Volume 1 Book 9 Episode 17
of Living In The Bonus Round
the online diary of Steve Schalchlin
Life's a Beach (and then you open).

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Sabrina's new logo...

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 17.

Laguna Beach.
First Week of October.

WOW! So much news...
This diary page has a lot of news. We got a WINNER in the "new line" contest, Jimmy starring in a musical with Lainie Kazan, a two-night stand in San Diego, a birthday celebration for OnBiHe, a packed weekend at the Playhouse with a talkback, gripes about beepers, the BEST newspaper article ever, and G-d knows what else...

Okay. Let me just get it off my chest.

It happened during one of the most intense moments in the show -- doesn't it always. Just before "Going It Alone" as Bob was beginning to read the letter from Jack which breaks him into tears. The audience is transfixed. The moment is real. The power is intense. Then...


Somebody's STOOPID cell phone. And he didn't know it was his. It just kept ringing and ringing. Buddy starts to read the letter from Jack.


Horrible. Horrible. And little watch alarms. I don't think we've gotten through a single performance without someone's IDIOT alarm/beeper going off. (bee beep) They might not be as bad as the Celophane Symphony that happens when someone decides to open a piece of candy in the middle of "Connected" or "The Group," -- and why do they take so much time? Do they think we prefer them to draw out the hated and loud crinkle? Is there a Chinese water torture worse??? -- but still, it's just so awful.

I know it's hard to believe, but that positoid idiot Shawn Decker

 shot off an entry to "The Chicken Line" contest that flat knocked it out of the ballpark. There were three entries that Jimmy thought might work. One was from RENT fan Lori ("Who says cousins shouldn't marry?") which we tried in front of an audience -- to great response, by the way. And another from Bob Stillman ("Yew shore dew have a purty mouth") which we didn't try because....

Shawn's line, when we tried it, totally blasted the audience away. It was ("Jim" trying to put Buddy in his place), "Hey, Gideon, why don't take him with you tomorrow?". This line tore down the house. (For you newbies, the reason it works is because Gideon is going to kill himself the next day and only "Jim" knows.)

At the Saturday matinee, I was privileged to be sitting directly behind Joey's parents. For him, it was a totally nerve-wracking experience. Funny Joey story:

Last week, we were interviewed by Hieu Tran Phan of the Orange County Register for an article on the religion in TLS. As most of you know, Joey is a young man raised southern Baptist in Georgia -- from a deeply sincere family. Since our play challenges some of the Baptist doctrines and since it also has a few (harmless) four letter words in it, Hieu asked Joey, "What do you want your parents to see in this play?"

(We were all expecting some huge theological answer but instead he said...)

"I want them to see that I really do have talent."

(I love this kid.)

Anway, we were all nervous for Joey. Frankly, when my parents -- the REAL preacher and the nurse -- came to see me perform TLS in the workshop production back in July of 1996, I was VERY glad everyone hid this fact from me. I think I might have just fainted backstage had I known.

And Joey was at the top of his form. Maybe it was the presence of his family, but the character of Buddy is in a very foreign place with some extremely hostile people throwing barbs at him. But Joey has found the truth of Buddy, wavering not one bit and maintaining the integrity of a boy trying desperately to stand up for what he believes is right.

And when his heart starts to melt while singing "Going It Alone," the power -- well...

His grandmother was sitting just in front of me and when the lights went down with "Buddy" on the stool crying -- after the audience started to mill around and talk, her eyes stayed riveted to the stage ignoring everyone. Finally, she said quietly, "You can feel it. You can feel it."

Then she turned around and looked at me -- eyes red with tears -- and said, "You gotta know pain. You gotta know pain..."

The article, called "From Hate To Humanity" is, in my opinion, the best article ever written about TLS. In NY, I was frustrated that reviewers and feature writers missed what I felt was one of the most compelling things about THE LAST SESSION, the way the character of Buddy is depicted.

From the article by Hieu Tran Phan:

"...We're not asking audiences who see the musical to change their minds on homosexuality. We're asking them to discard all-out hostility and condemnation," Schalchlin said Thursday.

"There is a respectful middle, a balance between militant gays and homophobic violence. It's called love for a human being."

"... But can Buddy befriend Gideon and remain true to his religion? Is he practicing the Christian motto of "Hate the sin, love the sinner?"

"Many Christians say no. They insist that such caring goes too far because it amounts to tacit approval of homosexuality and, more important, an unwillingness to draw a bottom line for ethical behavior. These Christians criticize what they deem as society's increasing subjectivism-- a "do as you please" and "Who am I to judge you?" attitude of the 1990s.

"The problem is, where should Christians draw their bottom line...?"

I spoke to my mama about this a couple of weeks ago. She and my dad are also very firm believers in literal interpretation of the Bible and fundamentalism, so they're not some crazed liberals. She said, "They're just people." Meaning, of course, that it's ridiculous to ostracize anyone because of their perceived differences.

They're just people. We're all just people. (And I think about the story of the "Christian" parents who threw their same gender attracted 16 year old out of the house with, "...and don't come back until you get fixed!")

Horrible. Just horrible.

