Saturday, September 30, 2006

Four Busy, Exciting Days

Oh, man. I've been so busy over the past few days, I've only now had the chance to slow down and see if I can do a recap. As I mentioned earlier, we were in New York City for three days for both business meetings and for trying to catch up with old friends. The business meetings were very productive. As soon as any news (about any of our works) is official, you will read about it first here.

After a long Monday, we went to the Birdland to catch Jim Caruso's Cast Party, which is always a great place to hear a combination of up and coming talent, as well as established artists. He runs the best open mic in NY.

We were staying down in Chelsea on a couch supplied by Linda and Rob. It was actually quite comfy cuz Jim and I got to snuggle a lot. Early morning, Linda and I went running along the river, along some new jogging paths being built on the westside. It was beautiful -- and, of course, I forgot to grab my camera since I was focused on getting my required exercise. (Doctor's orders). It gave Linda and me a chance to talk and gossip. I loved it!

After we got back, we all cleaned up. Then, Jimmy and I made our way up to midtown where we had lunch with our favorite movie star / Broadway star / dancer, Marge Champion. (People who love older movies will remember the dance team of Marge and Gower Champion). She's still robust and lively and witty and doesn't at all look or move at like a woman in her 80s. And talk about gossip! She knows ALL the stories and LOVES to regale us with the inside scoop on old Hollywood. She and Donald Saddler dance two or three times a week together, making up new choreography, in a dance studio two or three times a week.

One of the things she talked about was the Disney movie "Snow White." It was Marge who they filmed doing the dancing that was copied and/or rotoscoped into the animation of the character of "Snow White." Marge was and is a terrifically graceful dancer.

I took these photos from her apartment up on the 47th floor.

Jim Brochu with Marge Champion
It was a clear day, and this part of the upper West Side has not been taken over by skyscrapers, but still looks like it did 50 years ago. I love it.

New York City. Upper West Side.
New York City. Upper West Side.
New York City. Marge Champion and Jim Brochu.

After our lunch together, while Jim met with some more theatre people at Sardi's, I ran down to the Village and had a brief hour or two with Mark Janas, the musical director and brilliant pianist we met a couple of years ago in Chicago. I wanted to play him a few of my new songs to see if he might be interested in adding them to his repertoire for singers he both trains and musical directs. We spent much of our time just catching up and talking, but he did like the new songs! I got this quick shot of him as we were both racing out the door. He looks good!

Mark Janas
Later that night, Murphy and Paul invited us once again to catch Jay Johnson's show at the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway. We brought our friends, Bart and Barbara Landau who drove in from Philly with friends of theirs.

Jay Johnson with Bart and Barbara Landau
Here's Jay with Linda and Rob Leahy, Jimmy's oldest and closest friends. This is the Linda I went jogging with.

Jay Johnson with Linda and Rob Leahy
And since both Jim and Jay had been nominated for Ovation Awards, here they are recreatin a two-headed Ovation Award. (Jay was nominated for Best Solo Performance).

Jim Brochu and Jay Johnson
(Jay opened on Thursday night and got some very glowing reviews, so we if you're in New York, do not miss it. It's a wonderful show. Not only is it fall-down hilarious, but it's very touching. Jay is a great performer.)

In the show, he mentions TV director legend, Jay Sandrich, who directed the TV show "Soap" that Jay appeared on. It just happened that Jay was across the street at "The History Boys," a play that won multiple Tony Awards this year (and is also a new film). So, I caught this reunion, too.

Jay Sandrich with Jay Johnson
Jay tells the story, in "The Two and Only" about his days on "Soap," how he told Jay Sandrich to just treat his puppet, Bob, as a member of the cast. So, one day, Sandrich walked over to the puppet, which was across the room from Jay, leaned over into Bob's ear, whispered something at length, and then, as he was walking away shouted, "Now let's see THAT at the next run-through!"

