Volume 1 Book 9 Episode 2
of Living In The Bonus Round
the online diary of Steve Schalchlin
Life's a Beach (and then you open).
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Joel (Joey) Traywick
An Online Diary of the
1998 Laguna Playhouse Production
of THE LAST SESSION
featuring Jim Brochu, Amy Coleman, P.M. Howard, Michele Mais, Bob Stillman, Joey Traywick, Positoids, NuBiHes and lavish amounts of love.
Part Two: Auditioning Joey.
Late August 1998.
A JOEY STORY
They were blocking the show on Saturday (I was back home so I didn't see it). "Blocking" is where Jimmy, as director, takes the actors, line by line through the script and indicates where they'll be standing or looking or moving at every specific moment.Steve again:
(Jimmy likes to finish this process in two days, three max. After they learn the blocking, then he just runs the show and runs it and runs it so the actors can feel the flow of the whole piece as opposed to getting bogged down in details..)
Joey Traywick had a very tough moment today.
In playing the role of Buddy, he has a pivotal song in THE LAST SESSION. It happens toward the end of Act One and the song is "Going It Alone." In it, Buddy finally steps into Gideon's (Bob Stillman's) shoes and experiences the pain and isolation -- along with the unconditional love -- shared by Gideon and his caregiver, Jack. It's an extremely emotional moment as the character of Buddy finds himself torn apart in about six different directions.
So far in all the rehearsals -- in fact, even during his audition, Joey has been unable to get through this number without breaking down. The picture you saw as you entered this page catches him in one of these moments. The redness in his face is real as he holds back tears.
Well, today it all fell apart. The number calls for him to look over into Gideon's face on the last verse and then sing the last word, "...alone" by himself. He barely held back his emotions until he got to "alone." When suddenly, he just apologized, "I'm sorry... I'm sorry..." and he ran from the rehearsal hall into the bathroom where he wept, Jimmy said, for 15 minutes.
In the car later with Amy we were talking about this event and suddenly we all just started laughing, saying, "These guys [meaning Michele, Joey and P.M.] haven't done it with a live audience. You think he's emotional now? He ain't seen nuthin'."
As long as we're here, I thought you might enjoy the two versions of Joey's audition.
My name is Joel Thomas Traywick and I am from Tunnel Hill, Georgia. Population 897. I have a younger sister who was the 1997 Miss Georgia State University and just graduated in May.
You see, I am a momma's boy. She is the reason I took up acting instead of whatever else rural boys take up. She has prayed by my bed while I was sick, cried when I messed up and danced when I won. We are a very close and religious family.
Joey and his mom join us for dinner
I went to church everytime the doors were open. WMBW is the local Christian station based in Chattanooga and my dad never lets a day go by that he doesn't mention some good word that he took from their programing. I went on EVERY youth trip in the summer. I sang a solo in church at least once a month. I loved singing in the youth choir but getting to put on the robe for adult choir was a rite of passage all its own.
I believe God is bigger than Baptist, though. And just to let you know how pervasive the culture is, I hope nobody reads that last sentence from home...
The Last Session is a story about what I am going through TODAY!STEVE'S POV:When I got a call from my manager regarding "The Last Session" I was pretty down. I had gone to audition here in Los Angeles for the revival of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" on Broadway and I felt very confident.
We were down to our last week and we hadn't found our "Buddy." Yeah, we found some fine actors who could do the role, but Jimmy kept saying, "No. We have to find someone who IS Buddy, not just someone who can PLAY Buddy."
Finally, a week before we were to go into rehearsals, a casting agent friend of ours, Anthony Barnao (who casts "Profiler" for NBC), ran into a friend who recommended Joel Traywick.
I went in, sang did the monologue where Charlie is eating his lunch all alone and sees the little red headed girl. When I finished the director asked me to start over and this time do the monologue as ME. "Just talk to me" he said, "tell the truth". I began again and he stopped me once more. "NO, you are too affected, just be yourself. Start again." Once again I started but now I am spooked because I thought I WAS being me. Two lines into the monologue he stopped me and stood and showed me out.
Man, was that a bad day. All day long I wondered if I could tell the truth. I mean in TV and Film they could give a crap but in Theater? My love? Had I sold my soul to do the "X-Files"? Needless to say I was not thrilled to be auditioning for yet another musical so soon.
