Friday, February 26, 2010

Jim's Podcast on the Joey Reynold's Show.

Last night, Jim was Joey Reynold's guest again. Here is a link to a podcast of the show. The other guest is Victor Navaski, who wrote "Naming Names." The discussion revolves around the Blacklist.

Temple Grandin: On Calming Down Animals.

Jason sent me this link to a talk at Cornell by Temple Grandin.

Prof. Temple Grandin is the subject of an HBO film, an accomplished scientist, a renowned animal welfare advocate and a prominent autistic professor. But last night, in her last lecture as Cornell’s Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professor, she focused on the causes and solutions to animal behavioral problems.

Staying calm: Prof. Temple Grandin gives her final lecture as Cornell’s Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professor, titled “Animal Behavior and Welfare,” at Call Auditorium in Kennedy Hall yesterday. - By: Jaser FaruqOne of the best ways to alleviate behavior problems — which account for half of all cases where animals are given up or abandoned — is to keep animals calm, Grandin said.

“A calm animal is easier to handle, and when they get uncalm, it’s usually because they’re getting scared,” she said. “If you get an animal scared, it’s going to take half an hour to get it to calm down.”
My brother, Scott, tells me that in his own work with the State of Texas, he's met Temple Grandin on several occasions.

And, tomorrow, Michael and I are going to get him a new kitten. His beloved Jett finally passed away, and Gregory, the remaining cat, needs a companion. Kittens! I'm gonna get to go play with kittens!

That reminds me about tomorrow night when I'm going to be singing for Animal Night at North Hollywood's Kulak's Woodshed, which you can view online. It starts at 8pm, PCT which is 11pm EST.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

Daryl Roth Theaters

Below are some photos I took yesterday of the bank that is now a theater. Click to embiggen, as JMG would say.

I love it. Just as we are moving in to the Daryl Roth DR2 Theater, there appears this great profile about her online at Woman About Town. I particularly liked this:
Daryl says she’s attracted to stories that show people overcoming odds or who are in a position of not being believed in by others.
Sounds like William's Song, to me.

Musical Healing, Ctd.: Singing Rewires Damaged Brains.

This is from an article in the BBC News.

Singing 'rewires' damaged brain

By Victoria Gill
Science reporter, BBC News, San Diego

Mouth (file image)
Singing words made it easier for stroke patients to communicate

Teaching stroke patients to sing "rewires" their brains, helping them recover their speech, say scientists.

By singing, patients use a different area of the brain from the area involved in speech.

If a person's "speech centre" is damaged by a stroke, they can learn to use their "singing centre" instead.

Researchers presented these findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego.

Hey, Mel Tillis, a most famous stutterer, was a terrific singer.

So, how do you do it?

During the therapy sessions, patients are taught to put their words to simple melodies.

Professor Schlaug said that after a single session, a stroke patients who was are not able to form any intelligible words learned to say the phrase "I am thirsty" by combining each syllable with the note of a melody.

The patients are also encouraged to tap out each syllable with their hands. Professor Schlaug said that this seemed to act as an "internal pace-maker" which made the therapy even more effective.

"Music might be an alternative medium to engage parts of the brain that are otherwise not engaged," he said.

Read more.

But it's that last part that intrigues me.

Music opens up areas of the brain that are not otherwise engaged. That's why we need more music in the world. Because I think there are a lot of disengaged brains out there, myself included.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reuniting The Family.

Today, we were off to the new theater.

We walked one block south to 42nd street, caught the crosstown bus to Fifth Avenue and then the M2 down to Union Square.

It was so great seeing Don and Jeramy again. I took a little video, but left the camera behind when we walked around the square for the first time, which was jam-packed with people enjoying what looked like a county fair.

Painters. Craftspersons. Musicians. A farmer's market. And right there, across from all this, on the east side, are the rising pillars of a huge, majestic bank building.

We ran into Jane Klain, from the Paley Center, who told us about a woman who rescues kittens and then adopts them out. She had a booth over on the Square.

We love Jane. Then we saw the kittens. They were so tiny, all wrapped in each other's arms. And they wouldn't allow a one-cat adoption. They had to be adopted in pairs. "So they won't get lonely," said the bright-faced girl we spoke to.


Like crack.

We ate at a burger joint.

Union Square is almost like a little, more civilized Times Square. Instead of chain stores and hugeness, it's farm stuff and paintings. And pets. And all around the Square, or in easy reach of it, are a lot of off-Broadway theaters doing really good work.