After we got back on Wednesday, we performed "Big Voice" again here in Norwich. Then I met my netpal, Brian Hagar-McKee, in person for the first time. Brian and I have much in common, including our religious backgrounds, so he loved "Big Voice." We then drove, that night, to his home in Framingham, Massachusetts where he teaches music to elementary school students. The next morning, we were up early because he had enlisted me to talk to his 5th graders about songwriting. Here is Brian outside his school.

Brian Hagar-McKee
And here's the school:

Elementary school
And the schoolroom:

The kids were a bit young to really grasp much of what I said about songwriting craft, but they were very attentive, if a bit squirmy. And they also sang for me. They sounded like angels. Brian is just terrific with them. But man, I don't think I would have the same kind of patience he has.

Still, they asked great questions. Like, for most of them, songwriting or making music is a hobby, so: "If songwriting is what you do for a living, what do you do for a hobby?" I thought to myself, "Hobby?? Who's got time for a hobby??"

I would love to have taken a picture so you could see how adorable they all were, but privacy concerns prevented that, something I totally understood.

Brian, George and I drove back to Norwich and we did our show again on Thursday night. Friday morning, I was a guest at Norwich Free School to speak to their Gay Straight Alliance. But I will have to save that story for the next entry since I, once again, forgot my camera. But, luckily, the faculty sponsor had his.

To be continued!

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Zero Hour Receives 3 Ovation Nominations

We are currently in New York City for a few days having business meetings. Yesterday, we were in our agent's office and, since it was the day that the LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards were out, we were on pins and needles to see if "Zero Hour" would get nominated.

Jim borrowed their computer and called up the website and saw a link to the 2006 nominations. He clicked on the link, which brought up a pdf file. Then he looked over at me and said, "I can't look! You have to do it. I'm too nervous!"

So he got up from the chair and I went over and began scrolling down. First up: Best World Premiere Play. I didn't see it, so I kept scrolling. And there it was! His first nomination! And then it hit me. They list them in alphabetical order. So, Zero Hour is going to be last, no matter what.

Next up: Best Play, Intimate Theatre. Now, since he had already been nominated for Best World Premiere Play, we weren't expecting it to be there. But, wrong! There it was! Now we had TWO nominations.

Scrolling again. Best Lead Actor in a Play...


THREE NOMINATIONS!! And Jay Johnson was nominated for Best Solo Performance. So, we're thrilled for him, too.

Anyway, can't stay long on the net. Just wanted to deliver the good news.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Zero Hour in Norwich

Zero Hour in Norwich ConnecticutAbove is the set for "Zero Hour" in Norwich. The theatre is built into an old firehouse, so there is this fantastic brick wall already there, which is exactly right for Zero's studio. Also, if you look closely, you can see the fire pole the fire fighters used to slide down. Brett did a great job of dressing the set.

I shot this moody pic of Jim as he was rehearsing:

Jim Brochu in Zero Hour in Norwich Connecticut

They had a nice little spread of food laid out for the people who came. Jim did this as a special benefit fundraiser for the theatre. I'm standing with our lighting designer, the brilliant Glen.

Offstage, I took a few shots of Jim performing:

Jim Brochu in Zero Hour in Norwich Connecticut
His final pose, "I'm gonna live FOREVER!!":

Jim Brochu in Zero Hour in Norwich Connecticut
During his bows, he introduced one of the people he references in "Zero Hour," the great Madeline Lee, wife of actor Jack Gilford. Madeline was blacklisted during the 50s, named by Jerry Robbins to the committee.

Jim Brochu in Zero Hour in Norwich Connecticut with Madeline Lee
Two old friends from Houston were there. They have moved into the area. Gary and Gary who took us to the GLAAD Media Awards when we were nominated out in Los Angeles. It was great seeing them. Lots of warm hugs. When we played in Houston, we stayed in their magnificent home.

Steve Schalchlin with Gary and Gary.
Also in attendance was Lesli Hudson, who staged managed both The Last Session and Big Voice during our runs in Rochester, NY.
Steve Schalchlin with Lesli Hudson
After the show, we sat around with Madeline, who regaled us with stories of Broadway and the blacklist.

