Volume 1 Book 9 Episode 1
of Living In The Bonus Round
the online diary of Steve Schalchlin
Life's a Beach (and then you open).
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An Online Diary of the
1998 Laguna Playhouse Production

featuring Jim Brochu, Amy Coleman, P.M. Howard, Michele Mais, Bob Stillman, Joey Traywick, Positoids, NuBiHes and lavish amounts of love.

Part One: The Rehearsals.
The official stills by Still Productions | Pics by Steve | Cast pics by Steve | Fun pics
LA Times Review | TLS fan club page with pictures | L.A. critics quotes page
"From Hate To Humanity" | TLS Fan Chat Room | BennyTour fan pics

Laguna Beach.
Late Summer 1998.

Oh. My. God.

You see, I had been out buying a battery for the camera and it took longer than I thought. But now, I was happy to get out of the hot car and into the cool rehearsal hall of the Laguna Playhouse annex. I pulled in and parked in the far end of the parking lot to take advantage of some shade trees.

As I got out of my car, I heard some faint music so I quickened my pace and approached the big warehouse. There I heard -- vibrating through the tin loading door, what sounded like an African American Mormon Tabernacle choir. Like off in the distance but right on the other side of the wall.

Chills raced down my arms and legs and into my now sweaty back. I lunged for the side door but it was locked. DAMN!! I needed to hear this! I raced around the building to the huge loading dock, raced past the tall gray set  which was in the process of being painted, and on into the rehearsal room where I saw the new cast of the Laguna Playhouse production of THE LAST SESSION gathered in a circle tearing down the walls.

I grabbed the camera, opened it and just started snapping photos.

Maisey singing her guts out.

There was Maisey (Michele Mais) -- her hair barely held in place by a black wrap that made her a least a foot taller than normal; long braids flying around like her head like ribbons from some possessed Maypole -- wailing, "I am the preacher... I am the nurse...!"

Facing her, sitting in the power position at the keyboard was musical genius

Bob Stillman at the keyboard,

Flamin' Amy Coleman

cherub-faced Joey (Joel) Traywick, musical supervisor Barry Fasman, and behind them, P.M. Howard slammin' on Fender bass.

(This is a shot we took later on, but you can see P.M. with the guitar and Barry Fasman on the far left, me in the white t-shirt.)

I leaped around snapping pics and laughing with orgasmic joy. But I had come in near the end of the song so it stopped as soon as it began.


But no, Jimmy said they had to move on. And I knew he was right. This was not a performance; it was a rehearsal. I'd get plenty more times to hear it. But still, this is some of the most exciting times, when the singers begin to incorporate the songs into their hearts and they have learned parts and now it's like a jam session with new discoveries everytime they sing.

It's the best (except for all the other moments, all of which are also "the best.")

Pictures of the cast!

Welcome to Book Nine, reader.

If you've just arrived, that was my song they were singing. My positoid name is Steve Sausage-Link courtesy of Shawn Decker, the original Positoid. But in real life, it's Schalchlin -- pronounced SHACK-lin and I am a songwriter. So yes, I do know how to wait tables. I can carry six full plates of food plus condiments. :-)

I am not a big celebrity nor am I a person of means. But I am living out a fantasy come true and I don't want to forget or miss one single moment if I can help it.

You see, the song they were singing comes from a musical Jimmy Brochu and I wrote (with additional lyrics from Marie Cain and John Bettis) called THE LAST SESSION (TLS). TLS is a bit controversial in that it isn't your normal "happy happy singing to the birds musical" -- not that I'm criticizing that style of work. But no, THE LAST SESSION is not that.

In fact, people have insisted from the first day that a musical -- even a good one -- about AIDS, suicide, divorce, alcoholism, religious homophobia and conservative Christians hasn't got a chance in hell.



Three weeks we have. Maybe four. Maybe five. That's it and then the Playhouse is on to the next show in their season.

It's possible --maybe even probable -- that this could be the last "big" production of THE LAST SESSION the world will ever see.

(It's also possible that investors, producers or other insane persons will see this show, become mesmorized with amazement and give us billions of dollars to go to Broadway and around the world.)

My point is that IT DOESN'T MATTER.

I'm not living this for what MIGHT be. Only for what IS; for what's happening right now at this moment. Like attending rehearsals, working bass and guitar into the arrangements, finding new vocal riffs, going out for lunch and laughing, while drinking in the sense of family and joy. But mostly listening to these people sing.

This is the real stuff. I remember once I was sitting in a restaurant when the cast of some show came in and sat at a big table. As they joked around, I felt so jealous -- like an outsider with his nose pressed against the window of someone else's house.

But now, at last, I'm part of the family.

And perhaps because the moment of my own near death from AIDS is still current in my mind or because I have great parents or cool brothers or a patient and caring partner in life, I am determined to not miss one single minute of this escapade.

And I'm inviting you to join me. No, you might not exactly be sharing the meal with us, but you can sit in the next booth and lean across the table.

But first, a little history.

Aside from a few staged readings, this will be the fourth production of THE LAST SESSION -- TLS as I call it. The first was a three week workshop production which occurred in Los Angeles the summer of 1996.

The second happened the following summer in New York -- a three week Off-Off Broadway showcase production that turned into a four month run which turned into our third incarnation...

...a half million dollar Off-Broadway production which garnered rave reviews and two Best Musical nominations from the NY Drama League and the NY Outer Critics Circle.

We lost to a show that featured a transvestite rock and roller with a one inch penis called HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH. And no, I'm not bummed by it -- HEDWIG is a great show and we were amazed that we got any notice at all.

(Okay, maybe a little bummed. Like it matters...)

Of the three TLS productions, this will be the most lavish.
Just to compare, the stage opening at the 47th Street Theatre in NY was 20 feet. The stage opening at Laguna is 62 feet. Get the diff? And just for the record, we're only using 32. Here's Jim Brochu (author/director) making like the puppet master over his little doll set.


Reality Check.

One more thing, Ioday we got the news that a good friend, Charles Wisnet has shockingly and suddenly died of kidney failure. Until recently, Charles worked for the Laguna Playhouse as head of telemarketing but he also, as a man living with AIDS, was in great demand for his inspirational lectures on how to live life to its fullest.

Like me, he had battled back from the edge of death and he was even the first person with HIV who had been cleared for a kidney transplant. This was the height of Charles' recovery. It was beginning to look like open highway from this point on.

Charles had seen TLS twice in NY and was more passionate about the show than just anyone. Recently he brought us together with two LA based producers and he was determined to see that we had an LA production following Laguna.

But two weeks ago, after he hadn't come out of his apartment for two days, he was found dead of kidney failure. His family, who lives out of state, didn't know who his friends were and weren't sure who to call. (He told us he was going to NY, so everyone thought he was there.)

It wasn't until today that someone connected to the Playhouse -- concerned that she hadn't heard from him -- finally made contact with the family and found out the heartbreaking truth.

It's a terrible blow. Just today we had gone into the telemarketing room and looked at pictures of us with Charles pinned to the wall.

So, Charles Wisnet, if you're reading this from some Celestial Internet Connection, we just want you to know that your spirit and your love and your name will forever be associated with the show you loved so much.

When people look at their program, they will read The Laguna Playhouse production of THE LAST SESSION is loving dedicated to the memory of Charles Wisnet.


All photos and text are © 1998 by Steve Schalchlin.