It's also a little touristy, but in a cool, international way. Fuerza Bruta, playing on our other stage has people swimming overhead, and there's a night club in the basement. There's a tagline below their title that says, "Look Up!"

I told Jim we should tag Zero Hour as "Look Out!"

So, the set needed some adjusting. Jim posed and set things, and then we took off, letting the tech crew do their thing. We also saw the rigger who showed us around Fuerza Bruta yesterday. I think his name is Antonio. Their show offices are in the same place, down in the basement, next to our dressing rooms. Which is cool cuz we'll see each other a lot.

Funny how a show takes over a space, especially with a stage manager like Don Myers.

Yesterday, the halls were lined with the detritus of a exiting show. Today, it was hospital clean, with coffee and Danish for everyone.

He will have a clean environment. Nothing will deter this mission. And it's so appreciated. It changes everything about how you feel when you have a really clean work environment. It automatically makes you feel more professional.

We also looked at the lobby. There's a concession stand. There is a lot of wall space.

I wondered if we could erect some kind of paintings exhibit. If so, they should be framed and treated like first class works of art. A real gallery look. Then, somewhere, tell the story of how over half the earnings from the paintings will be donated to charity.

And there we are mugging in front of Jim's poster, reproducing all his poses.

This is gonna be fun!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Danny's Memorial Toast.

Last night, Jim and took the bus and the subway down to The Monster, a big gay club with a loud bar, a piano and a disco right at the Christopher Street subway. It's been a favorite of ours anytime we've been in New York, plus, I used to work in clubs down here.

Dylan told us to be there about 7:30. We found him right near the front of the long bar, which extends way into the room. A bunch of guys were crowded among a bunch of other crowded guys, and every had a Cosmo.

That's when Jim ran into Kevin Chamberlin, who was next to us, crowded into that corner under the big hi def TV, which was showing the Olympics downhill skiing. I kept wincing, wondering if anyone has ever sailed so far out that there was no more downhill slope.

So, they talked about Surflight Summer Theater. We have this great video of Kevin as a kid doing a song and dance number at the ice cream store next to the theater. "Better money!"

They reminisced about Joe Hayes. Kevin is enjoying great career right now. He Uncle Fester in the new huge Broadway musical, "The Addams Family,' which has been the subject of much conversation on the blogs and gossip columns, like Michael Riedel in the NY Post over certain problems with the show when it debuted in Chicago and had to change directors. Kevin was bubbling with energy and excitement about Jerry Zaks. Jim said he also loved working with him.

So, hopefully, it'll be a great show.

It all seems very exciting! I just finished reading the new book about Stephen Schwartz's musical career, andhe talks about how brutal it becomes when you have this huge beast of a show, with orchestra, sets, costumes, millions of dollars, etc. on your back. At the first meeting of "Wicked," when someone said, "This is going to be fun," he said, "No. This will not be fun."

I think that's why I like doing things simply. Set up. Do the show. Go home.

Around The Monster's bar, unplanned, were pics of Mae West (in a gay bar?), and it made us think of Danny again. He wrote a show about her. It was his magnum opus. He died two years ago.

Ah, life.

As Jim and I walked back to the bus, we passed by a building that used to house a club called "Waverly Waverly." I used to play that club under the name of Steve Austen. Some day I should resurrect Steve Austen. Or maybe I still am Steve Austen.

New York.

She's a hell of a town.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I Love New York.

Last night at the open mic called "Big Night Out," the girl at the door kept calling me Mr. Schalchlin. And, where normally I always tell people to just call me Steve, I thought, oh why rob her of the thrill of meeting someone famous and important. After I finished my number "Edison Diner" the hostess took me back to meet her boyfriend, dressed in black leather, who told me he loved the way I played because of the bass line on the song. He said he's a bass player and he tours with Queen.

I'm having a lovely time in New York.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

"Everyone Is Talking About You!"

That's what the great character actor, Fyvish Finkel, said to Jim when we saw him at a Barnes & Noble event where his son, our friend Ian Finkel ("the world's greatest xylophonist") was promoting his new book, "You're Not Supposed To Be Here."

And It All Starts Again.

We are so very excited. Today is the day we start the load-in on the new stage. The challenge, of course, will be to fit the old set onto the more narrow new set. But what we're really looking forward to seeing is Jim's big face right in Union Square. Pics to come!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Geek Stuff: Interacting with your environment.

I have to post this. Being a total geek who is completely useless at math, I envy anyone with the ability to create scientifically advanced ideas. Check this out. It's a work in progress device which allows you to interact with your environment in all kinds of ways.