Jim Brochu in Zero Hour in Norwich Connecticut
She said, "Want to know what my great sin was, that got me blacklisted? Sidney Poitier and I compiled a list of great African American actors which we wanted to submit to casting directors to get them jobs. For instance, the list would say, 'This actor would be great as a receptionist in some scene. This actor could be a cook...' Anything to get them into TV shows since there were no black faces on television at the time at all."

She's still a firecracker. She said, "Of course, now you seem all the time. They have diarrhea. They have asthma. They have messy floors..." She was referring to the fact that most shows are still lily white and the only time you see blacks are in commercials where something is wrong with them. I love Madeline. She is unrepentant to the end.

I took some videos using my small camera since my large video camera is still in a state of disrepair. I'll try to upload some of the stories soon. Meanwhile, enjoy the pictures.

Some Random Photos from Norwich

By the end of the second week of our run here in Norwich, we were selling out the house. It's really funny, but this past Thursday was GLBT night. We had a large group of high school kids from a local Gay Straight Alliance, so the crowd was on the young side. They were also kind of quiet in terms of audience response. So, since Jim and I use a lot of celebrity references of people from back before most of them were even alive, we thought the show was going right over their heads. But not so. Meeting them afterwards, they absolutely LOVED Big Voice. It was just one of those nights where people were taking our message very seriously.

This next Friday we're going to make a few personal appearances around. On Friday, we are going to visit this school. They said that at their last GSA meeting, they had upwards of 70 kids! GSA's are a mixture of straight, gay and lesbian kids who meet to give support to one another. It's a great program and I look forward to making a presentation.

The Thursday before that, I'm going to be traveling to Framingham, Massachusetts to visit a good netfriend of mine who is an elementary school music teacher. I'm going to be giving a seminar on songwriting to his fifth graders. That one is going to be GREAT fun! I used to hold songwriting seminars in Los Angeles, and I loved doing it, so I have to remember all my rules of thumb.

Meanwhile, this past weekend, more old friends dropped in.

But first, here is a photo of Jim, Janet, Brett the artistic director, Karen and myself. This is the group that traveled to the casino last week. Janet is Brett's mom. Karen is a volunteer at the theatre.

Jim, Janet, Brett, Karen and Steve at The Big Voice: God or Merman
This is me backstage before going on. I always bring a novel to read before a show. It gets me into a nice "zen" mood. In this photo i'm either adjusting my glasses or picking my nose. I can't tell which.

Steve Schalchlin offstage
In this next photo, Jim is offstage during "James Robertson" so he took a pic from the wings. You can see how close the audience is to us. The photo is a little fuzzy because he took it without a flash, but I thought you'd enjoy seeing an "action" shot.

Steve Schalchlin singing James Robertson

Here is Jim's old friend Frank Jackson, who was the musical director for a time down at Surflight Summer Theatre in Beach Haven, New Jersey, which is where Jim learned his theatrical craft. It was a summer stock theatre where they had to perform 12 musicals in 12 weeks. It was probably more like musical comedy boot camp.
Frank Jackson with Jim Brochu
Also in attendance were two dear friends I met through the great website ExGay Watch, which hold the "exgay" movement accountable for their lies and deceptions. Steve Boese and Mike Airhart. It's probably one of the few websites on the net that actually strives to be fair to the "exgays" while still examining their every word and deed as they hide behind ministerial clothing while fighting a political war against us and our lives. The exgays hate them, of course. But then, they always hate being held accountable for what they do in the name of God. They live in a little fantasy world where James Dobson feeds them money and headlines, and they can pretend they're doing ministry while waging war. Ex-Gay Watch doesn't let them get away with anything. Bookmark it and be prepared to have your eyes opened to the realities of those who think they have to wage war in the name of Jesus.

Steve Boese, Steve Schalchlin and Mike Airhart
One of the purposes of "Big Voice" is to let people see what a real gay marriage looks like, warts and all. We're just people, folks. You can lay down your weapons now. We promise we won't invade your homes the way you're invading ours.

