Modern Mutuality is the name of Volume 2 Book 8 of the Living in the Bonus Round diary
Volume 2 Book 8 Part 7 of "Living In The Bonus Round"
The Online Diary of Steve Schalchlin

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September - October 2001.
San Francisco CA.

September 19 - 26, 2001.
Visiting TLS-SF!

Hibernia Beach memorial on Castro Street in San Francisco.

I flew into San Francisco this week to visit the rehearsals of the New Conservatory Theatre Center's production of TLS. As usual I stayed with Ken McPherson (pictured right, honoring a Sept. 11th memorial) and we decided to go into the Castro and visit his old "haunt," Hibernia Beach. Hibernia Beach isn't actually a beach. It's a street corner. And in the early 80s, it was Ken who turned this street corner into an AIDS rallying point and information center.

But today Hibernia Beach was drenched with flowers; an impromptu memorial for the people killed on September 11. It was very moving to see the pictures, testimonies and memories put up for hometown boy Mark Bingham, a gay rugby player from San Francisco who called home and helped subdue the hijackers on the doomed Pennsylvania crash.

Signed rugby balls and hat plus pictures and
memorials for Mark Bingham.

After spending time on Friday mourning the loss of precious human life, it felt good on Saturday to finally get to spend some time with the new San Francisco cast of The Last Session courtesy of Ed Decker (pictured left), Executive Director of the New Conservatory Theatre Center (NCTC) on Market Street.

George Quick (pictured right), who is playing Gideon, began by talking to us about how much NCTC means to him. He sat down on the floor and explained the conservatory programs for young people, the AIDS education outreach to area schools using drama, and how proud he was that they had created a vital and life-giving set of programs. His love to NCTC showed in his eyes as the misted up during his "testimony" and I was deeply touched. I also marveled at their ability to produce so many plays on their three stages and make it look so effortless.

He said TLS would be the opening play of their "Pride Series." (They have all kinds of series here). Then he introduced me and had me talk a bit about the origin and experiences of The Last Session. Soon, they were singing for me and rehearsing act two.

L. to R.: Jim - Randel Hart; Vicki - Michelle Starrs; Gideon - George Quick
Buddy - Joe Settineri; Tryshia - Shirley Smallwood.

Stage Manager James Harrison; Director Dan Kryston

Cast singing "When You Care".

And yes, the news is all good. These people can SING. In fact, I told George I was impressed that he could pull off a lot of the vocal leaps and twists that Bob Stillman has put to such effective use (i.e. which I *can't* do). Michelle Starrs really has Vicki down, too. Her voice is strong and she's an excellent actress.

Well, actually, they're all good actors. I mean I only saw a brief first read-through of act two but already it seemed as though they were inhabiting their characters fully and completely. Several of them have been writing me via email and it's been exciting to hear their observations and share mine.

Random pictures of the cast of TLS-SF.
We spent about six hours together and by the end of the rehearsal I felt like I was part of the family. What the reader has to realize is that one of the things I do is try to be very careful not to overstep the boundaries of professionalism. This is THEIR production. NCTC is very proud of the work the do (for good reason) and it was very gracious of the director to allow me access and free rein to talk about the show and the music and the characters.

It's not something they HAVE to do. And anyone who knows me knows I have a big mouth and will tell just about everything on my mind so it's not easy to sit there and not want to direct everything myself. But I learned in Cincinnati that each actor has to create THEIR own Buddy or Vicki or Tryshia. They'll find their OWN nuances and though it might be helpful for them to know what Jimmy and I had in mind, the reason you cast good people is to give them room to find their own way. A perfect balance is when trust is built up by both sides and we have a gentle give and take.

Someone walking into Vicki's role, for instance, might not understand why she's so angry all the time. (She's in pain.) Or you get questions like, "Is Buddy dumb?" (No, he's naive.) "Is Jim just being mean to Gideon?" (No and yes. Old friends who trust each other don't stand on ceremony.) "How does Gideon feel on this day before his intended suicide?" (Liberated. He's made his choice and now he wants a free, easy session.)

It's fun to talk about the characters and give my opinions. For instance, Dan Kryston asked me about "Friendly Fire" and its staging. So I told him I've seen it done on stools and I've seen it done with full costumes, choreography, lights and gunshots. Either way, it works and that he should just trust the material and follow through on his own vision. The brilliance of that number is in Marie Cain's lyrics.

Getting home wasn't easy. The San Francisco airport ticket counter lines were long and the waiting was tedious. The line at the metal detector was also long. It took about an hour to complete the check-in process. But I had arrived three hours early so I had plenty of time. I then stopped at the little crab restaurant, spread out my Sunday NY Times and read the latest on the bombings and "America's New War."

The whole world seems to be in mourning. My friends in New York City say the one thing that doesn't come across in the news is the horrible smell of burnt plastic, rubber, flesh and metal that spreads across Manhattan when the wind comes up from the south. Like a Nazi death chamber, the atrocity just stands there in your face reminding you of the day the world changed. Someone asked me if the world would ever get back to normal. My answer? This IS normal. But I also refer to the quote by Martin Luther King. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that..."

May we all be part of the light.

This picture is a shot of text by Martin Luther King about how only light will drive out darkness, and that hate will not end hate.This is a shot of the center of the memorial. An American flag. Below is a Buddhist statue, a carpet and praying cushion.This is a sign on a pole that says, Our community is a hate-free zone.
The Hibernia Beach Memorial.
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© 2001 by Steve Schalchlin.
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