Rick Stein told us Saturday afternoon they had a "talkback" scheduled between shows. Normally, as P.M. informed us afterward, these consist of about 20 audience members sticking around after the show asking questions of the actors. Questions like, "Do you have any other job?" or "How long does it take you to memorize a whole script?"

Pretty mundane stuff.

So, just before the matinee, Rick tells the audience that if they wish to participate in the talkback after the show, they should just stay in their seats after the lights come back up.

Myself, after the show, I ran outside to shmooze with folks, hang out and also to take my pills. Suddenly, Lee the house manager runs out and says, "Rick is asking for you on stage. Hurry!"

"OH!" I said, having already forgotten about the talkback. I took off into the theatre only to find myself greeted with thunderous applause. Way over half the crowd -- it looked like a full house -- had stayed and by the time I took the stage, they were on their feet.

I must have looked stunned. I stood there with my mouth agape and Rick telling me to take a bow. I did and then took another and another. Soon, Jimmy was running up the aisle and I thought the place was going to come apart. Then the actors walked out -- to yet another thunderous ovation -- and the audience began to talk.

But no stupid questions. It was more like... like a revival meeting. People were giving testimonials, talking about how the show moved them like none other they had ever seen. Person after person stood and spoke, most of them drenched in tears. Seniors. Teens. Parents.

Rick said he had never seen anything like it. The next talkback is Thursday night but I'll be in Bangor Maine by then, so I'll miss it. But I have to tell you, I was qvelling. I'm still qvelling.

Jimmy Brochu has been asked to star with Lainie Kazan in a benefit staged reading of "Do Re Mi" (Comden, Green, Stein) for the Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop next spring.

Jimmy is the kind of actor that develops a cult following. When we were in NY doing the staged reading at the John Houseman Theatre, the stage manager Cesar was overwhelmed to the point of nearly fainting when he found out Jimmy had played a one shot on an episode of "Wings."

I don't remember the name of the episode but Jimmy played an officious director of a community theatre production of "Phantom of the Oprah." That is, Phantom of the Opera set on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Jimmy doesn't do much acting because he hates to audition. He figures if they want him, they'll ask for him. But his stage experience is extensive and his appearances in anything are, well, vivid.

Cesar could quote line for line every word that Jimmy spoke in that episode. ("Theatre is not down here.. theatre is up HERE!")

It was all my fault but it wasn't intentional.

My cyberpal Linda D. had written me wanting to do something for my birthday, but I balked because I'd rather people spend money on someone who really needs something or on Youth Guard or whatever. But she pressed and finally I relented and said I liked socks. Gold Toe socks because they're really comfortable. (I have a slight burning neuropathy in my toes from the AIDS drugs.)

She responded with an ominous, "That's all I needed to know..."

(Sunday October 4th was to be my 45th birthday.)

I figgered something was up, but I didn't know what. I mean, after all, it wasn't like I didn't *KNOW* it was my birthday. And everyone was really quiet about it. But they pulled a fast one on me. It began at the Sunday matinee when, after the thunderous applause, they called me up on stage and Jimmy came through the door with a cake.

About this cake: He knows I can't eat sugar so they presented me with a chocolate cake piled high the candy bars and cookies. Very funny.
Then, back in the green room, the staff presented me with a birthday card and there was a present or two, but everyone was gathered around the TV watching a baseball game. So, I stood there completely ignored with everyone chattering like magpies. Finally, I said rather loudly, "THANK YOU I'M GOING TO OPEN MY PRESENT NOW!"

At that point, Bob Stillman walked by and said with a totally bored voice, "Good Steve. Good."

Okay, I thought. No big deal. What am I complaining about? They did present me with a cake in front of the audience...

Then, Jimmy said, "Hey, let's go over and eat at Cedar Creek."


I walked into this place and it was packed with screaming people, balloons... EVERYONE was there. All my RENTheads pals, Joey Traywick's family in from Georgia, Dickie, a ton of my L.A. friends...

... and there next to my seat was a basketful of socks.

And I mean a basketful. I was reading cards and piling the socks up in front of me. I think someone took a picture of me lying face down in them. No doubt that's one shot that's going to be circulating around...

Ah, the ignoble inhumanity of it all.

All this wouldn't mean anything if the show wasn't firing on all cylinders and this weekend, they cast was pulling out heartstopping performances. If entertainment was a crime, these guys would be doing life.

I thought maybe it was just me, but when I asked one of our regular RENTniks, they just stood there shaking their heads. They felt it, too. I don't know. This musical has hit another level. I mean, think. It's only been three weeks? In NY we'd only now be getting out of previews. It feels like it's over before it started.

I just added another personal appearance. Confirmed it today. San Diego for two days at a theatre called: 6@Pennstudio. 3704 Sixth Ave In the Hillcrest area. San Diego. CALL 619-688-9210. ONLY 2 NIGHTS *AND* being no fool, I've asked Joey Traywick to join me. He has tentatively said, "Yes" and so once he's had a chance to clear the dates, you'll be the first to know.

Wednesday will be my last chance to see the Laguna production. On Thursday I'll fly to Maine for a Human Rights Rally. I can't believe it. I also missed the last performance of the NY production. Guess it's gonna have to be a tradition from now on...

Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20

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

All photos and text are © 1998 by Steve Schalchlin.