The Stillness
Volume 3 Book 6 Part 9 of
Living in the Bonus Round

[ Book 3-5 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] - [ Book 3-7 ]
November 24, 2003.
From a longtime friend in Chicago:
"I'm just guessing that you're not much of a baseball fan, and in truth, since the 1994 walkout, neither am I. But I was touched this year by the behavior of Ron Santo, the Cubs fantastic third baseman from the '60s who also served as their color commentator during most of their near-pennant year last season. I say "most" because he's been plagued with diabetes in recent years and emergency surgery kept him out of the broadcast booth during the playoff run. He lost one leg and then the other over the past few years, and endured other ailments, and through it all has just retained the most upbeat, positive attitude. A complete class act, ya know? So, despite this, he didn't get elected to the Hall of Fame again this year, which he took with the usual stoicism. But then the Cubs finally retired his number and he said (and I paraphrase), 'The Hall of Fame would be nice, but as far as I'm concerned, having my number retired by the Cubs is even better.' So I'm sorry you didn't get an Ovation Award, whatever that is. But Janet retired your number."
From an old friend Doug in New York:
"Jim, what a great round-up of last night! Steve deserves an ovation for his honest, witty, and moving commentary.

"Sorry you didn't take home the big prize for THE BIG VOICE, but your show lost to Lorna Luft paying tribute to her mother. After Hollywood denied Judy  Garland an Oscar (almost unthinkable!), do you think they had the guts to rob her daughter of an award?!! Please -- even show biz people have a conscience (though it doesn't surface too often)."

Don Shirley did indeed quote me in the LA Times. Since we are going to be traveling so much, we stopped our subscription. So this morning I ran out and grabbed someone else's copy to read, and sure enough, there I am in the last two paragraphs. He thankfully got my quote right. He quoted me as saying, "If it's not a world premiere then it shouldn't have been nominated." He also said I joking remarked, "It's hard to do an Ethel show in a town full of Judy queens." (Another nominee was a show called "Judy's Scary Little Christmas".)

"What do you guys do next?"
Jimmy and I have been trying to map out a plan of attack from this point on. It starts with The Big Voice, of course, because that's our newest show and our ultimate goal is to have a New York production. So we've been diligently putting together packages and promotional items for the show so that we can "sell" it to more theatres. In fact, we're very close to having some San Francisco dates ready.

Readers of this diary can help. If you are connected to a local theatre, tell them about us. Until we pull together a New York production, we're pretty much willing to go anywhere.

"What's so special about New York?"
It's a simple matter of economics. Large regional theatres (and smaller ones), according to our agent, "won't book anything that hasn't played New York." In other words, for much of the theatre world, unless and until you play New York, you don't really exist. So, in order to get the best regional theatres, you need New York to make you look "legitimate." At least, that's what they say.

When The Last Session was born, we workshopped it in Los Angeles, but we didn't officially "open" it as a production until we got to New York. The producers were constantly playing down the "L.A." aspect of the story, thinking that New Yorkers were too snobby to like something that wasn't "born" in New York. Or worse, born in Los Angeles! (Lowest of the low to them).

Once we played New York, Sam French picked it up, Cherry Lane issued a vocal selections book and by the time it arrived in L.A. with a fresh coat of paint and some changed dialogue, it took L.A. by storm. People are still talking about it.

With The Big Voice, however, we took a chance and let the critics in. What we didn't have, however, was a marketing/publicity machine. Everyone close to the production knew this. So in L.A. we were essentially invisible to the media and vast majority of Angelenos, even to the theatre community. Our thinking was that we'd get some good reviews, work the show, find a producer and make a plan from there.

What we didn't expect, in a ZILLION years, was the award from the LA Drama Critics Circle for Best Score of the Year followed by the Ovation nominations. No flying under the radar for us! The critics and the award committees found us without that big promotional/publicity team. It's a great ego boost, of course, but that doesn't automatically turn into money.

Michael Alden, who sponsored our New York staged readings, is not prepared to mount an off-Broadway production. Not yet, anyway. (That takes a lot of money). He reported to us that the investors and theatre owners who saw the readings RAVED about it, but that, in these troubled financial times, they were afraid they wouldn't be able to draw a crowd with us in the lead roles.

It's just business, of course. And it's their money but if they are working from fear rather than from passion, then they shouldn't come near the show anyway. Frankly, I think these producers should give New Yorkers more credit than that. The response at the readings was over the top! It's not good enough that we have a great show? We also have to have Brad and Jen on stage with us?

So what it boils down to is Jimmy and Steve are on their own, copying videotapes, making packages for theatres, mailing them out, etc.

