Steve Schalchlin

"Living in the 
Bonus Round"

PublicityPic.jpg (45396 bytes)
One man and a
piano come together
to offer a unique
Steve has been a featured performer at high schools, colleges and Universities all over the United States, including Harvard University, Stanford University, Penn State, Indiana University, University at California Riverside, Regis University in Colorado, Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, Boston's Northeastern University, Alfred University in New York, the University of Judaism, Maryville University (Catholic), University of Memphis, Old Dominion University, Washington University, Ohio State University, plus many high schools and community groups.

At first, Steve Schalchlin's (pronounced SHACK-lin) story seems unfortunately ordinary.  He's gay.  He lives in a small Los Angeles suburb with his partner in life, writer/director Jim Brochu.  He was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1993, and by 1996 he was near death.

But this is where things change--and the story becomes extraordinary.

Steve is a musician/composer, and to help him cope with his ordeal, Jimmy gave him a series of songwriting assignments.  Soon Steve had ten complete songs, each covering a different phase of his illness.  That's when Jimmy decided to write a show around Steve's music.  The result was an exceptionally compelling piece of musical theatre called The Last Session, about a musician with AIDS who decides to make a final recording before taking his own life.

Though it sounds like a downbeat story, The Last Session is actually one of the most life-affirming shows you'll ever see.  The show garnered enormous critical acclaim, won numerous awards, and finally closed after a successful seven-month run off Broadway and eight month run in Los Angeles, following which it played in theatres across the country.

But there's more to the story than even this triumph.  Here's what else happened to Steve.  When he started writing the music that would become The Last Session, his health began to improve.  Then he was accepted into an AIDS research study to test a new drug, and that helped even more.  Suddenly, Steve Schalchlin wasn't dying--he was living.  And getting better.

To keep his family in Texas updated on his health, he created a website called Living in the Bonus Round and kept an online diary about his progress.  Others soon found the website and have turned to him for guidance and support about being gay, coming out of the closet, living with AIDS, or to just talk about the fear, loneliness and isolation that comes from dealing with any kind of serious or life-threatening illness.

Now Steve travels the country, talking to schools, church groups, etc., about AIDS, being gay, and the importance of acceptance and tolerance for those whose lifestyles and opinions probably differ from those of the audience. 

Steve's story is an important one to tell.  Hate crimes against gays show no signs of stopping (witness Matthew Shepard) and there is still no cure for AIDS.   Both are national issues, and Steve Schalchlin is spending every moment he can working to educate teenagers and adults about a more compassionate point of view that can help those affected by either problem.

What people have said....

The energy that comes from your music and the humor so well placed throughout the program gave the audience and me a chance to catch our breath and therefore the ability to really hear your message.  The standing ovation at the conclusion of your presentation was the beginning of a wave of renewed awareness concerning HIV/AIDS.   Teachers were not able to conduct "business as usual" when returning to their classrooms since their students needed to deal with their feelings about you, your music, your story, your caring.

I would have loved my own children to have seen this presentation.  Your message and the way it was delivered would be an asset to any school's AIDS Awareness program.

--Anthony L. Singe
Superintendant of Schools
Locust Valley Central School District
Locust Valley, New York

"Everyone I have spoken to--Rabbis, Jewish community professionals, parents and teens have given you rave reviews!  You touched on something here!  Sometimes it is very difficult to "get through" to our communities.  We want to teach them--we want them to HEAR what we are saying, and we want to touch them in some way. I know that you did all of those things.  I was delightfully astounded at your ability to be honest and frank in a wonderful way."

--Lisa Soble Siegmann, Director
Columbus Family Jewish Education Project

What we experienced that afternoon was both unexpected and unforgettable....He told it and sang it simply, but it came from a depth that one seldom experiences from a performer.  He sang about AIDS, about his medicines, his physicians, his nurses, his friends, and about his life and death.  He made me think, question, laugh, and cry.  And when it was over, I felt somehow cleansed.

Upon later reflection, the best way to describe Steve's performance is that so seldom do we experience an honest person telling the truth in an articulate and passionate way.

--D.W. Stechschulte, Jr., MD
Medical Director
Bucknell University
Lewisburg, PA

I'm a sophomore at Jericho High School.  You are a true inspiration to all the hearts that you have deeply touched.  Your positive outlook on life is so amazing that my admiration for you comes from deep within my heart.  Your wonderful sense of humor and the way you write your songs have made me realize that just because you have a disease does not mean you can't live your life to the fullest...As I was listening intently to your songs, I had tears in my eyes.  They were not tears of pity, however, these tears were tears of respect as well as joy because I have never met a person with so much ambition and optimism when dealing with a very serious issue.

Jericho High School
Houston, TX

I'm a 16 year old Junior at Davis High School, where you performed Frdiay.  I thought you should know you made an impact here.  As a student, I know you won a lot of respect and admiration from the kids that saw you, and that's no easy thing to do.  What's more, you've got them talking.  There was a buzz going around DHS all afternoon.  We've had facts thrown at us, been lectured endlessly, and put through workshops on HIV till we're blue in the face, but something about your sense of humor and frank attitude touched all of us.   Knowing that you're here sharing your bonus round with all of us is an experience all its own. 

Davis Senior High School
Davis, California

We, as physicians, have both the privilege and the responsibility of trying to care for the critically ill and often help them accept and deal with their illnesses and often very grim prognoses. 

What was particularly impressive with Steve was how he could deal openly with the many taboo subjects in a very matter of fact and moving manner. I would very strongly support opportunities for more medical and other care giving staff to hear from Steve. It has been a very memorable experience for me, and I'm sure many of my colleagues.

Captane P. Thomson, MD
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and NeurologyClinical Professor of Psychiatry
UCD School of Medicine
Former President, California Psychiatric Association

Contact Steve Schalchlin