Volume 3 Book 1 Part 7 of
Living in the Bonus Round
Pictured is a bright, colorful rainbow stretching from the gray sky down to the Hollywood Hills.
Signs. Signs. Everywhere signs?
This is what we saw driving into Hollywood for
the Saturday performance of our last weekend
of the workshop of The Big Voice.

[ Book 2-10 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]

September 29-30, 2002.
From The Mailbag.
From Denise Lee who's playing Tryshia in TLS-Dallas:
Hi Steve,

Just a note before our last show to tell you what an honor it is to do this show.  It has meant so much to me and reached so many people.

One quick story from last night.  A gentleman who comes to hear me sing pretty regularly at The Hideaway came to the show last night.  Afterward, he came to me still in tears and just hugged me for about 2 minutes.  He was finally able to compose himself enough to tell me that 6 years ago he & his partner had the same type of discussion as Gideon & Jack.  He found him dead on the floor shortly after.  He had never really dealt with it but said that your play and music helped him better understand what was going on with his partner and in some ways helped him come to some closure.

It's knowing how we reach people and touch their lives that makes what we do all worth it.

Thanks for giving us the vessel to touch and heal!!


The Diva Loves You!!

peace & blessings,

Jimmy and Steve posing outside the theatre before the last show.

Hello! My name is Courtny Potter and I had the pleasure of seeing "The Big Voice" on Friday night (the 27th). We got tickets from Jim, who was guest cast on the show I work on, "BRAM and Alice". Myself and 2 other Production Assistants from the show enjoyed the show SO MUCH!! It is *fantastic*!

I didn't have a chance to say so after the show, we only got to speak briefly with Jim and then we had to leave. But since I had surfed onto your site during the day on Friday (which is swell, and I keep clicking into new parts to read!), I knew I could write you an email to pass on my congratulations and thoughts.

I really loved the show. Even as a practicing Buddhist (who was born into the practice almost 26 years ago now), I found a lot that was still meaningful to me. The journey that the both of you took both personally and professional was amazing. Just listening to yours and Jim's story touched my heart *and* made me roar with laughter. That's my favorite kind of theatre!!

I also wanted to mention that my dad is a lyricist/producer, and I've told him a lot about to show and hope to bring him and my mom to it while it's at the Zephyr. I know they will really enjoy it.

Anyway, thank you SO VERY MUCH for a wonderful evening of theatre! You and Jim are GREAT! Keep up the fabulous work!

Jeramy Peay, the stage manager. Ernie Rojas and Jeramy sharing a laugh.
Ernie spent more than a few nights shooting reference video for us.
Told to me by a woman ouside the theatre who bought both CDs and was still wiping away tears:
I just wanted to let you know that I'm Jewish and I was moved to laughter and tears by your show. I think you bring a wonderful message to the world.
From songwriter Shannon Rubicam:
I have to exclaim a little here about your show. First of
all...wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Rory (my husband) and I were captivated by the storytelling via dialogue and music right off the bat. And partway throught the second act I said to myself, gee I haven't been bored once during this play, I am as interested as I was earlier. That's a good sign! I was entertained, touched and impressed by all of it. Jim is a talented man, with a stage presence that is such a combination of cute, funny, engaging, sly, serious as he glides across the stage. I loved watching his facial expressions move through the various shades of registered emotion.

I loved the way you combined your voices in different ways throughout the show, sometimes singing together in harmony, sometimes trading off lines, or one singing and one talking. I felt involved in your personal stories every step of the way, moved by your tribulations, and laughing often. A very human story, told with a boldness and humor I appreciate, no holding back from either of you.

And Steve, I can hear the church influences in your wonderful chords and melodies, as well as the more standard 'musical' format you've been learning. Your singing is strong, and I love the songs with their natural weave in the dialogue, and the pacing of talk with singing, so easy to absorb. For all the controversial topics you cover in one play, there is not the feeling of trying to be controversial for the sake of intentional provocation, you've avoided that trap by telling an honest story. So cool. It gets under my skin, all of it. My gaaaawwwwwddddddd....d.

