Houston Texas
Volume 3 Book 4 Part 10 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(The Big Voice Chronicles)

Jerry Atwood throws a theatre party.
[ Book 3-3 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] -- [ Book 3-5 ]
April 17-19, 2003.
Closing Weekend.
An email from a guy named Jerry Atwood:
Dear Steve, I have a gaggle going to see you guys this Friday, and we can't wait because of all the great things we've heard about your show.  We're heading back to the hacienda afterward and we'd love to have you guys join us.  I live very close to the theater. Generally we wind up round the piano howling at the moon until 2 or 3, but it's quite acceptable if you bow out before the bow-wowing!
The last Friday at Stages Repertory in Houston was explosive. This was the night Jerry brought his theatre party. From the first line, they were laughing and applauding. Karen the stage manager said there was five minutes of laughter and applause added to the running time. This is the kind of performance you live for.

After the show, we all went over to Jerry's. What a musician this guy is! His set-up is incredible. In the corner of his living room, taking up an entire wall, is a grand piano. The keyboard side is jacked up slightly because beneath the pedals he has organ pedals for playing basslines with his feet. (Notice the rainbow socks!).

To the side of the piano is a drum machine and next to all of that is a full PA system and three live microphones. I had to get on there and play, of course. I played a couple of TLS songs. Many of the people in the room had seen the tiny little production done here several years ago at a theatre called The Little Room Downstairs (which is now sadly defunct) so some of them were singing along.

After I finished, Jerry got up on the piano and I don't think I've ever heard anything like it. To combine the bass pedals with piano and a drum machine, he was MORE than just a one man band. He rocked the house! So did the singers he invited up to sing.

Well, except for this one.

Old friends.
This is Kerry, Hoover's mom and Drew, a friend I made in Arkansas.
(Hoover is the pot-bellied pig who loves my singing.)

I got to meet Greg Brown who directed TLS in Houston several years ago.
He and I became cyberfriends during the production.
This was our first time to meet face to face. He's a sweetheart.

What I loved about the evening was how Jerry let everyone take the spotlight. But just the idea that he gathers folks together for theatre parties and then invites everyone back to his place really creates a wonderful sense of community and encouragement.

Speaking of creating community, several days earlier we were invited to perform for a gathering of a more formal theatre community called the Fresh Arts Coalition. According to Lise Bohn at Stages, it was conceived by this woman, Marita:

Our gathering was at the Warwick Hotel.
There was a green man drinking cocktails.
It's a coalition of smaller and edgier companies that specialize in more offbeat artistic fare. They band together to secure better advertising and promotional opportunities. One of the groups creates intricately decorated cars. Several were parked in the lot. Jimmy and I sang "Us Catholics" followed by "James Robison." (We only had one mic).

The last two shows on Saturday felt very bittersweet. Karen and Mischa worked alone in the booth because Kelly was out sick. The audiences were energetic and responsive which is good because we were exhausted.

More faces from Stages Theatre: Caroline & David.

Just before the matinee, Kenn reported to us that it was the second most successful production of the year. He said that this was quite an achievement considering that it was a single ticket sale show with only a month's advance publicity. He credited not only to the great reviews, but word of mouth.

Up in the dressing room, Kenn got all weepy-eyed. He hugged us and said, "I just love your show and I can't believe I'm not going to get to see it again."

I'm still trying to evaluate my feelings. This all happened so quickly. It was barely two months ago that I received that first email from Gary Teixeira asking us if we would come to Houston to help raise money for the PFLAG/HATCH Student Scholarship Fund. It was only a week later that we had the deal signed and set. And have we already been here three weeks?

It feels like we became a part of a huge, warm, loving family of people who make theatre and create community because they love it and because they really love each other. In The Big Voice, we open with a joke that says, "Religion. Show business. Same thing."

But by the end of the play, our point comes full circle, that for many people, theatre is church. It's has the power to heal just as powerfully, if not more than any traditional house of worship. The writers and performers can't do it alone. It takes is producers who do it and sacrifice because they love it, office staff who toil overtime creatively digging for every promotional opportunity, crew members who won't settle for anything less than total dedication to their work, and audience members who not only show up, but reach out to bring others into the "sanctuary."

This will not be our last time in Houston. Already, we are planning something really special for next year. But no matter what we end up doing, nobody and nothing can take away what happened in this place. The emails are still pouring in. The reverberations are still sounding. Jimmy and I are ready for a well deserved rest.

Looking forward, we will be taking a few weeks off. Then, it's back to Rochester and another backer's audition in Manhattan. Healthwise, I'll be going through some tests and scheduling surgery. So, this isn't the end of anything. We have an offer for Chicago next Spring leading into our projected Off-Broadway run.

But I can tell you now. We are very much going to miss Houston, Texas.

Photo by Bruce Bennett/Stages Repertory Theatre


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