Volume 1 Book 9 Episode 4
of Living In The Bonus Round
the online diary of Steve Schalchlin
Life's a Beach (and then you open).
Episode 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20

Amy Coleman

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 Four: Designer Runthrough.

Laguna Beach.
Early Smoky September 1998.

It was four minutes of exquisite beauty.

I know I talked a lot about Bob Stillman yesterday, but tonight, Thursday, in the rehearsal hall, in front of all the designers (lighting, technical, sound, and gawd knows what else) as well as a few of the trustees, the cast was performing its "Designer Runthrough" and it was really great.

Yeah, I could see some gears spinning sometimes and a few lines of dialogue and lyric got messed up or forgotten, but overall, considering we're two weeks away from opening, the show is in excellent shape. There are no fundamental problems, only little ones -- and little moments not yet captured.

Okay. So. They get through act one -- Joey almost loses it in "Going It Alone" but he survives intact. (Joey has this really tender heart and he told me when he sings the song, he thinks of Jimmy and me and that makes him cry. So it's all very personal.)

They get into Act Two -- oh! and I have to tell you, Amy Coleman is doing things I never saw her do. Tonight, during "Somebody's Friend," she got so lost in the music and the words and the moment that the authentic rock and roll blues woman that she is suddenly came free.

Christ, at one point she leaned way over and for a moment, silhouetted against the lighter wall, it was like she was Joe Cocker.

Quick Amy Moment:
After we opened last year in New York, she invited us all down to see her in her natural element, in front of a blues band. The bar was in a basement. You go down steps and immediately you're in the middle of the band facing the audience. They're playing right there at the door facing the room.

She's in a cotton house dress and her band consists of two older black musicians -- a drummer who never missed a lick and never played fancy and a bass player who seemed to kinda be in control. Plus a Russian lead guitarist who couldn't speak English.

She was also barefoot and standing in liquid -- a drink that had overturned. She'd get so into it, that her body would just bend all all kinds of ways helping her get to a note.

Know what she auditioned with? "House of the Rising Son." I had to play it for her because the audition pianist was trained in classical music. He didn't quite know how to follow her music, which consisted of a faded yellow torn piece of paper, folded in fourths with chord changes written over the words.

Being a former band member myself, this is the only kind of chord chart the guys in my bands ever used. So, we had a real "band girl" and keyboardist moment. Back to the present:

It's right after "Friendly Fire" (where, by the way, we are going back to our original concept of "lethal back-up singers" with guns.) Buddy steps up and says "When a wounded soldier is taken from the battlefield and brought to the field hospital, he doesn't know if he's going to live to fight again. But most of all, he doesn't know if he wants to..."

And here's where the four magical moments happened tonight. This spot.

It's "Connected." You see, beginning with the second song, "Preacher and the Nurse," the instrumentation has either been piano and bass or piano and guitar. But "Connected" is all alone. No bass. No cute guitar parts.

And there tonight, tenderly, beautifully, Bob sang alone.


It was four epic minutes of pure stillness.

That's it. Nothing fancy. But it's being in the presence of a true master of his craft.

No one breathed. No one moved. In the echoey room, Bob's voice -- pure and sweet -- sang "Connected." Every note was exquisite; perfectly executed. He makes my songs feel like works of art. And when it was over, no one moved for the longest time.

And I realized that in all my time with that song, this performance tonight was the very best I had ever heard from anyone, myself included. I wanted to tell him, but Bob is kinda strange. He'll tell you himself that he does not take compliments well.

So I decided to just be honest. I'd go up to him, shake his hand and simply thank him for giving me those four minutes. And so I did.

His reaction was, "Oh, that's weird. I was just kinda going through it casually, just saying the words without a big emotional investment. I'll have to remember that."

Dontcha just hate him? How can anyone create a perfect work of vocal art and then toss it off as if he had just done the laundry? (But the truth is that from the beginning, I always suggested to the actors that the best approach on these songs is to allow the words to tell the story. JIm's mantra: Just tell the story.)


[This was posted at the TLS fan chat room by Ronda after seeing the Designer Runthrough last night.]

I don't know if I can explain this adequately without you totally thinking that I am a nutcase but every time I see a new incarnation of TLS for the first time, I have a sort of surreal experience. I seem to see all of the characters and hear all of the voices of each member of our TLS family in sort of an overlay over the live performance. It's not exactly a flashback, because it all happens simultaneously.

I see Steve at the Cinegrill coughing so badly that I had Kim get him water during the performance. And Marjory Graue, Yve Evans, and Steve Wilde fighting to keep their composure as they performed such a personal piece with Steve. And the overflow audience of friends and business acquaintances who had come to help with Steve's medical expenses who were so overcome with emotion that the feeling in the air will be something I will never forget.

It was that night that Kim and I realized that this was not just a tribute to Steve and Jim's talent, but a piece that had emotional impact on everyone who watched it

I see the Zephyr reading that I anxiously took my visiting mom to see (who is a Texan and strict Southern Baptist). And I remember her standing and applauding wildly in the middle of the show (Texans have no theatre couth).

I remember Steve and Marjorie being joined by Chip Esten, Francesca P. Roberts, Doug Tracht and Stephen Prince at the Zephyr workshop where Steve was doing 12 hours a day of IV medication and barely functioning, and then seeing him miraculously energized as he performed his beloved songs and acted Jimmys script to sold out crowd of all kinds of people who walked out saying they had never experienced anything like TLS.

I remember the jaded street kids who cried -- and the teenage son of a friend of mine who vowed to never use the word "fag" again after seeing the show. I marvel about the internet "stranger" who traveled from El Paso to see the show who has become a great friend and investor in the show.

I think about the NY reading, the Currican, and 47th Street and the wonderful actors Susan Dawn Carson, Sandra Reaves, Bob Stillman, Stephen Bienskie, Amy Coleman, Dean Bradshaw, John Randall, Grace Garland, Will Garthshore and Pegg Winter who have been there for us along each step of the way, meeting the doctor who invented Crixivan which has so wonderfully given Steve his life back and now I add P.M., Maizey and Joey to the ensemble, and it is an incredible emotional feeling.

Each person adds his and her indelible touch to the show and to my life, and for that I am forever grateful. This is difficult to put into words (although I seem to be doing something here) but to the new members of this family, I say welcome and thank you (including the Laguna Playhouse staff and production gang) for yet another wonderful chapter of this incredible journey. God Bless TLS and its worldwide family and friends who are all forever in my heart!


 Mark this day. Today I confirmed that I am going to sing again in a Baptist church in Dallas. Pastor Bob Stith knew me from my days in my Jesus music band. He has been in the forefront of helping Southern Baptists reform their attitudes toward gay people (even though he sits on the board of an "exgay" ministry.

Our band used to sleep in his and his wife's house 20 years ago. We led the service where they dedicated their sanctuary.

So today, we talked. (He found me after he discovered Bridges Across. He couldn't BELIEVE that the "SteveS" there was the same Steve Schalchlin from 20 years ago). Anyway, we chatted and remembered some old time and then I dared him. I said,

"Okay, Pastor Bob. I have a challenge for you. Let me sing in your church."

Without hesitation he said, "Yes."

So, now in Dallas a "self-avowed unrepentant homosexual" is going to sing in a Baptist Church. A Southern Baptist Church. A CONSERVATIVE Southern Baptist Church.

Talk about a revolution...

NEXT: Part 5 -- Maisey!

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.