Volume 2 Book 8 Part 3 of "Living In The Bonus Round"
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin
[ Book 7 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] -- [ Book 9 ]
Cincinnati TLS takes its final bow.
July 14 - 15, 2001.
The Big Finish!
You never know what's going to make someone happy. Just before the show Saturday night, our Stage Manager Buz-with-one-z came running up to me saying, "All these people I don't know are saying hello to me and calling me 'Buz with one Z!' I LOVE IT! The theatre didn't even get my name right on the website but here are all these strangers who ARE getting it right!"
That boy needs a life.
He was, of course, talking about the many out of town Bonus Round readers who chose Saturday night as their night to see this wonderful Cincinnati production. Those of us in the cast were already bemoaning the closing. "Only two more shows. It's not fair," one of them said to me.
I determined, being the good reporter that I am, to get some shots of Todd Almond shirtless. Now before anyone gets their panties in an uproar, this was a harmless gesture meant to thrill the str8-ladies and gayboys in the audience. After all he is in show business and I have a readership to entertain.
Todd Almond backstage who now thinks I'm a complete nut.
I made the same offer to the women, by the way. But Deb Girdler had a different reaction.
"You want me to do what? Kiss my ass and don't call me Victoria."
Pictured is Deb Girdler in her "Vicki" costume.
Spring Starr Pillow as Tryshia.
Terry LaBolte as Jim.
Todd Almond as Buddy.I tried to get shots of everyone in their costumes but I forgot to have someone take a shot of me.
Saturday night we played to a packed house. This was amazing considering the fact that before the week began, they barely had sold any tickets at all to any of the performances but apparently, opening night plus Jackie Demaline's pan in the Enquirer sent ticket sales through the roof. Thanks, Jackie! Please review my CD. I could use some more sales for Youth Guard!
The show, once again, received an immediate and explosive standing ovation plus a curtain call or two. At our talkback, the out of town fans lavished the actors with praise for their work.
Spring Sarr Pillow said she saw Tryshia as a woman of strong faith
dedicated to her work and her family.
Todd Almond describes how he spent a month as Hedwig the German transexual
only to turn around and play Buddy, the Texas Baptist preacher boy.
"My neighbors thought I was schizophrenic. One week running around the
apartment screaming in German accent, the next week I'm preachin'
like a TV evangelist."
This boy translated our talkback (and the show) into American Sign Language.
Terry LaBolte (the director and "Jim") described how easy it was
for us to work together. Terry, also a person with AIDS said,
"I listened to a lot of Steve's solo album just so I could
get a sense of who he was. When he arrived, we had to
dispense with the usual niceties and dive right into working.
We felt like we had known each other for years."Terry was very patient and sweet with me considering the fact that I was giving out orders and ideas to the actors the whole time we were in rehearsal. But our relationship deepened and I felt we had a beautiful and professional time together. He's a great guy.
It was tough to say goodbye to Ensemble Theatre. We had a good sized house for our final Sunday matinee and I told Lynn the artistic director that I wanted to come back and do it again next year. She said, "You got it! But I also want the new show featuring just you and Jimmy."
I said, "Absolutely." (Or course, now we have to write it.)
My favorite audience question came on Sunday. A man asked, "What is Gideon thinking when he lets Buddy pray over him?" Good question. My answer took about 20 minutes but I'd be curious to know what others think the answer is. I'll write my answer later.
I have to say, though, that as incredible as the Cincinnati production was, it was only a prelude to what lay ahead in Columbus on Monday night. And the emails I've gotten! Oh, there's just so much to tell.
(Right now I'm home and writing all this up while trying to help Jimmy at El Portal. But it's all coming. Just keep reading. And wait till you see the emails I've gotten!)
July 15b, 2001.
Letters from Cincinnati.
Before I get to the Columbus hospital concert, I wanted to dwell just one moment longer in Cincinnati by way of sharing emails I received. There are many more emails besides these but that would go on forever. So this is just a sampling.
This was the very first email that came after our initial performance:
"My name is Greg. My wife Nancy & I saw your performance last night, and I just wanted to tell you how wonderful it was! Great music and amazing performances!
"I spent the last ten years on the Showboat Majestic as a music director, stage director, and producer, so I know how difficult it is to mount any production, and was immensely impressed by your work and the talented cast around you.