J.D. Doyle Nominated for Lifetime Achievement Award

I am thrilled beyond measure that my friend, J.D. Doyle, a historian who has almost single-handedly, through the years, tracked and broadcasted GLBT music, has been nominated for a lifetime achievement award by Pride in the Arts.

So, I'm asking all my readers to vote for J.D. He deserves it.

Recommendation: HBO film "Temple Grandin."

Last night, we caught a movie that I can't possibly praise highly enough. It's called "Temple Grandin" and it's the compelling story of the woman (Temple Grandin) who not only learned how to overcome the difficulties of living with autism, but who has become the world's foremost expert at humane animal handling for food production. Here's the trailer for the film:

Or, in the words of a BBC documentary, "the woman who thinks like a cow."

She was even cited by PETA for her work, despite the fact that Temple helps design slaughterhouses -- and the amazing part of her work is that she not only figured out how to more humanely treat animals, but demonstrated that by using these techniques, the ranchers can cut costs.

Back when she was young, doctors thought autism was the result of "cold mother syndrome." But Temple's mother rejected this diagnosis and helped her daughter learn, go to school and eventually become a Ph.D. in animal husbandry.

Temple describes the brain of an autistic person as being similar to an office where the CEO (the frontal cortex) is unable to communicate with the rest of the divisions. And, like animals, autistic people are confronted with intense emotions -- fear, anger, etc. -- so they react instantaneously, unable to process the emotions.

This film is not only entertaining and informative, but inspiring. It left both Jim and me with tears in our eyes at the end. I'm so glad a friend of mine recommended this. Do not miss it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sean Chapin's Report of the SFGMC Freedom Tour

Fantastic reading at Daily Kos about my friend, Sean Chapin's report about the California Freedom Tour.

He goes out of his way to mention "William's Song." Thanks Sean.

The Steve Schalchlin penned "William's Song", a true story about a mother who stood up for her gay son at his school in Arkansas, got the crowd responding in a triumphant roar. As the song goes, "William was a boy in Arkansas [who was] a little bit different," and this resulted in him being harassed by school bullies. His mother, Carolyn Wagner, wasn’t going to let this happen without a fight, so she promptly confronted the school. When the man in charge accused William of "walking so funny, she said ‘that’s gonna cost you money’", the chorus sang to the delight of the crowd. She sued the board and won, putting the school to shame. Indeed, "tell me why does it take five great big guys to beat up one little queer," and Schalchlin was on the money with an answer: "I think it’s fear." This song was especially relevant to Redding, where a gay couple together for 14 years was murdered in 1999 because they were a little bit different.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Posting Intermittent.

For those of you following this diary, we are in the process of moving to new digs.

It's also snowing outside. Very. Lots of.

So, I won't be posting as much.

If you didn't read it before, put June 23, Wednesday, on your calendar.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Jim Does Shaw Again.

Jim will be once again appearing in Project Shaw on February 15. The play is The Philanderer. It's part of a series where they do a staged reading of a different Shaw play a month at The Players.

Monday, February 15

A topical comedy in four acts of the early Eighteen-Nineties
Written by George Bernard Shaw in 1893

ACT I: Mr. Joseph Cuthbertson’s Flat in Ashley Gardens.

ACTS II & III: The Library of the Ibsen Club in Cork Street.

ACT IV: Dr. Paramore’s Rooms in Savile Row.

Period: During the first vogue of Ibsen in London, after 1889.

Leonard Charteris - Mr. Chad Kimball
Mrs. Grace Tranfield – Ms. Julia Murney
Julia Craven – Ms. Cassie Beck
Colonel Daniel Craven, V.C. - Mr. Paxton Whitehead
Joseph Cuthbertson – Mr. Jim Brochu
Sylvia Craven – Ms. Emily Young
Dr. Paramore – Mr. Robert Stanton
Narrator – Mr. David Rooney

16 Gramercy Park South
(20th Street east of Park Av)
Produced and directed by David Staller.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The "Don't Ask" Hypocrisy Exposed.

From Frank Rich's column on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell":

The arguments for preserving “don’t ask” have long been blatantly groundless. McCain — who said in 2006 that he would favor repealing the law if military leaders ever did — didn’t even bother to offer a logical explanation for his mortifying flip-flop last week. He instead huffed that the 1993 “don’t ask” law should remain unchanged as long as any war is going on (which would be in perpetuity, given Afghanistan). Colin Powell strafed him just hours later, when he announced that changed “attitudes and circumstances” over the past 17 years have led him to agree with Mullen. McCain is even out of step with his own family’s values. Both his wife, Cindy, and his daughter Meghan have posed for the current California ad campaign explicitly labeling opposition to same-sex marriage as hate.

