The Quest
Volume 3 Book 7 Part 9 of
Living in the Bonus Round

Selling like hotcakes.

[ 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 6-9, 2004.
The Lava Flow in Ice.
It's probably unfair to try to compare productions of TLS. All of them were unique and special in their own way, whether it was the half million dollar productions in New York and Los Angeles or just me and four students on a bare stage at Boston's Northeastern University. They have all elicited intense emotional reactions from audiences.

But this production is affecting me in ways I struggle to describe. The most accurate image I have provided thus far was when I said it was a lava flow from the audience down onto the stage.

Lyndsay from the TLS list reported there:

"The theater was cute and small and in the cutest neighborhood you could ever find in an industrial looking city like indianapolis. They are, I must say, spoiling our dear Steve rotten."

The charming Theatre On The Square.

Across the street from the theatre.

She's right about the neighborhood. I finally took some great pictures of surrounding area yesterday. Notice, however, that the ice and snow are still present. The sidewalks are treacherous. It's been difficult to get people to come see the show because of this. People keep telling us they'll come when the storm breaks.

Looking up Massachusetts Ave. to the north.

Same view from beneath the awning.

To the south is the fantastickal looking Shriner's theatre.
(More pics of this to come in a later diary.)

Two views of the beautiful, newly-redecorated lobby.
I love the huge plate glass windows looking out onto the street.

Catching PR Director Jonathan Markanday in the box office.

Here is a view of the audience seating and how close it is to the stage.

Another view of the set.

Going to English Ivy's with friends.

More new friends at English Ivy's.

Once again this past weekend, almost every show had four Silent Ovations per show. I think part of it is due to the sheer closeness of the audience to the stage. The rake in this room is sharp so the rows are close. We can hear the audience breathing. But there's something else. Something here is different. We're tapping into something here, a wellspring of sorrow? a need to cry?

Every show this past weekend had me in tears. I know part of the reason. First of all, my online acquaintance who committed suicide a couple of weeks ago. But now I've received word that two other friends of mine are battling cancer -- and they just refuse to let go. Their doctors are shocked that they are still breathing.

"You're winning all the battles!"

"But I'm losing the war."

"We all lose the war, soldier. Cheer up. I thought you'd be dead long ago."

Lyndsay continues in her email:

"I've always wondered how TLS would play with a younger cast. I mean, a lot of community and college theaters are run by young actors and actresses...especially the kinds of groups with the willingness to try something like TLS. But, every production I've seen was cast with people that at least looked on stage like they were in their early forties. This cast was young. I think the only way to have made them look old enough would have been to make them look too old (gray hair, fake wrinkles, etc.). But, once the play started, it didn't matter. They carried themselves old enough and it worked...really well.

"And once they started singing! I'm not one to judge the quality of singing beyond whether or not it's on key. But there was something indescribable about the way their voices sounded together...they just blended right.

"Like Steve has said, the emotional scenes were intense. I think the audience was breathing in unison. It's been a long time since TLS could bring a tear to my eyes, and last night it did.

If you are anywhere within driving distance...go."

Martha also came up from Cincinnati to see the show. She reported:
"Gary and I, along with our daughter and her partner were there also.  Lyndsay described it very well.  It was a very good performance.....I hope word spreads so their next two weekends bring in a larger crowd.  I really hate to admit this.....but Steve was really good!  I guess if you do the part of Gideon long enough you finally can get it right :-) . "
We also got a new review!
TOTS' 'The Last Session' is first rate
Wendy Carson
Correspondent, Daily Reporter, Greenfield, Ind. (published Feb. 5, 2004)

There are not enough superlatives in the English language to accurately describe the level of excellence of "The Last Session," now playing at Theatre on the Square, 627 Massachusetts Ave.

Gideon, a singer/songwriter with AIDS, has decided to kill himself rather than suffer the horrors of the disease any longer. But before he does, he wants to record one last album to explain his choice. The show is more heartwrenching given that is semi-autobiographical.

Steve Schalchlin, who wrote the songs, portrays Gideon with the perfect mix of sorrow and humor that keeps the production from getting morbidly overwhelming.

His songs help to explain his life thus far and his decision to end his agony. Most  notable are "Friendly Fire," a journey through the hospital/insurance system - anyone who's ever been truly ill will certainly understand - and "The Group," a reminiscence on the support group he attended, which hits home solidly to anyone who's ever been to one of any kind.

LaTasha Strahan embodies Gideon's friend and backup singer Tryshia as the ultimate Diva. Her boldness and spunk are softened around the edges by her fierce loyalty and compassion.

Julie Powers sizzles as Vicki, Gideon's lush of an ex-wife who wants to sex up any available man and sell Mary Kay to all of the ladies.

Jon Lambert excels as Buddy, the messenger and wannabe Christian singer/songwriter who idolizes Gideon and connives his way into the recording session to further his career. When he finds out about Gideon's condition, he immediately turns on him and starts a "theological chess game" to try and save his soul.

Meredith Granger adds much of the wry humor as the recording engineer who is burdened with the secret of what Gideon plans to do when his last opus is complete.

Director Ruth E. Hawkins, who consulted with Schalchlin extensively before rehearsals even started, makes a stunning TOTS debut. She knew it would be affecting after she had seen an earlier production of the play herself. "The thing about this," she said, "is that those who have seen it, no matter where you see this, never forget it."

The excellent stage set by Christian McKinney, which in no way betrays its shoestring budget, almost convinces you that you are actually in a recording studio.

Although Schalchlin did almost die from AIDS, he never considered suicide and wrote the score as a therapy to get him through the worst of it. His partner Jim Brochu wrote the story, and the production has won numerous awards on both U.S. coasts - with this production, one Schalchlin said is one of the best he's worked with, it's easy to see why.

"They invested their whole hearts it," Schalchlin said of his costars and the TOTS crew.

"The Last Session" is a gift of love and compassion which must be experienced. Call 317-637-8085 for tickets.

Next: Returning to Columbus Ohio and an emotional hospice reunion.

[ 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 ]

© 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.