The Stillness
Volume 3 Book 6 Part 1 of
Living in the Bonus Round
Abingdon Theatre, New York City
The Abingdon Theatre. New York City.
(A merged photo.)

[ 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 ]
September 10, 2003.
Matzo Ball Soup and a Laugh.
Two days before we get to New York for the second series of NYC performances, I get a sore throat, green gunk. But no fever, no night sweats. Still, my head is throbbing and I feel terrible.

New York was cold and rainy. We decided to go to the Polish Tea Room because as we explained to our friend with us, it's near Times Square, it's really cheap -- meaning it's a diner where actors hang out -- and they have the best matzo ball soup in town. I really wanted chicken matzo ball soup.

We're not sitting there three minutes when I look over my shoulder and in walks Jackie Mason (yes, the famous comedian). I don't know him personally but he catches me looking at him. I smile. He smiles, almost out of recognition. I smile at him. He smiles back. Oh god. I wonder if he thinks I smiled at him because he should know me.)

He starts over to our table. Now I'm mortified. What am I gonna say? Hi! I was smiling at you because you're Jackie Mason, not because I know you.

Instead, he leans over to us and asks, "You in the business?"

Jimmy says, "Yeah."

He smiles, looks down, TAKES A FRENCH FRY OFF MY PLATE and sits the table next to us. I start laughing. These old comedians. They love making someone laugh. They can smell a laugher, it's like blood to a shark. I realize that if he says even a single word to us, I will be on the floor. And I think he can tell it too.

Jackie Mason steals a french fry from composer Steve Schalchlin.
This is a posed shot, of course, recreating the french fry-stealing moment.
Look closely at his hand!

On the wall just behind Jimmy I see a poster for a new Jackie Mason show opening on Broadway. I look at the address. It's next door. He's doing a show next door. Ah, that's why he's here.

Jimmy says, "Your stage manager is a good friend of mine."

"Oh?" Jackie asks in perfect Jackie Mason voice. "You a stage manager?" he asks Brochu.

I laugh out loud at the thought of Jimmy as a stage manager.

Jimmy says, "No, I'm a playwright. He was the stage manager for our musical The Last Session." Jimmy points at me. "He's the composer."

Jackie crinkles up his eyebrows and cocks his head at me, "Oh? You a composer?"

I respond with all the articulateness of a person being tickled.

Jimmy asks, "Would you give him a note?"

Jackie: You want me to give him a note?

Jimmy: Yes, we live in Los Angeles and I don't have his address.

Jackie: He's your friend and you don't have his address?

Then Jackie Mason launches into a Jackie Mason routine, "He's your best friend except you never talk to him, you don't know his address, you love him, you never heard of him, you see me, suddenly he's your best friend, you love him, you've known each other since high school..."

Now I'm laughing loud. The louder I laugh, the longer the routine lasts.

Laughter and hot matzo ball chicken soup in the Polish Tea Room on a rainy afternoon in New York City.


Lori, Mandy, Jenna, Aunt Michael and a very sweet intern named Richard got us through the readings. I sucked on tea, had a kleenex box available and croaked my way through. Outside on the sidewalk, Mandy sat bravely in the rain and showed everyone how to find the second floor (there's construction going on). Thanks Mandy (and everyone -- Lori did I see you carrying that keyboard by yourself??).

Mandy sat in front of this opening, directing people to the elevator.
To the right was the "nicer" doorway but it led to stairs.
(I didn't get a pic of Mandy. Sorry about that.)

Past the spot where Mandy was set up.

Across the street.

Abingdon Theatre with (I think) Michael, Richard and Lori.

Aunt Michael and hunky Richard.

Jenna the stage manager.

The performances were difficult for me, only because I was not in full voice. I tried to save what voice I could during the duets, sometimes dipping below Jimmy's note rather than above it. I've kinda kept away from hearing too many details from the producers about the reaction from the invited audiences. I'll give you news as it comes up. Here are a few shots I took in the lobby:

Amy with friend (and Steve).

Noted cabaret singer/pianist Steve Ross.

Ruth and Lisa.

Jim with great choreographer Donald Sadler & Bill Boggs, TV host.

With Amy Coleman & Stephen Bienskie.

With producer Nancy Nagel Gibbs.

And speaking of news, there's been a curious new energy swirling around The Last Session. London calling? An actor in the West End named Ramin Karimloo recently sang "At Least I Know What's Killing Me?" for a benefit. Suddenly there are several producers poking around. They believe that the Brits would love the more serious themes of TLS. Maybe its time has finally come!

I took a month-long sabbatical from the online diary because I took a month-long sabbatical from the Internet. I'm not saying the Internet is inherently bad, per se. Nor am I even implying that what I do on the Internet is useless. Far from it. My passion in life is communication. I write songs to communicate. I write a diary to communicate. Communication is good. Internet communicates. So, Internet is good. Me no ranting contra net.

But once I get started on the net, I can't stop. And I have much music work that needed to be done. I needed to write out the score for The Big Voice, for one thing. This is not easy for me. Even with midi equipment out the yin yang, it drives me crazy to play something the exact same way twice.


This is my dilemma. I need to write out a "playable" score that others can see, read and play. But I am an improvisationist as a musician. I work best with chord names. My brain does not see "notes." It sees patterns. Chord structures rather than riffs. What I write today is not what I would play tomorrow.

For TLS, Bob Stillman just took my basic stuff and zipped it up a bit. Then they had that score transcribed.

But I can't count on always having a musician of the calibre of Bob Stillman playing. This time around I need to deliver a much more professional score. I needed to have it FINISHED. And to deliver a score, I needed to spend a LOT of time. There. Not here.


So, I needed to go cold turkey and I did.

However, this was not because I had some kind of willpower. It was because I went away to a place where the Internet does not exist. It was out in the physical world.

And in that physical world I had a piano. A real live, wooden, honest to God piano. (Insert story of how the sound of the piano brought healing to Steve's body and no, it didn't cure me of AIDS. But it made me feel better. That counts. Music, for me, is physical therapy.)

And speaking of physical therapy, in this world to which I retreated, I had access to healthy food and a place to exercise my body.

It was great. And, of course, after eating all this healthy food and taking care of myself, I came back with the sore throat. It has lingered so I've gone to see my doctor here at home. He says there is no infection. It might simply be post nasal. But he took tests and we'll find out soon.

The retreat was amazing. I got SO much done. I felt so good. It was like training as an athlete. Every morning early, I would go to this little room, shut the door and play. Play for hours. Just feeling the sound and the vibrations. Singing and crying. Laughing and talking to myself. I was a complete lunatic. There's probably a whole musical in there, too. Then I'd hit the exercise room, eat a great breakfast, take a nap, work on the score, take a nap, etc. etc.

[ 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.