I Married Ethel Merman
Volume 3 Book 2 Part 6 of
Living in the Bonus Round

Jim Brochu and John Sparks in front of the French Market
(here in sunny California).

[ Book 3-1 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] -- [ Book 3-3 ]
January 1-6, 2003.
A Postponement, A Critique and a Magical Cat.
Poor Ann Marie sounded desperate in her email: "Would you guys hate us if we wanted to postpone the Rochester opening for two weeks? The problem is..."

I already knew what the problem was before I read another word. All last week we would turn on CNN and hear the announcement of yet ANOTHER huge winter snowstorm blowing through the northeast. And not JUST the northeast...

"I'm standing here in Rochester, New York where they've just received another 24 inches of snow."

"Snowiest winter in recent memory." "The banks of snow are piled so high the snow plows can barely get through."

Ann Marie said the theatres there are hurting badly because even if people WANTED to go out, it's barely even possible. Storm warnings are telling people to stay in and not drive unless absolutely necessary.

And here we are in sunny California...

It's so warm and sunny here, the thought of trying to negotiate the Rochester winter was making us tremble in our sandals. But in preparation for the move to New York, we met with John Sparks who is one of our theatrical mentors. We met John years ago when I coordinated a musical theatre workshop at National Academy of Songwriters. (And what a class! Marie Cain and Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell were both participants).

The purpose of this meeting was to hear John tear The Big Voice down to its foundations so we could begin tackle rewrites. What we love about John is that he's brilliant at finding moments that don't work (or could be better) and then making suggestions on how they could be improved. Scary stuff, but necessary in the long journey toward making a new show the best that it can be.

I brought a notebook and was ready to make lots of notes.

He said, "Well, you guys did it again. I am amazed at how you're able to take difficult material and somehow manage to get through it and make the audience feel so happy and inspired at the end. You've done it again with this show."

He added, "This piece is performance art. There were places where I had no idea what you were going to do next. It was so personal that it's almost uncomfortable and I kept thinking you were going to take me over the edge. It was almost scary. Now that's great theatre."

This was fine, of course. Love hearing the good stuff but what we were hungry for was the criticism, how to make it better.

"I honestly don't have any notes. You make reference to a character in the second act that I think maybe you could allude to in the first. In act two, you have several ballads in a row and when you started them my natural instinct was to think, 'Okay, too many ballads in a row...' but then I got caught up in them and forgot my objection."

French Market interior.

My notebook stayed empty. There was nothing to write down. And this from a man who I've seen give pages of notes to writers putting together new shows! I was gratified but almost disappointed. The one question I had for him was whether we should include any TLS songs in the section that talks about that production. He said, "As I was sitting there and saw where you were headed, the one thing I was dreading was having to sit through songs I already knew. I was so happy that you made this piece all original. I didn't want retreads of old material. I wanted new and different. And that's what you gave me."

The next day, Jeramy Peay came over to deliver the stage manager's script so we could take it to Rochester. It felt so bittersweet.

That's the one thing about theatre that drives ya nuts. You form these intimate working relationships with these really great people. And then when the show is over, they leave you and you never really get back together again the same way. He is, however, cast in a new play at the Lex so we hope to see him in that.

Jeramy Peay

Our little two week break has now been stretched to four weeks. The good news is my music computer is fixed so I can work on new material. How did it get fixed?

Steinbeck the cat.

For weeks now, Ernie and I have been taking things out, reinstalling the operating system, putting things back in, restarting, stopping restarting... it's been horrendous. So how did it get fixed? Jimmy and I were sitting up here together doing something when Steinbeck, ever wanting attention, walked across the keyboard and mysteriously the computer starts whirring and clicking. Seconds later, Windows comes up.

All fixed.

All because the cat walked across the keyboard. Doncha love modern technology?

Thurber & Steinbeck caught cat-napping.
[ Book 3-1 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] -- [ Book 3-3 ]
© 1996-2003 by Steve Schalchlin.
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