Into The Belly Of The Beast
Volume 2 Book 7 Part 2 of Living In The Bonus Round
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin

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[ Book 6 ] -- [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] -- [ Book 8 ]

May 2001.
San Francisco, CA

New Conservatory Theatre Center
San Francisco, California USA

April 28 - May 4, 2001.
A San Francisco Musical Comedy Fantasy.
I'm having a musical comedy fantasy.

Banner of New Conservatory TheatreI fantasize that a cool, little theatre in San Francisco has chosen  to do a new production of The Last Session. A small local production in a classy historic building located at the foot of the hill just as you're leaving the Castro. I imagine that their current musical production is something really cool, like CHESS.

Continuing the fantasy I first go to, bookmark the "West Coast" discussion board and start reading the posts. I learn that this production is excellent, a sold-out run with a cast of talented young people. The producers (who are excited that I'm in town) wrangle me two seats on the last day of the run, a Sunday matinee.

My date is Ben, one of Ken's partners in crime on the Hibernia Beach radio show. He shows up on a motorcycle, offers me a helmet and announces that I would be riding on the back through the streets of San Francisco.

Since I'm deathly afraid of riding on motorcycles, having suffered an accident on a moped in Bermuda in which I almost lost my arm, I gulp visibly. Ben catches my hesitation and asks me, "Are you afraid?"

I answer him, "Terrified."

He asks me, "Do you not want to do this?"

Would you ride on a bike with this man?
"No way!" I say. No way would I chicken out in the middle of a musical comedy fantasy! I want to zoom through the streets of San Francisco on a motorcycle on the way to the theatre that's producing my musical!

"All right, then," he says. "Put on this helmet, jump on the back, put your arms around me and hold on tight." I am more than happy to oblige. In the name of art and my fantasy, of course.

I hold my camera in front, taking pictures as we
cruise down Market Street to the Castro.

L: Corner of Castro and Market. See the green cable car?
R: The historic Castro movie theatre on Castro Street.

We arrive at the New Conservatory Theatre and sure enough their production of CHESS, directed by the same guy -- let's call him George Quick -- who will direct THE LAST SESSION, kicks ass. Though it's performed only on a bare stage with stools, a chessboard, and a backdrop, the energetic cast and the sure-handed direction make total magic. The audience roars its approval with a standing ovation. I meet George Quick afterwards and I tell him, "Now that I've seen your work, I am relaxed, knowing our show is in good hands."

The following week I have lunch with George and the producer, Ed Decker, who brings along a notepad and asks me a zillion questions about casting and promotion. They actually WANT my input! For an hour we sit over pasta and excitedly talk about the project, exchanging ideas and energy. By the time the lunch is over, I'm so elated and in love with these two guys I practically hop back to Ken's.

That night I go to Theatre Rhino where I see a spectacular new show called "For Colored Boys..." featuring five sexy black men  -- a mixture of poetry, movement, hilarious comedy and featuring a performer named Cedric who does a dead-on version of Jennifer Holliday that completely brings down the house. I remind myself how theatre can illuminate and entertain, especially when it comes from a particular point of view (such as the gay African American experience) like this one does.

Anyway, I have a few more pictures to post but it's time to get home to Jimmy. I'll upload this diary and do a small addendum later, including a great lunch we had with Bob Stillman!

May 5-6, 2001.
San Francisco Part 2.

Tony Award nominee Bob Stillman in San Francisco.
San Francisco agrees with Bob Stillman. He looks great. He sounds fantastic. And he's at the top of his game, career-wise and as these pictures show, I've never seen him so happy. For not only is he coming off a Tony nomination as featured actor (in Dirty Blonde for which he wrote a critically-acclaimed title song), but he's now doing that show in San Francisco and he's got some high-powered record producers kicking ass for him in his solo career.

I remember the day four years ago as we were starting rehearsals for off-off-Broadway production of The Last Session, the first thing he told me was that he was more interested in his career as a singer and songwriter than he was as an actor. The role of Gideon featured him AS a singer/songwriter. I think that was one of the things that made him go for the role.

But as much as he assured me he liked singing my songs, I knew he was champing at the bit to be singing his OWN songs. And I don't blame him. He writes BEAUTIFUL music -- and witty, sharp lyrics. Plus he's world-class musician. But he's also a perfectionist. He didn't want to put out a record that didn't really reflect what he could do as a musician and singer with a band.

As Ken and I met Bob for breakfast on Saturday morning, it was like Bob was hooked up to a light socket. He excitedly told us that he had finally met some great producers and that he couldn't wait to finishmixing the three-song demo. We talked about his Tony nomination, his recent concert in New York -- everything. I was just so happy for him, bursting with pride.

Bob Stillman with Ken McPherson

Condos, apartments & the marina in San Francisco
After breakfast, Ken and I walked down to the marina. Out in the bay we could see Alcatraz off in the distance.

Then Sunday morning, I sang for the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists at a hotel called the Cathedral Hill Hotel, which the cabbie told me used to be called something else but I forgot what.

And then it was time to go. I left San Francisco really well rested plus I managed to put the finishing touches on a new song for the God musical. It's a comedy number called "Us Catholics," lyrics by Bev Sykes, ready to plunge back in the "beast" of El Portal. This week we have a massive mailing to get out plus we are MOVING the offices upstairs in order for our present offices to be converted into a street-level restaurant.

Not only that, but Mayor Riordan is giving his farewell State of the City Address this week. So, I will be exchanging my long afternoon naps at Ken's for long hours of papercuts and envelope-stuffing. But we have a theatre to save, dammit!! And I'm ready.


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© 2001 by Steve Schalchlin.
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