More photos soon!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Jay Johnson & Lamb Chop

Now that Jay Johnson's show "The Two & Only" is opening on Broadway soon, I thought I'd repost this hilarious story I caught from him last year when he was in Los Angeles. It involves McLean Stephenson from MASH and Shari Lewis' puppet Lamb Chop.


Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mohegan Sun

One of the little outings we took with Brett, the artistic director here at the Spirit of Broadway Theatre, was to the Mohegan Sun Casino right near Norwich. I don't think I've ever seen a more beautiful, a more stunning casino in my life. And I've seen quite a few, having worked in them at one point in my life. The entire building is a work of art, beginning with the hotel itself as seen from a distance.

Mohegan Sun Casino
And no, that's not an optical illusion that the top of the hotel bends outward. In person, it almost looks like an animated backdrop set against the horizon. There are two massive sections of the casino itself. Casino of the Earth and Casino of the Sun. It boasts the world's largest planetarium, which arches over this brilliantly lit glass cliff. (It was too dark at the time we were there for my camera, unfortunately). In fact, the entire section of the Casino of the Earth was a bit dark for picture-taking. However, in person, it's stunning.

Mohegan Sun Casino Jim Brochu stands with Indian Chief
As we walked to the Casino of the sun, we went down this long hallway.

Mohegan Sun Casino

In the Casino of the Sun lobby, there were these massive "trees" made out of beads.

Mohegan Sun Casino
Another view:

Mohegan Sun Casino
Jim with Brett, Karen and Janet:

Mohegan Sun Casino
The beautiful reflecting pool beneath the big trees:

Mohegan Sun Casino reflecting pool
And this leads to the massive indoor 7-story waterfall and glass sculpture:

Mohegan Sun Casino
Amazing, huh?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dr. Paul Cameron, who is frequently quoted by conservative religious groups, is a "researcher" who cites amazingly stupid things about gay people. Still, even though he has been completely discredited by every professional organization and even a lot of the so-called "exgay" groups, he still manages to get quoted because he says exactly what the gayhaters want to hear.

So, this past week, when he was featured in a spot on The Daily Show, it provided a brilliant insight into how these homophobes not only hurt legitimate Christian ministries, but their ideas make the world more dangerous since they are the ones behind the recent expulsion of gay Arabic translators from the military.

Watch this. It is hysterically funny, but it's also sad. This is the state of American conservative Christianity today.

Steve & Jim Go To Mystic & New York

On our days off, we tooled around the area taking a few pictures. First we went to Mystic Connecticut just down the road. We weren't quite sure where to go, but we did have a map.

Here's the downtown area:

Mystic Connecticut
Mystic Pizza!

Mystic Pizza
Mystic Connecticut. A small pier overlooking the river.

Mystic pier dock
Sailboats at Mystic seaport:

Mystic seaport sailboats
On Tuesday, we drove into New York.

Inside the Actor's Temple, a Jewish synagogue near Times Square:

The Actor's Temple

The Actor's Temple
Outside the stage door of the Imperial Theatre where Zero Mostel once played.

Imperial stage door
On the street, we ran right into our original stage manager from L.A., Jeramy Peay. How adorable is he? He's even cuter now than he was when we met three years ago. Somebody hire this boy! He's a really good actor!!

Jim Brochu & Jeramy Peay
That afternoon, we went to what they call a "gypsy runthrough" of Jay Johnson's "The Two & Only." Jay was terrific. That night he was on David Letterman.

Jay Johnson's The Two & Only at the Helen Hayes
Here's another view of the marquee.

Jay Johnson's The Two & Only at the Helen Hayes
Later, we had dinner with friends at Sardi's. While we were sitting there, Broadway producer Gerald Shoenfeld, who has a theatre named after him, came up to our table. He told us stories about Zero Mostel. It was really cool.

Gary Smith with Gerald Shoenfeld at Sardi's
It's fun to be so close to NYC. Tomorrow we go back to "Big Voice."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

God Did Make Adam & Steve.