You are both on a creative rocket ship, and isn't it amazing what we find we are here to do. Or maybe, it's just what we do with what we are given on this planet, and with these lives of ours. Your journey, for both of you, has been a conscious and courageous one, and the fact that you are compelled to explore this generous and entertaining way to share it with everyone is a gift to all. I am picturing you having great success with, and cannot wait to see both your plays back to back**, it makes sense to do that. So bravo to you both, I LOVED seeing you! I am enjoying going back over the scenes in my mind, and felt high as I drove home from seeing the play.

You rock! I am proud to know you.


**Shannon is referring to my telling her about about my ultimate goal of doing TLS and The Big Voice in repertory somewhere.

Jimmy and Steve in the dressing room mirror before the show.

From Ron the night before he saw it:

Steve, I love this musical!

I didn't know what to expect, especially since your working title while I was still reading the TLS list daily was GOD: THE MUSICAL. I purposely didn't read anything about it before last night, because I wanted to see the show with an untainted eye.

I've never seen anything like it. It is like a one-man show told by two men. That you can each play characters from each other's past turns the familiar one-man show format into something entirely new and special. That we can follow each of you through the years prior to your meeting and see the parallels in your stories makes your meeting incredibly special. That we can see the good and bad in your relationship following your meeting is very powerful.

I'm so happy and delighted that I enjoyed THE BIG VOICE as much as I did. I expected it to be something entirely different, and I went to the theatre tonight to support you and Jimmy as my friends, but not expecting much from the play. I can't tell you how happy I was that it turned out to be so good! It is an amazing musical, and I hope to bring lots of friends with me to see it

From his note the following morning:
Having slept on it, and having WHERE IS GOD? playing and replaying in my head this morning, I have to say that there isn't a thing I'd change in the show.

I think the thing that strikes me most this morning is that you conveyed your separate experiences of God in a way that was central to the musical, but never overbearing or preachy. I never felt like the show was about God, but more just your individual stories and the story of your marriage. I never really thought about the God aspect of it that much, until I slept on it. In the light of morning, it is obvious that it was ALL about God, and it has me thinking today. Maybe that is the play's greatest strength. It totally entertained me last night, and it makes me think today. It's pretty remarkable that you could do that with this work.

More telling was the experience of the older couple sitting to my left. They had seen TLS, but they see so much theatre that they had forgotten what it was about. I reminded them of the plot, and then they remembered how much they enjoyed it. They don't know you guys' story, and TBV both entertained them and was meaningful to them. The old fellow also had dreamed of becoming a minister. He said that all your questions of faith hit home with him, both from your perspective and from Jimmy's. And we all enjoyed how the music was woven into the stories.

Kelly and Jeramy. Steve reading the script each night before the show.

From David Ehrenstein, noted author, film critic and political commentator on a public discussion board:
Hamp and I had an utterly delightful time last night at Steve's new show The Big Voice: God or Merman?. Starring Steve and Jim it's all about Steve and Jim: how a Baptist and a Catholic came together and resolved their own personal and religious crises through musicals. They share my belief that there's next to nothing that can't be converted into a musical -- though I'm not looking forward to George W. Bush's forthcoming production The Road to Baghdad. No Bob, no Bing, and no Dorothy Lamour. Who needs it? ...

Steve and Jim have smiles on their lips and songs in their hearts. Very big hearts.

Worth seeing for Jim's Act II entrance [in costume] alone.

(That's the "money quote" guys.)

One thing you should know, when Act I ended a woman seated in front of me turned and asked "Is there going to be a second Act? Is this intermission?" And I replied "Of course. can't you hear what they're playing over the P.A. system? It's "Everything's Coming Up Roses." That's the last word in first act finale music!"

From Abby, a student at Hebrew University:
I just wanted to let you know again how much Jesse and I enjoyed the show on Saturday night.  It was wonderful to see the interplay between you and Jim, the love that you share shines through every moment.  In addition, so much of what you said was doubly meaningful since I had just learned of the death of one of my close friends due to HIV related causes earlier in the afternoon, and the next day Jesse found out that his grandmother passed away.  I know that both of us found strength in your words about Gods hands being our hands etc.  The refrain was echoing in my head for most of the drive home and Jesse has taken your CD with him to Vermont where the funeral will be held.  I hope that the show continues to be sucessful and that you continue to have fun performing it.