McCain aside, the most common last-ditch argument for preserving “don’t ask” heard last week, largely from Southern senators, is to protect “troop morale and cohesion.” Every known study says this argument is a canard, as do the real-life examples of the many armies with openly gay troops, including those of Canada, Britain and Israel. But the argument does carry a telling historical pedigree. When Harry Truman ordered the racial integration of the American military in 1948, Congressional opponents (then mainly Southern Democrats) embraced an antediluvian Army prediction from 1940 stating that such a change would threaten national defense by producing “situations destructive to morale.” History will sweep this bogus argument away now as it did then.

Those opposing same-sex marriage are just as eager to mask their bigotry. The big arena on that issue is now in California, where the legal showdown over Proposition 8 is becoming a Scopes trial of sorts, with the unlikely bipartisan legal team of David Boies and Ted Olson in the Clarence Darrow role. The opposing lawyer, Charles Cooper, insisted to the court that he bore neither “ill will nor animosity for gays and lesbians.” Given the history of the anti-same-sex marriage camp, it’s hard to make that case with a straight face (so to speak). In trying to do so, Cooper moved that graphic evidence of his side’s ill will and animosity be disallowed — including that notorious, fear-mongering television ad, “The Gathering Storm.”

The judge admitted such exhibits anyway. Boies also triumphed in dismantling an expert witness called to provide the supposedly empirical, non-homophobic evidence of how same-sex marriage threatens “procreative marriage.” In cross-examination, Boies forced the witness, David Blankenhorn of the so-called Institute for American Values, to concede he had no academic expertise in any field related to marriage or family. The only peer-reviewed paper he’s written, for a degree in Comparative Labor History, was “a study of two cabinetmakers’ unions in 19th-century Britain.”


The more bigotry pushed out of the closet for all voters to see, the more likely it is that Americans will be moved to grant overdue full citizenship to gay Americans. It won’t happen overnight, any more than full civil rights for African-Americans immediately followed Truman’s desegregation of the armed forces. But there can be no doubt that Mike Mullen’s powerful act of conscience last week, just as we marked the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro, N.C., lunch counter sit-in, pushed history forward. as we marked the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro, N.C., lunch counter sit-in, pushed history forward.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

William's Song and The End of a Book.

I am preparing a blog entry about Sunday, the last day of Zero Hour at St. Clement's, but so much happened on that day, I haven't quite grasped it all. I don't know where to start the story. But I'm working on it.

We're also taking a big fat rest. I haven't let him out of the bed for two days unless absolutely necessary.

Zero Hour starts back up again in late February. He has a couple of weeks to just lie there with his cat and his laptop and his game shows, and not go up and down steps. God bless St. Clement's, but there are a lot of steps there. And there are a lot of steps going down into subways, apartments, etc.

Speaking of St. Clement's, I feel connected to the place, and to the people there. Zero Hour might be moving to a different venue, but Dan and Kevin will remain connected to the show, which means St. Clement's. And, in case you want to know, the Sunday morning concert of New World Waking as a "musical sermon" was terrific. We all remembered our words and notes and everything.

My darling Don Myers grabbed my camera and taped it for me. Jeramy sang! (His fan club is getting bigger than mine.) John Fitzgerald, I almost terrified. I had listed "My Thanksgiving Prayer" on the program and hadn't informed him that he would be doing it with me. We were so focused on getting "I Enter This Battle Gravely" arranged on the fly.

Another added emotional sting happened when I sang "William's Song." Carolyn Wagner is ill, and the song is really all about her. But I wasn't so much sad, as rejoicing. Simultaneously, across the country, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus was singing at sold-out out houses in conservative cities.

[I'm told a video has been made. I can't wait to hear the crowd's reception.]

I phoned Carolyn after hearing from Gabi that she was calling for me. Carolyn's deep Arkansas accent, which reminds me of my family and home, was weak. She took breaths between sentences.

"Stayve," she said, addressing me. That's Arkansas for Steve. "I'll never forget the concert in San Francisco at that big place. I was in high cotton." (The chorus flew her in.)

"You know, I'm a real hillbilly. My family were all mountain people. We told our stories through song. That's how we handed down our history. The fact that you've told our story this way... I don't know what to say."

One of the chorus members, just last week, wrote me because he was concerned about the weirdly upbeat, almost celebratory tone of a song about gay bashing.