Adam Berger & Stephen Frank

I was just breezing through the NY Times this morning and saw a picture of a couple of guys in suits listed under the "weddings" caption on the front page. Curious, I clicked on the link and read one of the loveliest love stories I've seen in a long time. I think what set it off was how sweetly undramatic it was. These two guys were suitemates in college who dated girls (as boys are supposedly supposed to do), but became best friends and were so close, their friends began calling them an "old married couple." Still, they hadn't really acknowledged their true feelings for each other.

Then, life happened, they separated for awhile, but maintained contact. Then they found themselves back in NYC together again in 1996. The story continues...
One day in August 1996, Mr. Berger asked Mr. Frank to meet him for lunch. Mr. Frank had taken one bite of a burrito when Mr. Berger blurted out the news that he was gay. Mr. Frank said he was completely amazed.

Mr. Berger, now 33 and a vice president and senior investment strategist in an asset management unit of Goldman Sachs, remembered: “I hadn’t told that many people, so I was focusing on his reaction. I didn’t notice that he was nervous. I came away thinking how supportive he’d been.”

Mr. Frank, also 33 and an associate at the New York law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, countered wryly: “He didn’t know how supportive I was.”

Mr. Frank added: “I went from not being willing to acknowledge that I was having these feelings, to ‘This is unbelievable good fortune. This is the person I’m closest to in the world, and we could actually act on this.’ ’’

That same evening it was Mr. Frank who had news, delivered with a line worthy of “Seinfeld.”

“I haven’t been totally straight with you either,” he told Mr. Berger as they ambled through SoHo.

“You?” Mr. Berger exclaimed, stunned. By the next week, the best friends had become a couple.

And now they've married each other in a ceremony, and their story is there for all to see. It's sweet. It's quiet. It's normal and it's beautiful.

Isn't love grand?

Gala Night in Norwich

When we got to the theatre Saturday night, we had the camera all ready to go. So I picked it up to bring it out to the lobby where the volunteers had prepared this gorgeous and elegant buffet dinner for the black tie gala opening, turned on the camera and read, "NO MEMORY CARD."

Since our hotel is 20 minutes away, it was too late to drive there and back, so I feel awful that I don't have pictures of the beautiful opening night crowd. Brett looked so dashing in his white tie and tails. The women were dressed in gowns and sparklies. It was truly a "do," as they say. And the buffet was all southern food. Chicken gumbo with shrimp, some kind of pork dish, sweet potatoes, rice, etc. Beautiful. Delicious.

Backstage, they had set out a special table for Jimmy and me with Champagne, assorted teas, shrimp, etc. We don't drink or eat before a show, so all we did was sample tiny tastes, but still, these folks are really thoughtful.

Before the show, Mark the Board Chair gave a speech about fundraising. Brett introduced Big Voice and wow! what a show! They were with us every second of the way. It was fun for us, too, because we were finally back into the rhythms of the show. Taking a year off can make you a bit rusty.

For instance, the Thursday night show was almost flawless. Then, Friday night, we were forgetting lines, mixing things up, and generally making a mess of things. At one point in the show on Friday, Jimmy gave me my line and I looked out toward the lights and had absolutely NO idea what I was supposed to say. So, I tried not to panic. I just stood there, frozen solid, thinking, "If I wait long enough, these words are going to come into my head."

And they did!


After the show, I announced that Jimmy would be performing a special benefit performance of "Zero Hour" for them. I told them that we were very proud of the work they do here and that we wanted the chance to give something special back to them. I told them how well received "Zero Hour" had been in L.A. and how proud I was of Jimmy's writing and acting. I urged them to pick up tickets immediately; that it would be a night they wouldn't forget.

Then we all went into the lobby and schmoozed and ate. A great opening night!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Time For India To Grow Up

It's hard enough to lead a life of integrity when you're a gay person in a homophobic society where you don't know who's going to turn on you or cast you out. But when it's also illegal to be gay, it's almost impossible. Every moment of your life is spent in hiding or in fear that you'll either end up in jail or threatened or blackmailed. Time for civilized societies to grow up.

