Love / Reason / Belief
Volume 4 Book 1 Part 5 of
Living in the Bonus Round

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

August 7-10, 2004.
Covered in Cats.
Closing night in Chicago for "Africa" was not easy despite the fact that they were closing the workshop on a high note and opening in New York in just a few weeks. Looking out over the jammed-packed theatre just before curtain, it seemed almost impossible that word could have spread so quickly. But there was not an extra seat to be had. I was in the aisle way up on top in the back.

The cast threw themselves into this performance. Janeece Aisha Freeman, as Africa, was on fire. The new sarcastic lines Jimmy gave her for the opening scenes are really funny and she plays them with hilarious, sneering perfection, making her later despair all the more heartbreaking -- because once you've laughed with someone, you can't help but start to like them.

There was also a pack of about 15 pre-teen and young teen girls all drooling over Eric Anthony, who is SO charming and winning on stage as Africa's wannabe boyfriend, Richie.

The kids in the show were brilliant as usual and a friend who had flown in from New York said she loved that they don't look or act like "show biz kids." She said, "They really do seem to be normal kids up there and that's so much more believable and interesting to watch. They're also magnificently talented, which doesn't hurt at all."

Sunday night, late into the early morning hours, we packed up and, then, bleary-eyed, made our way home, but on separate flights. I stepped off the plane in Burbank California to a blast furnace of heat.

Power warnings! Water shortages! Movie stars!

Exhausted when I finally got home, I made a trip to the grocery store for staples (sliced turkey, milk, bread, oatmeal, non-fat cottage cheese, Braeburn apples, cat food, cat litter), went to the bank, and then drove down to LAX to pick up Jim who would be coming in on a later flight. Got there early, circled LAX for a half hour, picked him up, picked up the cats, and landed safely at home with only one mishap: The shampoo I told him to bag and pack had exploded in his suitcase but only my book got drenched.

This morning when I woke up Jim was crowded way over to my side of the bed and I wasn't quite comfortable (but I loved snuggling into him), so I needed to turn over because I was on my stomach. Just as I started to move I felt 27 pounds of cat land on me and walk across my back, turn around three times, and curl down into a ball.

No way was I going to mess that up. Soon I heard and felt huge waves of wall-rattling purring, massaging my lower back, soothing the tensions out of me. Jimmy's warm body on one side. Steinbeck holding me down and giving me a purr-massage. Thurber now on the bedside table, drinking out of my water glass.

Home. It's so nice to be home. Even if it's only for a week.

AUGUST 11-17, 2004.
Sara Haze & New York! New York!
After a week of running errands, sleeping a lot and reconnecting with my pals, Michael and Ernie, I drove down to Redondo Beach to join David Woeckener as we worked on songs for Sara Haze, the young singer he's managing. Our immediate goal is to assemble an album's worth of original material and then shop it.

(I totally forgot my camera, so I'm sorry there are no pics.)

This was my first time to actually work with Sara face to face. She lives way down just south of Laguna in a wooded area. Very nice home. I also love her parents. Her mom and dad are both really intelligent and encouraging of her career.

Sara herself is very creative. She also has something to say. I feel like my job is not to impose a persona upon her, but rather to draw a "voice" from her. Her stories. Her language. To that end, David and I have been crafting lyrics based on very specific story-writing assignments I've given her. The first one she sent me was so vivid and well written, dramatic and "real" beyond anything I could have ever imagined a 14 year old living through, I knew we had something special.

Add to that the fact that she's very beautiful with a terrific voice and I feel she could have a real career. Right now, though, she's young and somewhat inexperienced. So, aside from writing this material, David has been backing her up in coffeehouse gigs, including one this very night.

After we had our writing session, we drove to a coffeehouse and I watched her perform. At first she was just a little stiff, but soon she and David really started to communicate and that's when I heard her cut loose. They relaxed, started trading riffs and suddenly she transformed into a totally mature singer. It was wonderful to see and it made me even more excited about working with her.


It was like a big family reunion when I got to New York, joining Jimmy and the cast and crew of "Africa & Plumbridge." Over the past few days, he had only been working with several of the main actors, so when I arrived, it was the first time the entire company was assembled.

Item one on the agenda: Reading the new script around a big table.

The question on everyone's mind, including Jimmy's was, How would it read? The Chicago script, as I mentioned before, had problems. The purpose of the workshop there was to identify the problems so they could be tackled.

A big rehearsal room at Chelsea Studios.

The cast gathers around the big table.

Jim begins introducing everyone.

Liz McConahay joins the cast as "Sharon."

Well, the reading went beautifully! The new script is a quantum leap from the workshop. The tricky part was that because they only have a few days to rehearse before the first performance here in NY on Thursday, the changes had to be small enough to not require an entire retooling. But large enough to really solve the problems Jimmy felt needed to be solved.

Everyone was so excited! The new actors are also brilliant. Jimmy completely changed three characters, which is why a few of the previous actors were replaced. The new faces fit right in.

Ken Gasch choreographs.

Julie Reyburn is "Claire" & Tim Ewing is "Edwin."

Sue Carey & Karena Mendoza work on a new song.

It's Jim's birthday! That "hat" is a bouquet of roses.

Susan Streeter, asst. director.

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

© 1996-2004 by Steve Schalchlin.
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