"Joel, you ARE this kid", I remember my manager saying, "from the south, Christian upbringing and everything! Just get a song together and bring the music. It will be fun!" Famous last words...
I misjudged the distance [from work] and was MAJOR late. Like close to twenty minutes or something gross. My car is a 1972 Volkswagen and has no air. I thought it a good idea to put the top down on the way. Bad idea. Especially in the valley. I am sweaty, late and am wearing jeans, a green polo and my ratty Braves cap. I remember beeping up and Jim coming on the speaker "YEAH, I'LL BUZZ YOU IN, THEN STRAIGHT, TO THE LEFT AND THE SECOND SET OF STAIRS ON YOU LEFT."
I didn't even have time to introduce myself or apologize. This was bad. Not only were they waiting but they had probably seen me pull up on the curb and back into that pickup truck behind me. "I should go home now", I thought, "before they can recognize me by my face". Well, I followed the instructions and before I knew it I was in the living room...When he first arrived for his audition, Jimmy had the same reaction that he had when he first laid eyes on Stephen Bienskie -- "No way." He just seemed too young and, well, a bit discombobulated and goofy.and singing "Steal With Style" from the Robber Bridegroom. They weren't too impressed, it was obvious.He sang some goofy song from The Robber Bridgroom" that sounded like a hoedown. My first reaction was not positive. Not that he couldn't sing but I was looking for a rock voice and this kids voice was more childlike, even immature.Jim asked for a ballad, I bring out the most difficult piece, something from CLOSER THAN EVER, "If I Sing." Steven lets me know he is a composer and that he would rather not play this one by sight, "there is an accompaniment CD, I could put that in..." I say. Jim and Steve just look at each other. It's going bad.Then I gave him the bridge to "Going It Alone" ("...is it such a lonely battle...") just to see if he could handle the notes.Steve brings out "Going it Alone". I was trying to sight read and people read at the same time, by now I had just begun to tune out the material and focus on getting out alive. Then Steve asked me to sing a few bars again. This time I noticed the beautiful melody and listened to the lyrics.
I got chills. Serious goose bumps. All of a sudden I was rejuvenated. I sang it over again and this time showed Jim my arm to prove what this stuff was doing to me. I still had not determined who was the boss in the setup but I chose to show Jim my arm because Steve was seated at the piano. I know, how could I be so hardened?! But in reality, the music HAD done that to me I just wanted to get some brownie points for it!!I have to admit it was really sweet the way he was so obviously moved by the material. He was a mess of nerves and stuttering all over himself -- every actor's nightmare. It only endeared him to us. How can you not love that? Who hasn't done that? Still, I was very unimpressed but Jimmy just kept saying, "I have a feeling about this one. I think he's the right one."Well, we stopped singing and Jim gave me a scene to read. One where this kid from the south is out of his element and is just overwhelmed. DUH...
Jim gave me one of my headshots back (bad) and said if he never sees me agian he hopes we work together sometime soon (real bad). But I scooped up and headed out, glaring at the guy about to come in with his new guitar and big smile.
Jim said that he would make a decision by the end of the day.I give Jimmy final word on casting because he has this inborn talent for seeing below the surface and we decided, as I was preparing to fly off to Viriginia to sing for a benefit, that we would give Joey and a couple other actors "Going It Alone" to learn over the weekend and set a callback for Monday.I waited by the phone as long as I could. I had class at the Groundlings at 7. I left for class. As soon as I got on the road, my pager goes nuts!! "They want to see you again - they are going to get you the CD so you can practice a song from the show!" David, my manager chimed. Class was a breeze that night. Maybe I had learned to tell the truth.
I learned "Going it Alone" in one afternoon. I made a tape for the car and played the CD in the house. It was here that I learned how special this show was. The web address for "Bonus Round" was on the CD cover and it became intensely personal.
I sang the song for my mom and dad over the phone. I sang it for my roommate, my agent, my manager anyone who would listen.
Well, the big call back was set for Monday around 1:30. I was to have someone relieve me at the gym around 1. He didn't show until around ten minutes after. Glad I'm quitin' that job. I had to go home and shave, change and be there in twenty minutes!