From the NY Times this morning:

Notables Urge India to End 145-Year Ban on Gay Sex

NEW DELHI, Sept. 15 — A British-era relic is facing a new challenge in India, as a growing citizens’ movement rallies against a 145-year-old law still embedded in the Indian penal code that bans gay sex.

On Saturday an open letter to the government will be officially unveiled, calling for the repeal of what is known by its official moniker, Section 377, which makes “carnal intercourse against the order of nature with man, woman or animal” punishable by 10 years in prison.

The letter is signed by an eclectic list of Indian writers, filmmakers, lawyers and other luminaries, including the author Vikram Seth, the actress Soha Ali Khan and a former attorney general of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party-led government, Soli Sorabjee.

“In independent India, as earlier, this archaic and brutal law has served no good purpose,” the letter argues. “It has been used to systematically persecute, blackmail, arrest and terrorize sexual minorities. It has spawned public intolerance and abuse, forcing tens of millions of gay and bisexual men and women to live in fear and secrecy, at tragic cost to themselves and their families.”

The letter comes less than two months after a similar plea from the government AIDS agency. In an affidavit to the Delhi High Court calling for a repeal of the law, the National AIDS Control Agency argued in late July that Section 377 poses a public health risk by driving gay men underground and impeding efforts to prevent the spread of AIDS.

With more than five million cases of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, India ranks either first or second, depending on who is measuring, among countries with the largest number of infected people.

The statute is being challenged under a lawsuit brought in 2001 by a gay-rights advocacy group called the Naz Foundation, which argued that the law contravenes rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution, including equality, privacy and freedom of expression.

The case was initially thrown out by the Delhi High Court on the grounds that the foundation did not suffer as a result of the law and so had no legal standing to sue. The Supreme Court of India earlier this year tossed the case back, instructing the Delhi court to review the case on its merits. The next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 4.

The campaign to repeal Section 377 reflects a confluence of broad changes sweeping this country, from health concerns and urbanization in India to a growing awareness about India’s place in the world. A preface to the open letter, written by Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate and economist who is now a professor at Harvard, calls the law, codified in 1861, “a colonial-era monstrosity.”

“That, as it happens, was the year in which the American Civil War began, which would ultimately abolish the unfreedom of slavery in America,” he wrote. “Today, 145 years later, we surely have urgent reason to abolish in India, with our commitment to democracy and human rights, the unfreedom of arbitrary and unjust criminalization.”

The law is today most often used to prosecute cases of child sexual abuse, and its backers warn that its repeal could jeopardize efforts to arrest offenders. The office of the solicitor general of India declined to comment on the law, on the grounds that it is under litigation.

Section 377 is rarely now used to prosecute gay adults engaged in consensual sex, lawyers and activists say, but it remains a whip with which to threaten, blackmail and jail suspected gay men and lesbians where they gather — in parks, bars and even, on occasion, on the Internet. Strictly speaking, the statute makes it illegal to distribute condoms to gay men or in Indian prisons.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Beautiful Spirit of Broadway

Spirit of Broadway Theatre
It was about three years ago when we performed Big Voice at the elegant Spirit of Broadway Theatre in Norwich, Connecticut. That night, in the words of Brett, the artistic director, was an exciting triumphant night. Not only was it packed, but the response from the crowd was explosive and thrilling. So, when he asked us back for a three-week run, we were very excited.
Spirit of Broadway Theatre
The Spirit of Broadway is a gorgeous little jewelbox located in the historic downtown area of Norwich. It's right across from the city hall, which is stunningly beautiful. It looks like something Disney might try to copy as the perfect small-town city hall. It gleams gold from its spire where there's a shining clock.
Norwich City Hall
My online time is somewhat limited here, so these entries will be a bit brief, but I thought for this first entry, I would just show you a few pictures so you can see where we are.


My favorite thing of all is an old piano they have in the entrance to the lobby. Karen, who is a volunteer -- who we made really great friends with the last time we were here -- decorated it with crucifixes and pictures of Ethel Merman, which she bought on the Internet.
God or Merman?

The big black tie gala is Saturday. They have promised a big table of food and lots of people in tuxes. Can't wait!