"I was a close friend of Denny Rieselman. He was the first person in our circle of college friends who was lost to AIDS. My cousin Doug Romaniak, who worked in Ronald Reagan's EPA cabinet, was also a victim, and has a piece of The Quilt dedicated to his memory.
"Please keep up your valuable work, Steve, and know that there are people everywhere who care so much for all those touched by AIDS."
Buz with one z pays tribute to La Girdler
Mike delivered a burger to me on Sunday night when I arrived at the theatre without having had dinner. This is a note he wrote me after he saw the first performance:
"just wanted to take a moment and congratulate you on the opening of your show. i'm a local young actor who interned last year for the ensemble theatre, and one of the things i've come to love about it is that it (lynn!) is so dedicated to new and daring shows. you see things in this small little
ohio theatre that are as fresh and edgy as anything in new york, yet with all the heart of a "family" production. i think it's great that a show like yours can become part of the family. your show and your music come from such a pure, honest place that as an audience member one can't help but be touched and moved. i hope you enjoy the run as much as i enjoyed opening night!"
p.s. i've been enjoying your website at work. i act, therefore i temp, therefore i have lots of time on my hands...:)"
A few faces around the theatre. Megan in the box office, the lighting guy who refused to stand in the light and Troy who helped with sound.
From S.L.: "I just returned home from seeing TLS for the second time this week. For me to watch ANYTHING again in such a short period of time is very unusual but the show was so wonderful, I just had to go back. The horror of HIV/AIDS was presented in such a way as to educate and enlighten, while at the same time entertain. I don't think that the audience is consciously aware that they are being educated because the performance is so great. At the same time, though, the quality of the show imbeds the message in the hearts and minds of the people in the audience.
"I was proud that the fans of TLS who have seen it performed around the country were so impressed with the Cincinnati cast. There are some very talented people in this town and you have several of them in this production. I hope that you are able to put together a return engagement next season. The message of the show is too important not to repeat, and the messengers you have in this cast are the ones to deliver it.
"Tell Todd that he has made at least one (and, I'm certain, more) admiring fan. He was so sweet and self-effacing at the talkbacks after the show, it made him even more adorable. After Terry told the story of having called Todd a broomstick with baby fat [back when Todd was a student at CCM], it made me want to go home and sweep."
JW wrote : "It hit so close to home for us. It brought us to tears on numerous occasions . . . especially for D. He was diagnosed with HIV over 11 years ago and can relate to all of Steve's songs. Like Jimmy, I am HIV- and deal with it as an outsider trying to understand what is going through D's mind when he is in a state of depression. I can only be there for him . . . and hope that he feels strong enough each time to fight back with enthusiastic thoughts.
"Tears are running down from my eyes as I write this. D often asks if and how I will handle it if the day comes when his meds don't work. He explains the hardships that are encountered being a caregiver . . . one that he spent many years doing while living in Miami Beach with his former partner and numerous friends before losing their battle to Aids, or in a few cases suicide. This hit home on many fronts for him. He cried through much of the production. When we talked to Steve in the lobby afterwards, D told
him that the message did more for him than many hours of therapy.
"I read your web site review of the Cincinnati Enquirer "review" of The Last Session. I would agree with others. When Jackie reviews and subsequently pans a play, it is a sure bet that you had better order tickets and go and see it. I do and I have never been disappointed yet. We must remember that she writes for an ultra-conservative newspaper and represents the ultra-conservative view of Cincinnati (which is probably why she has kept her job at the Enquirer.)"
This is a picture of the smoking porch which was around the side of the theatre. Deb Girdler basically owned that spot. Oh, here's a nice letter. It's from a board member. Rule one: always make your board members happy.
I am a young member of the board of directors of the ETC.
My partner and I were at opening night of the Last Session. We both LOVED the production. We both felt it was the best production this year at ETC. It was so moving. All the cast did a tremendous job. I only wish I had the time to see it again before it ended.
Kudos to you.
Sara M. Vance"
This picture is of D. Lynn Myers, the artistic director who against all odds, with no budget or ticket pre-sales, made the decision to mount TLS. She's much more beautiful than my bad photograph would indicate.
Linda M. from Toronto sent this letter to the TLS list. I didn't really know her and we only met face to face at Martha's party on Saturday (where we tried to figure out who in Toronto could bring me up), but it felt like we had been friends for years. I loved her beautiful daughter.