We have to make it happen. No one is going to do it for us. I remember long ago I wrote a diary entry and made the comment that "nothing just happens." And that's still true. Nothing just happens. You have to physically go out and MAKE things happen for yourself in this business. The good news is that there are people (like Ken Werther mentioned in the previous diary) who are VERY passionate about The Big Voice, who have told us they'd do anything to help.

So the search is on for people of passion who believe in the show and are determined to see it brought to its full success. But meanwhile, in addition to "selling" ourselves and our play, we are also creating two new pieces. You can see why I sometimes need to just take these breaks from the Internet to focus solely on either writing or promotion. No matter how many awards shows we go to, the rent must be paid!

November 25 - 27, 2003.
More Ship Pics & BBC.
Today on Thanksgiving I am thinking about all the friends and family who have kept me alive for the past 10 years. You know who you are. Thank you. My goal in life is to make you proud of me.

I was also thinking how thankful I am that we get to travel by way of Jimmy's lectures. We don't get money from it, but we do get to eat a lot. Want to see what Jimmy looks like when he's delivering his lectures?

Projected behind him is the picture of him and Ethel
back when Jimmy was a rakish young actor.

Jimmy and I recreating a pose from our trip to Alaska cruise
back when I was dying. I'm not dying now.
I'm indestructible.

Jimmy being greeted by the local wildlife.

Steve's "office" on the ship.
With Phillipa Healy, a brilliant singer from London's West End.
She sang two solo concerts.

On the ship, I spend almost every available moment working on music. This is my morning breakfast nook. I plant myself there every morning because a) It has an electrical outlet and b) there's a breakfast buffet. If you think I eat a lot at home, you should see me on a ship. And the best part is I don't have to cook or shop. I show up. I eat.

Afternoon tea on the ship. The caffeine make Jimmy a bit nutty.
Notice I still have my laptop.

Creatively, this works out great because I never have to lose my concentration even for one moment. I can just stay focused on whatever it is I'm writing and take the work to wherever I am. By the way, I got very funny looks from the other passengers. See, they're all on vacation. They can't imagine why someone would bring a laptop on vacation.

There were other great faces on board too.

Concert pianist Doug Montgomery, Ferdinand, Danny from Austria.

Bettine Clemen was a flute soloist
who showed animal videos while she played.
I dragged her into my lair and we jammed on Steve songs.

My morning piano work-out.

The REALLY great thing about being on the ship is that there are pianos all over the place. I have a set schedule. Up at 3am. Grab a couple of glasses of water with ice, head for the most private piano bar I can find. Play music and sing at the top of my lungs.

A cruise ship at 3am is a whole different universe. All the passengers are asleep. But someone is up. It's the night crew! These workers sleep all day and then clean, polish, vacuum and wash things all night. The ship is eerily quiet then. But imagine a job where you are out at sea and you never hear the music and celebration that goes on!


Rolly became my buddy. Every morning, after I had been working for two or three hours, Rolly would come in. And he usually came in singing my songs! (One of the passengers who gets up early said he witnessed several of the night cleaners all huddled around the saloon doorway listening to the songs. I suddenly saw his Norman Rockwell image in my head of heads crowded together and feet tapping).

Rolly, from the Philippines, and I became good friends. We talked about the amazing sunrises. "Did you see the sunrise this morning?" And I found out from him that, unlike the horrible Greek ship I had previously worked on where the workers were treated like slaves, this particular line treats its workers with respect. They are a happy crew. That meant a lot to me. I've worked in the bowels of a ship. I know how terrible it can be to have a nasty officer staff.

Rolly's favorite song was "Song Of Surrender," so I brought down the video camera on the last day, set it up on a table and I taped the two of us singing a duet. I told him that our next trip would be on a different ship and that I probably wouldn't see him for a year. He got a bit of a sad look on his face, but then raised up proudly and declared, "You'll never find another Rolly!"

The BBC interviewing me at home.

Back at home yesterday, a very good looking man from the BBC came over and interviewed me for a World AIDS Day broadcast. It will be on the net as well as going out over the air. I mentioned that TLS is getting a lot of new attention in London. In fact, West End producer Tristan Baker has been corralled into the project by the young singer I mentioned previously Ramin Karimloo who is in Phantom there now.

So, I'm beginning to feel more and more like a London-TLS is a distinct possibility. Nothing signed. No deals made yet. Just a lot of passion being thrown around. And that's a very good place to start.

Anyway, Thanksgiving will be a quiet day at home with the cats. And maybe to see a movie. Got a free turkey from Ralph's supermarket, too! Had to go back, though, and get it cuz they forgot to offer it to us when we first bought groceries after getting home. ("Hey! I got $150 worth of groceries last week and I didn't get my free turkey!"). Thank goodness we kept the receipt.

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

© 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.