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

Diva wearing her Sardi's hat.
[ 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 ]

July 16-19, 2004.
First Day of Volume 4.
I am in a very precarious position right now.

I'm in Chicago. It's Sunday morning. The weather so far this middle July is spectacular. Sunny skies, 70 to 80 degrees. Moderate humidity. And right in the middle of town, just this weekend, they are unveiling a civic park / concert / sculpture called Millennium Park, turning a dead area into a beautifully expansive public space with a bandshell that reportedly sounds better in the back cheap seats than up close.

The local writers are beside themselves trying to find something to critique (the above being one), but everyone knows this is a home run and they cannot hold back the sheer pride and enthusiasm they are feeling. It radiates.

I fear my prose will be the same as I tell you about being backstage at the little miracle -- see? There I ago -- aborning on Belmont street.

Now, the reason I'm in a precarious position is that, having gone through this before, no matter how democratically I try to describe what's happening, I'm invevitably going to miss someone -- or tell a story out of school that someone doesn't want told. If that happens, I apologize now.

I also have to realize that, though this site is not a commercial site and does not advertise nor ask for money, it is inevitable that I am -- or will be perceived to be -- an advertisement for the musical that is being written, directed, choreographed, lit, stage managed, danced, acted, musical arranged and played.

My job? Husband of the Director.

Or wife.

I think for this I prefer wife.

Imagine for a moment that you are at the helm of a brand new musical with a cast of at least 16. A musical you just wrote the book for. It's so new, you can still smell the ink on the script. This will be the first time anyone, including you, will see it on stage. You have to make decisions, thousands of decisions. What do you want it to look like? What can you afford? How many band members? Casting? Costumes? Choreography? Arrangements?

When you create a musical, aside from all the decisions that have to happen, you also have other people to connect with, create with, somethings fight with. If you are in the center of it, it can be totally overwhelming because every single person connected to the show has an opinion and something they want. Or many opinions and many wants.

Where do you start with a new musical?

Well, once it's been "written," the first thing you want is to see it up on its feet. You need to know if what you have works in even the remotest way possible. Having gone through this twice before as composer, I discovered that the best writing and the best ideas come during or after this part of the process.

Luckily, in the case of "Africa & Plumbridge," the original creator of the story Sue Carey, who is also co-lyricist and co-composer, has raised the funds necessary for this workshop. And being a driven force of nature, it has already been accepted into the New York Fringe Festival next month.

Oh, I guess I could have mentioned that earlier.

Silly me.

Now, how scared would you be knowing that your show, which you have not seen on its feet yet, is already booked for New York?

And you have exactly two weeks of rehearsal before tech and previews start.

Two weeks. And then, after this workshop, only about two weeks before New York.

Welcome to Volume 4 Book 1 of Living In The Bonus Round. I'm calling this book Love / Reason / Belief for reasons that will become apparent.

I have been here for four days. I have now seen two runthroughs of "Africa & Plumbridge" and what I can tell you is that the first time I saw it was their first time to do it all at once. It was more a stumble-through, but they made it. The second time I saw it, I cried four times.

This musical has one of the most positive, life- and love-affirming messages I have ever sat through. And the thing that makes it so is not just that it's a well-told tale, which I think it is, not just that the music is rich, varied and stirring, which it is, but that it's based on a true story.

I introduced you to Sue Carey back when Big Voice was playing in Chicago. Remember, we went out to the racetrack together? I told you then to just hang on, that something big was coming up. Well, the Sue Carey story has yet to be told. This musical only scratches the surface of the incredible depth of this woman. (But those stories are for later on).

"Africa & Plumbridge" is about Sue's real life struggle with the bureaucracy of a home for abused street kids. Since she herself came from the rubbled streets of England, missing father, during World War II, she believes strongly that society owes its young people all the opportunities possible. (Again, more details later).

But rather than talk, why don't I show you a few faces? After all, when you go to see a show, you don't see the writers or the creators, you see the actors. I'll start with the kids in the chorus and then get to the leads. These are casual shots I took at rehearsals.

Lepolion Henderson Jr.

Rachel Cerrone & Folin Ponce De Leon.

Sharyon Culberson & Jasmine Randle.

Gerald Richardson, Charissa Armon & Jim Meade.

Chipper Cooke.

Eric Anthony.

Richard White & Susan Powell.

Janeece Aisha Freeman.

Pretty, huh? And the talent they radiate is all the more stirring. (Note: I still didn't get everybody, but will over the next couple of weeks).

For myself, I told someone that my job, for Jimmy, is to simply be here to provide him a rock so that he doesn't go nutso from all the choices he has to make, all the personalities he has to juggle. I've also been eating some really nice Indian food down the block.

Meanwhile, I'm also going to be working with Alexandra Billings, the singer, as soon as she gets out of her current commitments. So, there's a lot going on here.

It's rare that a new musical gets born in the first place. Rarer still when it actually gets funded and on its way to New York. Stress levels, however, are not too off the chart. Everyone feels they have a good piece and as we round the corner and head into tech week, toward that opening on Friday night, there's also a great deal of love surrounding the production.

So, we're plunged right in the middle of it all. Welcome to Love / Reason / Belief. Volume 4 Book 1.

[ 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.
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.