The Better Than Expected Tour
Volume 4 Book 5 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(Part 4)
Jim Brochu as Zero Mostel in Zero Hour.
Jim Brochu as Zero Mostel.

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

September 28-October 3, 2005.
Zero Hour, Many Voices, Niagara Falls.
Wednesday night, September 28th, 2005 is a date that should be marked in everyone's calendar. It was the night Jim Brochu formally and publicly debuted "Zero Hour" for a paying audience, the proceeds of which would be donated to Downstairs Cabaret Theatre.  The response was awesome. What most people don't know about Zero is that he was a very passionate, angry man who was blacklisted during the 50s, saw one of his best friends commit suicide (because he, Phil Loeb, was also blacklisted) and, because of that experience, he developed very strong feelings about politics and art and freedom.

These themes are developed passionately in "Zero Hour," and though this was a "reading," meaning Jimmy sat and read his play as opposed to having it memorized and staged, I could feel the audience bristling with energy and outrage as they were taken through the emotions of a man who believed that the blacklist was not just a time of censorship, but a Jewish intellectual holocaust. Zero lays down his theory step and step in "Zero Hour," and by the end of the play, the audience was breathless. One minute laughing hysterically at how perfectly Jimmy captured Zero's syntax and personality, and then the next minute feeling outraged by how easy it is for politicians to manipulate public opinion.

The reverberations of today's political climate was not lost upon them. This was a powerful, emotional, deeply moving experience, as most of them attested to in the talkback afterwards.

Just before the reading, after Jimmy had applied his "Zero make-up," we did a photo shoot on the stage, after which I designed a poster. It's scary how much Jim looks like Zero. But it's not just his physicality. One feels that Mostel is being channeled. I cannot wait for others to hear and experience this provocative play. The reading accomplished everything we intended it to.

One of the most telling moments came afterwards. A few of the young actors in the audience came up to me, most of whom knew little or nothing about Zero, and maybe slightly more about the blacklist. They were almost shaking with fear and curiousity. One of them said, "I thought I was pretty well read but now I'm REALLY curious about this whole thing. I feel like I've just gotten a history lesson, but one which consisted of an open door to a much larger picture. I want to walk through that door and study what happened in this country."

This is the kind of play that needs to be on college campuses. You don't need to have the slightest clue who Zero Mostel was to get the impact of his experience and point of view. I can't wait for the rewrites as Jimmy polishes and hones this piece. It's truly a masterful work. And it's only barely out of the typewriter!

Jim, Chris, Ann Marie & Steve after the Zero reading.

On Friday, we went over to WHAM, the ABC local station in Rochester and were guests on a show called "Many Voices, Many Visions" featuring Charlotte Clarke. Charlotte was a big fan of TLS when we played there and she also love The Big Voice when we played there last.

Charlotte Clarke.
Charlotte Clarke.

Jim, Steve, Charlotte Clarke.

While we were there, a sudden news story came over the wire but no news people were in the room, so they grabbed Jim who delivered the news in a commanding but controlled voice.

Jim delivering the news.

Okay, that's a lie, but he did pose on the news set. Don't you think he'd make a great news anchor? Just as we were leaving, Charlotte did some promos for our episode. That's us in the camera there.

A shot of us on the show.

This shows you who the real star is.

Our director!

The program went really well. Jim was funny and told great stories, as usual.
The two of us joked back and forth and I was really happy with our chemistry together. It's funny how easily he and I can handle this kind of situation.

The weekend went well, too. The audiences were eager and responsive. Then, Sunday night, Chris and Ann Marie drove us to Niagara Falls, a place Jimmy has never been. I wanted to go since it's our 20th year together and it just felt like we should have a little honeymoon thingy. We crossed over to the Canadian side (where all the action is) and went to the new casino they just recently built (which is owned by the Canadian government).

It was too dark to see much of the falls, but the lobby of this place! Wow!

That's a big modern looking water fountain.

We didn't spend much time in the casino since neither Jim nor I are gamblers but we did stand in line for 45 minutes to get into the big buffet! Love eating at an "all you can eat" buffet. Then made our way to our room. The next morning, I looked out our window and saw this:

Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side of the border.
(Click on link for larger image.)

Another view.

Our room was high above the falls, so looking down at it, it just looks like a big lake with a drop-off. See all the steam rising up? That's not steam. It's the mist caused by the crashing of the water into the basin below. Later, we made our way down to the falls and took a shot together.

Jim and Steve in front of Niagara Falls.

Jim posing in front of the American Falls.

Jim with Ann Marie. Beauty and the Beast?

Mugging for Ann Marie.

I'm glad the four of us got to spend some time together. I really love Chris and Ann Marie. They work really hard to keep Downstairs Cabaret Theatre going, but even more than that, they are funny, fun people. I'm gonna miss my second home.

Oh, and to keep the theme of the Better Than Expected Tour going, on our way back to Rochester on Monday morning, we call a call on our cell. Turns out we were nominated by the Desert Theatre League for awards from our two week run in Palm Springs last year. Can you believe it? We were nominated for five awards:

Best Production. Best Director. Best Writing. And, once again, we were both nominated for Best Actor.

Tuesday saw us getting home again. Mo had taken great care of the kitties. Thurber is looking healthier than ever. Steinbeck is bigger than ever. And now, we go back into writing mode for awhile. Jim is going to work on his first rewrites for Zero Hour and I'm going to be working with Alexandra Billings, whose show opened last week. I can't wait to see it!

Kim Espy with baby alpaca.

October 4 - 14, 2005.
Birthdays & Alpacas & Music.
I had a sensational birthday. Spent the whole day on the plane flying home.

What was waiting for me, though, was a copy of my friend Anthony Majanlahti's book, "The Great Families Who Made Rome." I've been wanting it ever since it hit the bookshelves. It's already a best-seller in Britain and Canada (even though the major chain in Canada doesn't stock it) and it hasn't been released here in the US yet, but man, is it a fun read. Anthony loves Rome and he spent a great deal of time really researching his subject matter. It's great to read about the places we visited on our last cruise.

I also got to see Alexandra's show, "Before I Disappear," and it was absolutely brilliant beyond words. Can't say enough about what a powerful performer she is. We met this past week to work out some material for the two of us, also. Slowly putting together a musical set. Our voices blend so well. At one point we had finished singing a new song, "The Craving," and we had such a moment, we had to stop and just take a breath.

Can you tell I'm excited about working with Alexandra? It's fun to sing with a woman and to view these songs, such as "How Do You Fall Back In Love?" in a new light. After all, I hear straight people fall in love, too. Maybe hearing a male/female version of this song will bring the song into another dimension. Ya think?

Look at that face.

Also, over the weekend, I designed a website for friends Kim and Ronda and their new alpaca ranch which they are just starting. If you want to see something absolutely adorable, go to and look at these gorgeous, gentle animals with the extraordinary wool. Apparently, alpacas are not only easy to maintain, but they make great pets and their wool makes very comfortable sweaters and socks.

So, not a lot to report. It's just great being home with the cats and Jim (notice the order of importance). He's quietly working on his rewrites for the Zero show, I'm doing my early morning runs around the block, and am preparing for a presentation at the end of the month at a "composer's salon" where I sing and play alongside some very accomplished musicians and composers. I'd love to invite everyone to see it but it's restricted to other writers and composers due to space limitations.

I will probably be updating the diary a little less frequently while here at home, so don't worry about me if you don't hear a lot. It's nice to take a breath and catch up on writing and my health, etc.

[ Book 4-3 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ] [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ]
[ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ] [ Pt 11 ] - [ Book 4-6 ]
© 1996-2005 by Steve Schalchlin.
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