Reconciliation Express
Volume 4 Book 4 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(Part 13)

[ Book 4-3 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6A-6B ] [ Pt 7 ]
[ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] -- [ Book 4-5 ]
August 25-September 8, 2005.
The Floods of September.
(I've been having some computer problems lately, so sorry I've not posted a diary update).

I called my mother on her birthday. It was September 2nd. My mom lives with my dad in Louisiana. I asked her if they had been getting a lot of rain and she said they had gotten no rain at all. Her response to all this was she couldn't figure out how they could drop food packets in Iraq and Afghanistan but couldn't seem to find any to drop for the people stranded on that overpass standing on the hot asphault in the burning sun while the news organizations were watching them die right in front of their very eyes.


As much as I want to throw blame around, the fact is that in my experience, the bigger something gets, the dumber it gets. FEMA, as a slick, professional team answerable directly to the President, or FEMA, an arm of PROTECT AMERICA INC where your phone calls go unanswered and nobody actually does anything until it becomes too big to ignore.

Corporations are like that. Big is stupid. It always is.

So far there's only been one person in my extended cyber family that I haven't heard from, but I don't really know if that's where he lives. He doesn't really post that often. Joe, are you out there?

This past week I've been consumed with one Alexandra Billings. Alexandra has asked me to work with her as musical director of the show she's opening here in Los Angeles called, "Before I Disappear." The show is the story of her life. I said yes because I love her voice. She sang the role of Vicki in the Chicago staged reading of The Last Session.

Alexandra is also an "openly" (meaning she doesn't try to pretend she's something she's not) transgender actress, writer and singer is in a 28 (?) year relationship with her childhood friend, Chrisane, who her mother says makes Alexandra "better."

[For my American heartland readers, that means this is a guy who "became" a girl -- though he was really a gal all along, just living in a guy's body (it's very Star Trek) -- who is a lesbian. If Alexandra were still a guy, which she never really was except in body only, she'd just be a guy with a gal. Get it? Good.]
Whatever (or should I say WHOEVER Alexandra is), she can SING.

I told Alexandra in the very first email I ever wrote to her that her being transgender was the least important thing about her, to me. And I didn't mean that as an insult. When I met her that first day in Chicago and she started singing "Somebody's Friend," I knew this was someone I wanted to work with despite her claims to have never sung rock and roll before.

She sings completely and utterly from the heart. She sings in the zone. Everything disappears when she sings. I described her as David Bowie meets Judy Garland, although she's more Judy Garland than David Bowie. Anyway, she's moved here with her partner Chrisane, and they've asked me musical direct this show she's been developing called "Before I Disappear."

"But, Alexandra," I said her, "I haven't ever really musical directed a show before. Even when I did The Last Session, I always requested an outside musical director. And besides, I only know how to play one way."

"That's what I want," she insisted. "You don't play like theatre. You want that thing you do. That intense thing."

"You want me to play these songs as if I'd written them myself?" I asked, finally kind of "getting it."


So I said yes. What could it hurt?

I spent the weekend working on the songs, learning them from the sheet music. She also had a video of the show and I watched it. And I got where she was coming from. The musicians were great, but stylistically, she wanted to go in a different direction.

When we finally met on Monday afternoon after Labor Day weekend, we started in on the songs and I found myself throwing out all the fancy theatrical chord changes that were on the score. We stripped it down to a more minimalist approach. Her voice is richly emotional. I found if I could just give her a bed of rhythm to lay on, she would find her own way through the song led by the emotions of the moment, the honesty of the words.

As for my feelings about whether I could handle the job of musical director, it seemed to come very naturally. We are kicking some royal ass and when she opens this show here in North Hollywood at the end of September, it's going to be great.

I finished editing a video blog featuring Alexandra, plus a little jaunt I took with Michael Sugar up to the top of Runyan Canyon Park overlooking Hollywood. I would post pictures here, but I need to get this uploaded and onto the net. If you want to see what it looks like and meet Alex, the vlogs are posted at my vlog site: Enjoy!

September 9 - 16, 2005.
Onna White Memorial.
(Catching up on the diary.)

On September 11, we attended a memorial service for one of the best Broadway and film choreographers, Onna White. I shot a vlog of Karen Morrow telling a great story about her time working with Onna on the Broadway musical, "I Had A Ball." You can see this vlog here:

The rest of the week was taken up with rehearsals with Alexandra. It was great fun sitting together at my work station working out the arrangements for her songs and then recording them. I'm only sorry that I won't be there for her opening night. I just hope everything works out really well. She's such a phenomenal talent. Good luck, Alex!

At the end of the week, we packed our bags and flew off to New York.

End of Volume Four, Book Four.

NEXT: The Better Than Expected Tour!

[ Book 4-3 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6A-6B ] [ Pt 7 ]
[ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] -- [ Book 4-5 ]

© 1996-2005 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.