking.

And now, on Saturday, it flies. One night only.

I wonder if anyone will come?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Steve in Concert May 15 in North Manhattan.

Indian Road Cafe. 600 West 218th Street, New York, New York 10034. The Uptown Cabaret Spotlight! 8PM with members of the Bonus Round Band and Choir, our voluntary loose association of whoever's in town and available.

Come one! Come all! Have a nice meal and listen to some great music.


University of Steve at NY: A Song A Week.

Steinbeck helping me work out lyrics.
I've recently been invited to join the Jack Hardy Songwriter Exchange, which meets once a week -- the goal is to write a NEW song every week. I emphasize "new" because the point is it's not a place to show off your performing skills, as in doing a performance of a song you already know. It's to get feedback and become a better writer.

I've added it to my curriculum of the University of Steve at NY, the goal of which is to treat life like a campus of learning. I choose my own teachers, but I work hard at every course. (Since moving to New York, I'm learning composition and arranging with Mark Janas, thanks to the music program at Christ Church Bay Ridge. And I'm learning about acting and drama from Andy Gale in his scene study class, which has led me to some unexpected play writing. More about that in another post). 
But ALL of this, remember, is geared to one goal: Keeping me alive. The more actively I'm engaged, mentally and physically, the more my body's immune system kicks into gear. And I'm telling you this because I think it's a great way to live your life, especially if you feel lost or without direction. I want to inspire you and let you know that there are simple steps to digging out of that hole.

So far, I've gone to two Jack Hardy meetings. Jack is gone now, but they pass around his hat to cover the expenses of the person making the pasta meal for everyone. In the first case, I brought a song that's still in development, called "Mercy For A Simple Man." It's a love song. I'm still not quite sure of it. It's almost there.

In the early stages of writing, I both love and hate the "new song." Love it because it's new. Hate it because it's hard to know when what I've written totally conveys what's in my mind and what I'm feeling. Or even if it makes any sense. The comments about that song were contradictory, which is telling in its own right -- that there was no consensus on whether it totally worked or not. What everyone did say is that they liked it, but with one side defending what the other side found wanting.

For me, what I want is for them to be brutal in their feedback.

Brutally honest in an informed way, of course. It stings like hell, at first, because secretly, inside, what you REALLY want to hear is that you're the greatest songwriter they've every encountered in their lifetime. No matter how many times I do this, that little voice is in there and he gets slayed, savagely, each time. So, each critique is like a murder.

But after you get over that, what you can end up with are some really good ideas or little "fixes" to make it even better. And that's the true goal, to end up with the best song possible. Oh, but there are those times "they" hate something that you loved most in a song -- and that happens more often than you think. If you can feel it too, you sometimes have to sacrifice your best lines and it's like getting stabbed.

Who knew songwriting was so violent?

Last week, my second visit, the song was "My New York Life," and as much as I liked it when it was brand new, it's even better now that I've had a chance to fool around with it -- and I might even be starting to fall in love with it.

Tonight, the song is called "Vacationing in Syria," which was one of the "dare" titles given to me by Ned Sykes, the drummer for Preoccupied Pipers, the buttrock group I occasionally sing with in Oakland. I had, once, asked him for song titles just to get me going and he sent me a list of "unwritable" song titles, one other of which was "Franco Ate The Paperwork," which made it into New World Waking and onto the new Tales from the Bonus Round CD -- BTW, that song was written when we were just out of Brunei. Funny how the Sultan, which I refer to in the song, is suddenly, amidst his many palaces, jets, hotels, etc. is suddenly the target of a boycott here in the states because he decided to impose sharia law, which threatens the lives of not just gay people, but just about everyone.

I've had an idea for how to do "Vacationing in Syria" rattling around in my head for awhile, but never just sat down and write it. This week, that's exactly what I did.

I may sing both these songs on Thursday at my gig. It's 8pm at the Indian Road Cafe on the most northern tippy tip of Manhattan.





Thursday, May 08, 2014

Thanking Bryan Cranston.

Rarely in life do you get a chance to express thanks to a "big" celebrity, especially if you're not rich and famous yourself. But one of the great things about being in New York is that, if you hang in there, you can make it happen.

My big chance this time was yesterday at a press reception for the nominees for the New York Drama Desk Awards. Unlike the Tonys, which only gives out awards to people on Broadway, the Drama Desk nominates from all theater productions in New York, including a little one man show on 30th Street called "Character Man," featuring on Jim Brochu.

The person I most wanted to meet, among the nominees, was Bryan Cranston who is in town with "All The Way," a masterful piece of theater where he plays LBJ. Reader, you may remember when I wrote about this before, how I saw, in the bio in his program, the name of my friend, the late Louan Gideon.

 
We got there pretty early in the process, not wanting to miss anything. 

Jim Brochu with the great Broadway character Man, Danny Burstein.
Checking in!

Jim's official certificate. Drama Desk Awards. Outstanding Solo Performance.
Next: The red carpet!
Note: I have no pics of him doing this because I got myself into all the photos. Loving spouse!
Except when interviewed by people like Richie Ridge.
When I finally saw Bryan Cranston, we ran up to him and told him all about Louan and how much it meant to me that he mentioned her in his bio.

He said, "She my angel. I think of her every time I'm about to go out onto that stage."


Thursday, May 01, 2014

Quick Trip To California.

Years ago, Jim got a temp job answering phones for the Jewish Family Services helping persecuted Jewish families immigrate out of harm's way. So he was especially happy, not to mention honored, to asked to perform in a special Palm Springs benefit for that same group in a prestigious annual concert called "One Night Only."

"One Night Only" is one of those events that make you realize how generous most performers in this business are. Everyone who took the spotlight that night donated their services. I got to hang out and take pics!

Jim Brochu rehearsing at the McCallum Theater, Palm Springs.
 Calvin Remsberg, Writer and Director. John McDaniel, Musical Director.
Jim Brochu with cast of "One Night Only" rehearsing at the McCallum Theater, Palm Springs.
 Calvin Remsberg, Writer and Director. John McDaniel, Musical Director.
Of course, in return for your performance, you get to meet some of the greatest performers in the biz. For instance, the hilarious Kaye Ballard. 88 years old and going strong.

Kaye Ballard with Jim Brochu.
I loved the long make-up table backstage.


The Class of 2014: First Row: Sharon McNight, Mimi Hines, Doris Roberts, Carol Channing, Stefanie Powers, Michael Childers, Kaye Ballard.

Second Row: Christine Andreas, Deborah Monk, Millicent Martin, Terri White, Jeanine Lavalle, Liz Callaway, Donna McKechnie, Alix Korey, Charles Busch, Roger Bart.

Third Row: Jim Brochu, Sal Mistretta, Billy Stritch, Peter Marshall, Dee Hoty, Julia Murney, Bruce Vilanch.

On the Ladders:  Von Smith, Kevin Early, Jeffrey Scott Parsons, Brian Childers.
Another fun part is that you get to go to a fancy party held by one of the sponsors, and sit with the best people!
Jeffery Scott Parsons, John McDaniel, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill, Jim Brochu, Charles Busch, Brian Childers, Julia Murney, Billy Stritch.
Even I got to have my pictures taken. With Stefanie Powers, no less!!


And that was only part of it. I'll post more pictures soon.

The Patterns of Chaos

A new love song based on chaos theory. Because, romantic.