I don't know why I wore a tie. They are so rare out here and I do love that silk tie I wore with the big old white fluffy button down. Anyway, I felt comfortable, except for my bleeding chin from shaving too quickly. As I am looking for this theater I get a little lost. In addition to the stress of this being a call back AND being late I began to think of who to call? My manager?
I could pull over and call him an he could call and make things better before I get there, or my agent or my momma, anybody... go ahead and laugh but the lyrics came to mind. "Going it alone". "It's just me", I thought. I pulled up to the theater a little late and went right in.
I remember Steve offered me the sheet music and I didn't need it. I felt proud of that. I really wanted to honor what Jim and Steve had done. Really.
I sang the song and only got choked up a little bit. I remember trying to send mental messages to Steve that if this was the last time I got to sing this that I was glad to have gotten to do it. I hope he got those.Well.Then, they sent me out and had me look at a scene I had not seen before. I had done one of them in the other audition but the second was right after I sing "Going it Alone".
On Monday, at the Lex Theatre in Hollywood, Joel came back, dressed in a tie (just like Buddy), waved off the sheet music I offered him, stepped to the front of the stage and, shaking like a leaf proceeded to sing. I can tell you that it was one of the most glorious moments I ever remember. He ripped our hearts to shreds. He sounded like a choirboy. Innocent. Pure. Totally different from our previous Buddys, yet completely appropriate.
After he sang, obviously shaking from the emotions, he came over to me and said, "I just want to say that even if I don't get cast in this role, it was an honor to just sing it for you. And I wanted you to know that."
Jimmy, overhearing this and wanting to lighten things up said, "Hey! We've had our asses kissed by better than you!"
Poor Joey (Joel) laughed nervously, but I think it was all too overwhelming. So Jimmy gave him "sides" to read and he left the room as we listened to another actor.
I went back in and I don't know what happened. I lost it. I don't know whether the scene was supposed to be funny or what but Buddy talks to Gideon as though he can save him and he will not give up. Did I say I lost it? I finished the scene, hugged everybody like six times and went outside to blow all the snot from my nostrils.
I caught my breath and sat in my car and Then I LOST it. What's worse, I went back to the gym in my tie and fragile state and had to be pleasant for a few more hours. Did I say I was glad about leavin' there? OK.Joey came back in to read the opening scene from Act Two that it all came together. In this scene, Buddy overhears his hero Gideon singing the song Buddy has brought to the session. Then they engage in a conversation where Buddy confesses how much he had always admired Gideon -- but how he now fears for Gideon's soul.Well, that is about it. Except for the nine ulcers I got from my pager going off with my friends and family calling, curious about the results. I found out around six that evening. I called my momma first. "Praise the Lord", she said " I have been waiting here with your father, praying by the phone."
Joel, voice trembling, eyes red with held-back tears, gave us heartbreak, pain, broken dreams and helplessness.
All of us were stunned. We could barely move.
Tears were pouring down my face.
This kid wasn't acting. He was living this.
When he left the room, we all looked at each other and said at exactly the same time, "He *IS* Buddy."
No joke. I really AM Buddy.
Yes, he really is Buddy.
After three days of rehearsing, I finally came home on Friday to catch up on the 500 emails that had accumulated and work on the pictures onsite. So, I missed the first few days of blocking.
Back home, I got to visit Ghost (Ghost is one of the ongoing "characters" from my diary but he's a real person). He's back at Hollywood Community Hospital this week after a scare. His blood oxygen levels dropped to coma level earlier last week -- seems his oxygen tank gave out or something. So they had him in the emergency room but by the time I saw him he was doing much better. His main problem now is just boredom.
Dickie (my other diary regular) is doing better, too, although, he's having to play a real balancing act with the new meds to control his liver impairment. He says he has good strength in the morning but loses it by evening.
Oh, and I am singing at the Hollywood Paladium on Saturday Sept. 12 for the POZ Expo. I think there's no admission charge. I'm singing at 10 am and University of Memphis is confirmed! For info call Margaret Richie at 901-678-2288. Also, it looks like I'll be singing in Detroit in early December just before or on World AIDS Day which is Dec 1.
But, my Dallas date in October has been cancelled or postponed. More on that as info becomes available.
NEXT: BOB STILLMAN
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All photos and text are © 1998 by Steve Schalchlin.