Incubation Period
Volume 3 Book 9 Part 1 of
Living in the Bonus Round

Chicago gleams on the horizon.

[ Book 3-8 ] --  [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 1a ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ]

April 1, 2004.
Incubation Period.
Welcome to Incubation Period, also known as Volume 3, Book 9 of Living in the Bonus Round.

It was my plan to close the previous book "A Chicago Story" after the run ended there so I did, but the Chicago Story has only just begun. We sewed a LOT of seeds and got adopted by several families of friends. Chicago is an extraordinary city. It really is. But we will be back -- and sooner than you think if the plans work out.

And god bless the people who live there who can endure that weather. All of them made jokes about it, decrying it. Hating it. Loving it.

I've traveled a lot. Everywhere I go someone will say, "Well, if you don't like the weather here, just wait five minutes." But in Chicago! I remember one day that started HOT. Sun shining. T-shirt weather. And by 2pm, it was frosty, wind-blowing winter, below freezing. Next day warm and rainy. That night, clear and cold. And always the wind.

But it's funny what happens to people when they have a commonality, like challenging weather which, for them, is a third character. It reminds them on a visceral level how good it can be to just crowd together with friends and enjoy each other with music, laughter, and theatre. Chicago has all the "citiness" of Manhattan, but the midwest character of the people gives it a really familiar/human glow.

One said to me, "They think we're all hicks."

Well, honey, everyone is a hick to someone.

We might be going back in July for a couple of performances as part of a larger festival. Nothing is set, but lots of things are happening. I'll talk about them when appropriate.

It's just nice to be home. The cats are exactly the same. Mo is such a good mother to them when we're on the road. They look and sound fantastic. Last night, we were all tucked in. Jimmy in his chair with Steinbeck sprawled all over him. Thurber on the couch next to me. American Idol on the tube. Now that's home.

We have about a month. I'm calling this book "Incubation Period" because we have a lot of work to do that we couldn't do in Chicago. For one thing, I have new demos to record plus we want to record a new cast album for The Big Voice. Since that initial run, we've made little changes, cut songs, added others and we tell the stories differently.

Speaking of that, Jimmy has been proposing some new lines of dialogue. We are at the point where the biggest building blocks and structure of the play are in place. But we learned a lot from the audiences during Chicago run of The Big Voice. Some made comments in the lobby. Some wrote me emails. But mostly, we learned by listening to them while we performed.

And what the audiences AND the critics are telling us is that TBV isn't really a musical about religion as we had supposed. It's about two people and their relationship, their marriage -- and, as one L.A. critic put it -- how they find salvation in the theatre and in each other.

In other words: The Gay Marriage Musical. (But it's only gay because it's about us. It could just as easily just be "a musical about marriage.")

This means tweaking the opening a bit to reflect this new focus (following Michael Bennett's advice to Jim that the opening is "an agreement with the audience about what you're going to present.")

Also, we are writing a few things into the text to coordinate with the new song, "How Do You Fall?". We also picked up a new gig in May in my beloved Omaha to test out the rewrites. It'll be in a small storefront theatre, produced by SNAP Productions. Readers of this diary remember that I have been to Omaha before. Twice, in fact.

This will be a fun gig. The Last Session was one of the most popular musicals they ever produced there. The people know TLS really well. Jimmy hasn't been, so it'll be a chance for them to meet him. In this tiny space, the people will be right on top of us. It'll give us a perfect way to test out the changes -- and also to see how the show will play for smaller-city midwest audiences.

Omaha also is right down the road from the infamous Reverend Fred Phelps, the American fundamentalist evangelist famous for picketing Matthew Shephard's funeral -- and who wants to erect a huge statue showing Matt burning in hell.

I wonder if he'd take a bribe to protest us? We could use the publicity.

Omaha also is the last place I got to spend a significant amount of time with our beloved, the late Dick Remley. I have this most vivid picture of the two of us sitting on this little hillock overlooking the swans in a quiet downtown lake. The people in that town fell totally in love with him. I also made great friends with the pastor of a church there, The First Christian Church's Rev. Nancy Brink.

So, when I think of Omaha, it stirs up a lot of warm and sometimes bittersweet memories.

In the meantime, we'll be writing and recording. I'll be visiting the doctor and doing mostly routine stuff. I'll try to update the diary often, but you know me. If I don't have anything to say, I usually don't post anything.

Welcome to L.A.!

April 2, 2004.
The Chicago Sun.
Back in Chicago, we were staying at John Sparks' cozy apartment in a northern suburb. We were only a few blocks from the El, so it was relatively easy to get around. But what I really wanted to do was some exploring around the neighborhood and go down to the lake.

But it was so cold there. Again, god bless the people who live in Chicago. It just about defeated me and I only got the barest of tastes.

Until one Saturday morning.

It was the last Saturday that we were there.

The warm sun poked through the skylights of the one-room apartment. I could see the sky was crystal blue. Jimmy was still trying to sleep. I got out my camera, put on some warmies, got out my camera and went down to the waters. I snapped a bunch of pictures but hadn't really LOOKED at them until just now. (The fuss of closing night is way too overwhelming and time intense.)

A big Addam's Family-looking house.
The above picture is the first one that totally got me first. The limbs of that tree, the way it inks over the sky. The starkness of its limbs against the warmth of that huge house. The sunlight baking the side of the tan house. Like something from the turn of the century (before last).

Lake Michigan is at the end of this sidewalk, about four or five blocks.

We're at a crossroads right now in our lives, Jimmy and me. We have a lot of decisions to make. Like, I have to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Since I'm only 50 it might be a bit early for this kind of choice, but I say one should set one's cap early and get control of one's destiny! Early bird catches the worm.

Beautiful forts against the monster cold.
I went back and looked at the diary account of a concert I did in Rochester NY (dairy dated June 18-26, 2003). I was ruminating on the same subject. Do I ruminate on it a lot? Hmmm. I should read this damn diary one of theses days. Might learn something about myself.

Jimmy's daddy told him, "Do what you love."

Well, what I love is being a songwriter. Notice I did not say I loved songwriting. Songwriting, to me, is nothing but pure hell but I love to have written. I love being a songwriter.

I also love songs. I love it when someone writes a great song. And I don't care what "style." "Style," to me, is what the performer does. And I'm not talking about a great RECORD, either. Some great records have really lousy songs. Some great songs have made really lousy records. Some songs just need to exist/live in a moment at a specific time.

So, my point is that I'm at a crossroads. I have a lot of choices. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. I am the luckiest man alive. I know people who would give their right arms to have the choices I get to make. But that's not the point.

Evanston, Illinois.

I think growing up on this street would be a child's paradise.
Neighbors, dogs, kids, ice cream truck.

So, my decision making goes like this: Do I want to be an actor or a songwriter? Do I want to be a musician/singer or a composer? And the answer is that I want other people singing my songs. It's that simple. I'm still on pins and needles to hear what the L.A. Gay Men's Chorus sound like. I know it's only an archival tape, but I really cannot wait.  (I must sound like an idiot right now. Oh well.)

Once again, the trees are just magnificent.
Trees by Gainsborough.

We've reached the end of the sidewalk. Now the lake is visible.

Now, you might ask, "Well, why do you have to choose?"

Well, I think I do have to choose. I'll you why in my next entry.

[ Book 3-8 ] --  [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 1a ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ]

© 1996-2004 by Steve Schalchlin.
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