Theatre Camp!
Volume 3 Book 3 Part 5 of
Living in the Bonus Round

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[ Book 3-2 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] -- [ Book 3-4 ]
February 4-6, 2003
The Time Before Pt. 3
It's "the time before" again. Tonight and this coming weekend the Downstairs Cabaret Theatre here in Rochester is almost sold out. Next week, we do our show in Manhattan for producers and investors -- and I just wanted to mark this moment in time. And to top it off, the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle has nominated our tiny show for Best Musical Score.
Last night I dreamed was the receptionist at a lunatic asylum and I was trying to convince Uma Thurman to stay. I looked into her huge, beautiful eyes with unconditional love and through the power of that love alone, she stopped running away and instead stayed where she could get good care. As the dream developed, it turned out that the whole thing was a TV show like West Wing with lots of characters and that as my shift ended and all the women were sitting around a dining table, Jimmy (yes, MY Jimmy) came to pick me up. That was when the Uma character realized I was gay but she still believed in my love for her.

As Jimmy and I walked down the hallway, it became real life again and I began to cry with absolute happiness and joy that I had a network job as an actor.

Last evening Jimmy went online and made bids on a cheap hotel in Manhattan and AMAZINGLY secured the VERY ONE where a young British theatrical producer he's been corresponding with is staying. Then he got us our plane tickets. And now it's set.

Next Tuesday Feb 11, 3pm, at the Chashama Theater, 135 West 42nd Street, we will be performing our backer's audition / staged reading for a bundle of investors and producers in order to bring The Big Voice into Manhattan for a run in New York.

It's the time before. Once again, all the possibilities lie ahead of us and who knows what will come. The first time I wrote about "the time before," it was just before our first staged reading in Laguna. No one had heard The Big Voice except for Anthony Barnao, our director and a few invited guests. I dreamed big dreams back then, wondering what would happen. Where we would go. It was glorious to just imagine the possiblities.

That reading turned into a workshop which turned into a production in LA which turned into rave review, one award and (now) two award nominations.

This time, with all that behind us, we are looking at a sold-out weekend and a backer's audition in New York City. Will we crash? Will we burn? Will we wow them?

Who knows? All I know is that do so love "the time before."

Feb. 7 - 10, 2003.
Second Weekend in Rochester.
Remember how I told you we are now a nominee of the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards? We've been asked to open their awards ceremony March 10th at the beautiful Colony Theatre in Burbank. Very happy news.

Friday night, we were very excited because our friend Bud had arranged for us to have a full house of people from Spiritus Christi Church, a catholic congregration that, to put it in theological terms, are in "schism" from the Roman church. In fact, Friday morning, the big headline in the Rochester Democrat-Chronicle newspaper was that they were ordaining their second woman into the priesthood. (They also have this habit of affirmng gay and lesbian couples into full fellowship with the congregation which is why all this schisming is happening).

Well, you talk about an explosive performance! As Jimmy told his story of wanting to be the first Brookyn-born Pope and his subsequent disappointment with the church, I thought the place would come unglued. This was THEIR story but personalized in the life of Jimmy.

Jimmy poses on stage.
"I wanna be a show girl!"

There were times when we had to simply stop the show. Not only that, but because the underlying issues are so volatile and fresh for them, it was a deeply emotional show, too. For all of us. I found myself both losing it onstage, breaking out into laughter myself (which, of course, only got them laughing all the hardr), but breaking out into tears as I realized how deeply all of us were being affected. (And to top it off, Jimmy had the presence of mind to videotape this performance so it's all there on tape).

Saturday, the audience was more "normal" but the response was almost as raucous. And since Saturday night was also the night the major city critic was in the audience, that was good for us. The review should be coming out this Tuesday online (the day of our New York reading). It really is an extraordinary experience to be here and to be "listening" to the audience.

Sunday afternoon, the audience, as is usual for a matinee, was a little older but only a wee bit quieter as far as the laughter is concerned. But the silences were deep -- and Jimmy says you can always tell if you have an audience by how deep the silences are during the emotional moments. We saw more than a few people shedding tears. Almost everyone stayed for the talkback afterwards. But it was so strange. Here is this room full of people and none of them had a question. I finally said, "Have we stunned you into silence?" Eventually the conversation got rolling but it reminds me so much of the emotional impact of The Last Session. People don't want to leave. They want to sit and bathe in the moment of what just happened.

Sunday night, I received this email from Bill, lay minister from the Lake Ave. Baptist Church:

What a beautiful gift you and Jimmy gave to us all this afternoon at the Cabaret! Just want to say "thank you" once again.

You are both blessings from God, and, in a very real sense, you are in a ministry stronger than those of many preachers who are preaching from pulpits each Sunday. If in all of my 28 years in ministry I could have touched people as you have touched us and made them feel LOVED, EMBRACED, and WORTHWHILE as both of you do, I would feel so rewarded.

How happy I was that our friends Cyndi and Darleen were able to be with us! They are a wonderful couple whose Union Service I just performed at Lake Avenue this past Thanksgiving. They were both moved to tears by what you gave us today.

The mixture of comedy and seriousness was so wonderful!

One other man -- a man walking with a cane -- said, "You gave me so much to think about. I can't even process it all. My head is bursting. I'm going to be spending the rest of the week just analyzing what happened to me in there. Thank you."

I got that same response from one of the volunteer ushers. A woman who had seen the show the night before. She said, "I can't believe how you're able to make me laugh so hard and then cry. It was exactly how I felt after The Last Session."

I told her, "Yeah, we kinda specialize in that sort of thing."

So, it's 5am. I have to wake Jimmy up soon. We are on our way to New York City. Tomorrow we perform for an entirely different audience. This time we want Broadway!

Our poster is nearly life sized!

I also received a note from Stanley Schab, managing editor of _Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly_ published by the Center for Biographical Research at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa asking permission to include excerpts and the title page from my diary in their quarterly. He said:

Laurie McNeill, who teaches at the University of British Columbia, particularly chose your web site to discuss because "with its photographs, professional layout, and links to personal and professional parts of the site, it provides a good image of the multiple identities and functions that on-line diaries can perform." The issue is due out May 1, which means we should be sending you your copy early in May.

How exciting! I feel so literary! This is not the first time I've been honored in this way. Recently, a professor from Stanford University included excerpts in a new textbook on HIV/AIDS studies.

[ Book 3-2 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] -- [ Book 3-4 ]
© 1996-2003 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.