Volume 3 Book 7 Part 8 of
Living in the Bonus Round
Indianapolis Gay Men's Chorus rehearsing.
[ Book 3-6 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]
[ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] [ Pt 15 ] [ Pt 16 ]
February 5, 2004.
Reviews! College! Choir!NUVO, the alt weekly here in Indianapolis came out with their review today. Written by Lisa Gauthier, it's an outright rave.
Best Of contender
I had begun to fear Theatre on the Square might not rise above the slump it has been entrenched in for the past couple years. Though it has presented some good shows, nothing has stood out as, say, a contender for the year-end’s Best Of. The Last Session has changed that.
The Last Session is a play where not only is everything done right, but the whole thing just clicks.
The show was created by life partners Jim Brochu, book, and Steve Schalchin, music and lyrics. It is loosely autobiographical, with Schalchin playing the lead role, which is based on him.
[Description of plot here]
The dialogue is snappy, with Vicki [Julie Powers] and Tryshia [LaTasha Strahan] going for the jugular on more than one occasion. Gideon jumps in with deadpan humor of his own, and the devout Buddy’s [Jon Lambert] floundering in this sea of iniquity is satisfying for anyone who has come up against a “true believer.”
Schalchin’s lyrics aren’t intricate works of art, but the raw intensity and primal honesty of his songs are moving in ways that one can only feel — his music is liquid emotion channeled through verse and keyboard. Schalchin’s voice isn’t perfect, but the fact that it is him — the man who wrote and lived these lyrics — gives his performance the edge that takes it into greatness. Plus, Powers, Strahan and Lambert do excellent duty as leads and backups.
Then there is the completely convincing nature of these actors. The script includes scenes that many can relate to — when the story of how Vicki discovered Gideon’s gayness was told, my best gay friend and I were hooting from the familiarity of the scenario. But a script is just words until someone fleshes it out, and each person on stage is completely in the moment.
As for the ending … well, if you think it is predictable, remember that the important part of a journey is the journey itself. Schalchin’s journey is truth, beauty and love embodied on stage. I dare you to see this show and not be moved by it.
The review in the Indianapolis Star by Peter Satzmary wasn't quite as glowing, but he did recommend it."Schalchlin brings endearing commitment to his character, Gideon, a gay singer/songwriter who, dying of the disease, decides to record a farewell album over one long day and kill himself the next. I'm not sure if Schalchlin acts or "does" himself. Regardless, the keyboardist was born for the role."On the more critical side, he says:"I consider "The Last Session" more testament than art. Paradoxically, it lacks originality, insight and nerve. And Schalchlin-the-star suggests Gideon's wryness, but not mortality. Is that too much to expect? Intimate and heartfelt, "The Last Session" winds up a touching but minor pleasure.""A few tunes rise above the rest. In the raw ballad "The Group," Gideon describes fellow patients who unnerved him in counseling. And the sarcastic "Friendly Fire" compares medical side effects to unintended military casualties."The ensemble sang adequately at the preview. The locals blended well with Schalchlin. Julie A. Powers as Vicki and LaTasha Strahan as Tryshia sharpened their edges yet softened them at the right spots, too. Jon Lambert shifted between righteous and unsure as Buddy. Meredith Granger kept up as the sly, vexed engineer."He says the piece "misses the deadly serious implications but finds the comedy and tenderness.I wrote Peter a note thanking him for the nice words, but questioned him further about his feelings in seeing me doing the piece. He responded, "It's a fascinating issue, I think: How to make (serious) light of someone battling as the character does. ... And how a performer takes on such a role -- especially when the performer is the author, the author of a loosely autobiographical piece! To me, it'd make an interesting paper for the Modern Language Association for a doctoral candidate in English or theater or even psychology."
"The Last Session" can't truly end happily ever after. But inspiring, likeable Schalchlin endures. Life and death go on."
I'm not sure I understand what he means by "how to make (serious) light of someone..." but I think it has to do with the humorous tone of the evening. Making light of someone battling disease? Is that what we're doing? I seriously don't think so. On the other hand, I do agree that it's confusing if the audience doesn't "see" mortality.
Someone close to the production thought his comment about TLS lacking "originality" was a bit off. "When was the last time you saw a show that took place in a recording studio?? And lack of nerve?? Honey, this thing is ALL nerve."
But that's the thing about TLS. It sets the bar high for itself. Some critics feel it hits its goals and some feel it just misses.
None of these reviews, though, can capture the electricity in the room during the performances.
After the weekend was over, I've spent my time mostly resting, eating and doing a few personal appearances. I told you about the radio program Saturday morning. On Wednesday, our beloved stage manager Chandra picked me up and took me over to University of Indianapolis, which is a United Methodist University. It was for some students in the theatre department.
University of Indianapolis.
Stage Manager Chandra DeNap.
Stupidly, I forgot to whip out my camera during the seminar. We were on the huge stage of their campus theatre. I was sitting at a grand piano and the students were all sitting in chairs around me. It was very informal. I told them the basic story of how TLS came into being, how we started as a workshop in LA, went to NY, ending up off-Broadway, etc. I told them a bit of my personal history as a band musician who learned theatre music in the piano bars in Manhattan. They asked great questions about how to workshop their plays, rewriting... all the stuff that you learn in the process of putting shows together. We had a great time.
After the class, I zoomed up to the Broadway United Methodist Church to visit the Indianapolis Gay Men's Chorus, which has over 50 guys in it. I sat in the back row and just read along. They sounded magnificent. I love choral music anyway. Then I stood up and told them about our TLS production -- and that the LA Gay Men's Chorus is going to perform "When You Care" in their Spring Gala Concert.
This is a very hunky choir.
These fresh-faced Indiana boys are very handsome.
Far right is my friend Jeff.
The best thing that happened this past weekend were surprise visits by old friends. Danny and Karl from the TLS list drove 4 hours from Michigan to see the show. Then they turned around and drove home that night. When I saw them I screamed like a girl and hugged their necks over and over.
The following day, Sunday afternoon, I was surprised by the appearance of two of my personal heroes: Rhea Murray and her son Bruce. If you don't know their story, go buy her book, A Journey To Moriah, TODAY. These are two of the most courageous people I've ever met.
Rhea Murray and Bruce Murray get Steve Hugs.
So we have one more day off before the weekend performances start again. Speaking of which, I heard from Shon M. Stacy over in Virginia. They had their opening night last night. Remember how I told you how emotional the audiences here are? Apparently, it's not just here. Shon writes:"Just wanted to let you know we had an amazing night last nite. ... standing ovation and took two bows :)
"Wanted to share a story..
"My Vicki (Sonni) came back from act one ..
"During intermission.. She was a little taken aback. She was on the verge of tears. The front row of grown men were in tears, and it really effected her. She knew that people would be upset, but I don't think she was prepared for the emotional reaction she witnessed on stage last nite.
"We're all prepared for one very special journey."
© 1996-2004 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.