> As I have been listening to and rehearsing William's Song for our concerts
> this weekend, I have been struggling with the seeming disconnect between
> terribly disturbing topic of the song, gay bashing, and the happy and
> style of the music and choreography. I think perhaps as a newer member of
> the chorus I may have missed some context there, either from the story or
> the musical context of a larger production it was taken from. Could you
> please give me, and perhaps others, some more information about this?

I wrote this note (edited) which they read aloud to the chorus.
I'm really happy you asked Kathleen about this, because I definitely
want you to be able to sing the song with full conviction. And, for
the record, you're not the first to ask me this question.

It would be easy to take a story like this and make dark, depressing
music, not that I think you're making that suggestion.

But, I purposely set this song with this music because William's Song
is, ultimately, about a victory over violence and hate. It's a
celebration of how this tragic story was turned into a victory by a
determined mother.

Also, by rejoicing rather than mourning, it's also a little bit of a
"*** you" to the homophobes, saying, "You can try to knock us down,
but we'll only get up stronger, we'll throw your hate words back in
your face, and we'll dance on your ugly aspirations."

I hope you don't think I'm being flip when I tell you all this in this
way. But that's what I feel when I sing it. It's a testament to our
power that they cannot knock us down. They cannot pretend to be
stronger than we are.

So, sing the victory. Sing the celebration of how one mother can
change an entire school district by simply standing up for her kid and
refusing to take no for an answer.

I should tell you, by the way, that Carolyn Wagner is dangerously ill. So, enjoy
her courage and celebrate her tenacity and her love for her boy
through this song.

It might seem like a strange way to deal with violence, but that's
what music and art are all about -- empowering us to overcome great
obstacles. And William's Song is a dance, a celebration and a victory.

Does that makes sense to you?
My email makes the song a bit more harsh than I intend, but the emotions are all there and they are real. Haven't you ever just wanted to stand up and shake your fist at injustice? If you're going to feel anger about something, better to express that anger through music. I'm probably walking a fine line between what Soul Force guidelines allow, but it's not my job, artistically, to censor the truth.

And now I'm a little off-track from the point of this email. It's to let you know that we're here, we're well, we're resting, and I have a lot of story to tell. So, I'm going to take a little time to tell it.

But I can say that at our little gathering after the last matinee in the parish hall, where we toasted each other and celebrated the end of the first stage of our New York run, we were also thankful that we had come through it with very little drama behind the stage, a lot of great drama on the stage.

New friendships have been forged that seem like they're going to last. A lot of good will and love has been generated along with an armload of great reviews and we have great hope, and developing plans, for the future.

I suppose if this were the old diary, I'd call this is the end of a book. I'd also be trying to think of a name for the new one. But it's hard to name the future. At the present moment, I'd call it A Time To Rest.

And so we will.

But I also have a lot of video to process, a lot of music to sort through, and I have a big announcement which will have to wait.

But you might want to circle WEDNESDAY, June 23**** on your calendars. I promise something great and wonderful.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Show Business Weekly mentions Zero Hour transfer.



By John Rowell


It’s nice, in these uncertain economic times, to report on a surprise hit. The acclaimed new play Zero Hour, about the life of theater legend Zero Mostel, has been successful enough to rate a transfer to the off-Broadway house DR2, with performances beginning Feb. 24. The great stage and screen star of “Forum,” “Fiddler,” “Rhinoceros” and “The Producers” is brought to life in all his complicated and volcanic glory by actor Jim Brochu, under the direction of three-time Oscar nominee Piper Laurie. If you missed it the first go round, here’s your chance. Check out

Monday, February 01, 2010

Gay Chorus Brings Message to Conservative Cities.

Wonderful article about the Freedom Tour being organized and performed by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus.

Looking for answers

Rednecks in those towns can sneer - singers said they experienced a few catcalls - but the 90 unapologetic gay men, many sporting wedding rings, came to town asking tough questions. They performed "William's Song," the true story of a high school boy who was beat up because of his sexuality. And when they sing the chorus - "Why does it take five great big guys to beat up one little queer?" - they expect some answers.

This weekend, they proved harder to ignore than the local cowboys may have expected.

There were several conservative Christians in the audience. They said they were there supporting a friend or family member, but I defy them to say they weren't moved.

"William's Song" is, of course, the song I wrote about Carolyn Wagner and her son, Bill. For readers of this blog, Carolyn is very ill right now. So, prayers and love and good wishes are definitely welcomed.