A Chicago Story
Volume 3 Book 8 Part 1 of
Living in the Bonus Round

Little guy in a big new city!

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

March 7 - 8, 2004.
A Chicago Story Begins.
I was going to call this book something clever, like "Dances With Fools" after the wonderful remark from the previous diary entry where the student said (about me), "God continues to speak through the "foolish" in order to shame the "wise." But then, as I was sitting here in this sweet little one-room apartment with Jimmy in a northern suburb of Chicago, I began editing the photos I shot today.

And it just said, "Chicago."

So, welcome to A Chicago Story (Volume 5, Book 8 of Living in the Bonus Round).

Artistic Director John Sparks &
Playwright/Performer Jim Brochu on our way to the "L."

I've been here twice before. Like, 20 years ago or more. I was musical director for a lounge band, Loren & Chris, playing the Abricot Lounge (decorated in apricot) in some huge airport hotel. To this day I have absolutely no idea where it was.

What I do remember is that during a number in which Loren & Chris took individual Polaroids of people out in the club, this little old lady grabbed the camera and started running around the room taking pictures of people at random -- Loren & Chris and our "manager" racing around after her. She ended up in the front and when they finally wrestled the camera away, someone told them she was John Belushi's mother.

Below, the L train Belmont stop:

The second time was a few years ago when I did an AIDS program for Lake Forest College. I stayed in a beautiful bed and breakfast right on Halsted Street just down from where we are now. When I was there before I met David Zak at the highly regarded Bailiwick Theatre. I've been wanting them for years to do TLS. One of the reasons John Sparks of the Theatre Building Chicago (which sits right next to the Bailiwick) brought us here is because he believes that if people see it, they'll want to produce it.

So, we will incorporate a staged reading of TLS at the end of our run.

Belmont Street in Chicago.
Chicago has a character of its own.
Background: The Theatre Building Chicago specializes in workshopping new materials. For instance, our three week run here is a limited engagement. The goal is to showcase the piece itself. We're sharing a lighting plot with another new musical called "Prairie," the two of us running in repertory (though we're not connected to them in any way).

What I love about TBC is that they are focused solely on showcasing new material for others to then grab onto and produce. They do most of their shows on a zero budget, usually on a bare stage. He says, "I'd rather can do a full year of 15 musicals this way on the budget of one 'full' production."


The south stage.
(There are two others of similar size in the same complex.)
When we arrived and saw it, Jimmy said, "This is a Broadway-sized stage." And the house has 150 seats.

Working in the rafters.

Jim describes a lighting effect for Tina, the lighting designer.

So we took the famous "L" down to Belmont. Jimmy blocked out the play, explaining the cues. And then we ran the show once to see how much we'd remember and to let Tina see it for herself.

Jim & John discuss bringing the script  up to date.
It's changed a lot since the first draft.

Joan Mazzonelli is the Executive Director
posing in a crown I found sitting in a box of props.

The immense lobby is large enough for late night cabaret shows.

The lobby bar.

Oh, and um...


The new song sounded great, too.

Yes, I forgot to mention this. Or rather I was waiting until now to mention it, but we have changed a song. It only took me a year and half to write it, but we have a new song.

Today we auditioned it for John and I think I saw a tear in his eye. (He called us later and said he loved it.)

But where was I? Oh, yes! A Chicago Story!

There's also a new character who's entered our lives. I haven't spoken with her about becoming a part of this diary, so I'm going to hold off talking about her for now. Besides, she deserves her own entrance.

Presswise, we are here totally under the radar. We don't even know if the major papers know we exist. Chances are we won't get reviewed. That means ALL of our pubicity will be word of mouth, which is, of course, a little scary. In Indianapolis it's a small enough city that word can spread quickly. But in Chicago?

They are going to take out some ads in the local gay rags, but for the most part, there will be little or no publicity. Those who come will literally have come looking for us. Hopefully, they'll tell others. Will it be like TLS-Indy where we grew into a sell-out or will we be swallowed up in the Windy City? After all, it's not like there aren't any choices. This is Chicago! They are proud of their strong tradition of creating great theatre and great music. Maybe no one will even know we were ever here!

Maybe we'll become the toast of the town.

Our goal, though, is to simply be up and running and to attract attention from investors and producers leading up to our New York run. If we get a huge audience, great. But that's not really the point of a workshop/showcase.

As are all the productions at TBC, this will the theatre in its purest form: Two guys on a stage telling stories and singing songs.

And this book will the story of that story.

A Chicago Story!

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

© 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.