Take Care

I brought my camera with me when we took our bows
at the last performance.
This is from Jim Talbot, who posted this on a bulletin board for theatregoers:
The bottom line here, is that this kind of thing doesn¹t get any better. Two gay men sing and "wit" you through their lives and their relationship with the highest degree of skill, intelligence, and a surfeit of heart. It all works to perfection: the structure of the piece, the concept of sending up religion and show business at the same time, and the bare stage, bare-it-all, bare-bones approach. In a seamless conclusion, they bring us to the gentle truth that we all seem to avoid: that you don't know what life's all about 'til you get there. And you won't get there, unless you go here.
So, please go. These are two real pros: on stage and off.
Now, you might ask, were ALL the remarks we got praise? Actually, yes. Some people pointed out things that either didn't make sense or thought could be clearer plotwise or theme-wise, so we quickly rewrote them to make them clearer and more consistent. But even my most hyper-critical friends were all ablaze with nothing but praise.

This week -- Oh, I guess this is an announcement -- we go into the studio to record a cast album! No, we don't have an official record label yet cuz we haven't invited any record execs yet. So, Jimmy and I are going to Espy Studio and I'm going to burn the CDs right here at home. This CD will be for the "Help Jimmy and Steve pay the taxes, bills, rent and feed the cats" fund, a very worthy cause.

It will include the scenes from the show that include the songs. And yes, I'm going to burn the CDs right here on my home computer. Thank God for modern technology. Bonus Round Records might not be the biggest record label in the world but we do put out some good music!

Meanwhile, I spent Monday working on the new flyer with a new picture and all the new information. Please book your airline flights immediately. This new production begins October 12 at the Zephyr Theatre in Hollywood. 12 performances. Very limited seating. You don't want to miss history being made right in front of your very eyes, do you??

October 1-5, 2002.
The Bargain Birthday.
For my birthday this year, Jimmy cut out grocery coupons and we went shopping for groceries at Ralph's. Our favorite game is "Stop the cash register." You see, if you save too much money off your grocery bill, it causes the cash register to stop, which then requires the manager to go over, insert his key and "okay" it. Normally, we don't achieve this monumental victory unless there's a big sale on chicken but it never hurts to try.

But, the chicken wasn't on sale so we did not "stop the cash register." However, we did take $97 (1/3) off our bill. Some items we got virtually for free. Love those double coupons.

That morning, however, when I went downstairs to greet Jimmy (after spending all my early morning time on the computer) he looked terrible. "I didn't sleep all night. I kept having nightmares that no one knew our show was open, so nobody came!"

It's true that we have set ourselves an impossible task: opening a show in Los Angeles with nary a single dime. This means the only publicity we will get is what they call "free press." But free press isn't free. In order to get free press, you have to hire a very expensive press agent and let that person start working the phones several months in advance.

But in the Bonus Round, time speeds up. You don't wait around for people to come up with money. You write it, debut it, workshop it, record it and produce it. So what if this has happened with a three month spread? The other night someone asked me how long we'd been working on The Big Voice. I said, "Two months." She said, "Shhh. Don't tell anyone. It's the best show I've seen all year. Make them think you spent years working on it."

Well, in a way we have. I began writing the songs for this during the rehearsals of TLS-LA. The first one, A Simple Faith, has been a standard in my repertoire ever since. Then, slowly the other songs  began coming and by the time Jimmy and I dreamed up the "setting" for them -- a two man autobiographical show -- last February, we were ready to hit the ground running.

So, yeah, if I tell people this show has been five years in the making, I'm not really lying.

And yes, I really did to the grocery store for my birthday. But I was with Jimmy. And that made it the nicest birthday I've ever had. Things might be tough for us right now, with the collapse of the El Portal and other financial setbacks, but we have each other. Who could ask for anything more?

[ Book 2-10 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]

© 1996-2002 by Steve Schalchlin.
You have permission to print from this diary and distribute for use in support groups, schools, or to just give to a friend. You do not have permission to sell it.