"For the past couple of years, I have been reading Steve's online journal and listening to his music. When I heard that TLS was going to be produced in Cincinnati, and then that Steve was going to perform the role of Gideon, my daughter and I started to plan a trip. To say that we were excited about the prospect would be a huge understatement.
"We journeyed to Cincinnati this past weekend and it truly was a weekend of such joy and fun. We had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people and to finally see TLS. Twice! The show was all that we had hoped for and more! Amanda explained it to some of our new friends on Saturday as the first time she has been that moved in a theatre since first seeing RENT three years ago. It was fabulous! Funny, sad, poignant, loving, terrific.
"It was not only the play that was great this weekend. The people that we met at the shows and also at Martha's wonderful picnic on Saturday were some of the most loving and welcoming people I have ever met in my life. All of you made us feel so very welcome and by the end of the weekend, it felt like we had known you for a long time. You truly are a special group, each and every one of you.
"I don't want to go on and on forever in my first post but I'll tell you just a little about me. I'm a wife, a mother of two terrific girls, I do online editing for a journalist friend, I volunteer with the local AIDS committee, I'm a buddy for two people living with HIV, I also do community volunteering and at Amanda's school. I love to read, swim, go to the theatre, listen to music, discuss just about anything, and I love kids. Amanda is 17 and attends an arts school in Toronto, so you know where her passion lies.
"I guess that's enough for one post. Just one comment for Steve: someone asked Amanda, when we got back to Toronto yesterday, what you were like. Her reply was (and this is no lie), "He's the sweetest person I've met in my life, and the most brilliant." I think you made a good impression. :)
"Hello to everyone we met, hope we can see all of you again sometime. Amanda wanted me to send a special hi to Lyndsay, Patrick, Andrew, Tim, Jason, and Jason. She loved meeting all of you.
Hear that, Jackie? The most brilliant! This teenage girl is obviously at the top of her class scholastically and full of tasteful discernment. Speaking of which, this next letter is from another teen girl who was pictured in the shot of all the kids from Kentucky.
"My name is Emily R and I came to see you on July 12th in Cincinnati. I was with the group from Kentucky that you took a picture with and now have posted on your website. I have been meaning to writing to you for about a week, and kept forgetting your e-mail address in my room. I just want to let you know that your play was probably the best play I have ever seen in my 17 years in existence. It was so moving and so touching that I would have to commend you on your performance many times over to help you realize what an excellent job you did.
"I just want to applaud you on your performance and thank you for opening up my eyes along with probably almost everyone else's in that theater that night. You have made a profound impact on my life and so I thank you."
Another writer, "New Friend," told me some very personal things about blood tests he is facing, his unhappiness that Cincinnati has such a conservative culture, how hard it is for him to keep on fighting to survive his own 18 year bout with AIDS (his latest blood tests raised red flags and he had to be retested) and how much, as a performer, I'm like Patti Lupone and Evita. LOL
"...The parallels that come to mind are the two lives and what you have been through. Not that you couldn't have done the job better, Evita, that is...
"Bringing your play to Cincinnati is a blessing. This last six months has been the darkest period I have had to face. I truly was ready for The Last Session. Your strong determined spirit and love for your music is so natural. It shows in your work. Obviously it has given you purpose. This has given me hope, anyone seeing what you are doing in this battle will find strength to continue.
That's my favorite kind of comment. It tells me I don't really have to take on the burdens of the whole planet in order to effect a postive change. All I have to be is alive and singing my songs. "New Friend" wrote me back a week later saying that his blood tests had come back great, that the results were exactly what they were hoping for. A bullet dodged.
This is the sign-in sheet for the last day. Buz with one z always posted the sign-in sheets with a quote from the show. In this case, "Go for the mammon, baby!" and a little note usually telling us what we did wrong the night before. But this night he wrote this, and I'll let Buz with one z have the last word:
"Thank you all for doing this show. When asked why I do theater, I've often told people that theatre is a living, breathing force that can change our lives... and now I have an experience that I can cite as a concrete example.
Love, Buz with one z."Goodbye for now, Cincinnati. We aren't EVEN remotely done with you yet.
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[ Book 7 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Part 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] -- [ Book 9 ] © 2001 by Steve Schalchlin.
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