Last Session Story Synopsis || Last Session Proposed Set Design
THE LAST SESSION
A New Take On Life.
Book by Jim Brochu | Music & Lyrics by Steve Schalchlin Additional lyrics by John Bettis, Marie Cain and Jim Brochu
A Story Synopsis || The Set || The Reviews || Weird Little Story |||
First, A Little Bragging by Steve -- Forgive, Please
The songs from The Last Session were written from my (Steve Schalchlin's) own personal struggle with AIDS and as a result of a concert presentation of the show on March 4, 1996 (see below), I was awarded a Gold Membership by the National Academy of Songwriters for achievement in songwriting artistry. To my knowledge, this is the first time Gold Membership was awarded based on a single work.
Naturally, I've humbly accepted the honor. (As soon as the rest of the membership hears about it, there'll probably be riots in the streets, but I'm not giving it back.)
THE LAST SESSION is set to open on October 17th (with previews beginning Oct. 9th) Off-Broadway at the 47th Street Theatre at 8th Ave. one block from Times Square. Check the latest news page for updates.
A little History
Jim Brochu began writing the book for The Last Session around Dec. 1st, 1995, based upon a few songs Steve had been writing since July of 1995, although the bulk of the work began in earnest on Thanksgiving of 1995. The first private reading of the show was at the home of playwright David Rambo and Ted Heyck on Feb. 4th, 1996 in the fashionable Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. (David and Ted are nothing if not fashionable.)
In this reading Buddy was played by Alan Satchwell, Vickie was played by Marjory Graue, Tryshia was played by Marie Cain (who also wrote the lyrics to Friendly Fire. Steve and Jim played Gideon and "Jim." Based upon the reading, the group was then asked by National Academy of Songwriter's Executive Director, Brett Perkins, to perform the show concert style for a benefit on March 3, 1996.
Cold, Messy Night For A Benefit.
It was a cold, rainy, messy night and the streets were hard to negotiate due to subway construction. But the people crowded into the sold-out room and huddled together with host Rue McClanahan, who was suffering from a bad cold in a benefit sponsored by ASCAP and the NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SONGWRITERS. We heard a packed room of "jaded" songwriters, producers and other music industry types laughing, crying and loudly applauding the show and its new cast of Steve Wilde (Buddy), Marjory Graue (Vicki), Yve Evans (Tryshia), director Jim Brochu (as Jim) and Steve Schalchlin at the piano. It was produced by Brett W. Perkins, Brendan Okrent, Dan Kimpel, and Rik Laurence. Jeff Barry the President of NAS (and multi-award winning hit songwriter) spoke before the show.
This concert version was reviewed by a local veteran critic who was asked to not review it since it was still in its early stages. But, with tears flowing from his eyes after the show, he declared he would review it whether we wanted him to or not.
At the LAST MINUTE--A Workshop at the Zephyr!
Three months later, upon hearing about the show from Irene Oppenheim of the Firehouse Theatre Company, Gary Guidinger and partner Linda Toliver at the Zephyr Theatre asked if a new reading could be thrown together in three days to replace a cancellation at his theatre. The Cinegrill cast was gathered, some phone calls were made and much to everyone's delighted suprise, The Zephyr was filled to capacity on a Saturday morning.
And once again, the audience reaction was nothing short of phenomenal.
Immediately we put a workshop production together and scheduled a three week run for the end of July. Produced by Firehouse Theatre Company in association with Gary Guidinger & Linda Toliver, Ronda & Kim Espy at Bobalew Music, Carl D. White and David Roos.NOTE:
(In the months after the Cinegrill reading, Steve had gotten very ill from AIDS and had begun intravenous feeding with TPN -- 14 hours a day. He also began the new protease inhibitor combination therapy. At the time of this second public reading, he was very thin and was wearing an Ace bandage on his arm to protect the IV port. All of this is documented in Steve's online diary).
The workshop production began rehearsing almost immediately. Directed by Jim Brochu, the cast now consisted of Steve (again) as Gideon, Charles Esten as Buddy, Marjory Graue as Vicki, Doug "The Greaseman" Tracht as Jim, and Francesca P. Roberts as Tryshia. Even though there was no advertising, publicity or promotion, the run was a total sell-out. We also did a special performance for PWAs and runaways from the Covenant House. As a result of the workshop, the property was optioned by Carl D. White, an Associate Producer with Stone-Nederlander in New York.
Four Staged Readings in New York
In November of 1996, Jim and Steve flew to New York and organized a new presentation of THE LAST SESSION to be done at Studio A at the John Houseman Theatre on 42nd Street (produced by Don Kirkpatrick, Carl D. White & Kim & Ronda Espy), directed by Jim Brochu.
From the LA company. Charles Esten was brought in to reprise Buddy and from New York, Susan Dawn Carson played Vicki and Sandra Reeves played Tryshia (with Steve and Jim once again performing in their respective roles). D. Jay Bradley helped with harmonies and musical direction. Because of the internet connection, people flew in from California, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, Pennsylvania and London, England. They also drove from Boston, New Hampshire, Virginia and god knows where else to see this reading. And, once again, the show played to standing ovations and rollicking laughter.
Jim's old friend, Mike Wills, saw the readings and arranged for his production company, Currican/Playful Productions, to present a showcase production in New York at their Currican Theatre.
Also, POZ Magazine interviewed and photographed Steve, and Bruce Dorsey, the lead scientist who synthesized the drug Crixivan, which was responsible for Steve's miraculous health recovery, discovered his website and has attended both the staged readings and the Currican/Playful production.
Subsequently, Steve has been featured in the NY Times, at Harvard University and People Magazine.
The Currican/Playful Production, directed by Mike Wills, was recast in New York. Cast members now consisted of Stephen Bienskie as Buddy, Dean Bradshaw as Jim, Amy Coleman as Vicki, Grace Garland as Tryshia, and Bob Stillman as Gideon. Scheduled to run three weeks, the run was extended for four months because of audience demand. Produced by Andrew Miller (Artistic Director), Amy Kiehl (Producer) and Mike Wills.
The Currican/Playful Production
The new off-Broadway production will be produced by Carl D. White & Jamie Cesa, and Jay Cardwell & Michael Alden. It is scheduled to open on October 17th with previews beginning on Oct. 9th. Jim Brochu will once again be at the helm directing. Stephen Bienskie, Dean Bradshaw, Amy Coleman, Grace Garland, and Bob Stillman will make up the cast. More news as it develops.
The 47th Street Theatre
A Description of The Last Session
The Last Session is a five-character musical whose central character is a ex-Gospel singer/songwriter with AIDS who has invited his best friends to join him in the studio and sing back-up for him for one last recording session. Gideon has a secret. He has secretly decided to kill himself the day after the recording because he is frightened of the disease and tired of the fight.
The setting is a small recording studio built in a former bomb shelter under a house in Burbank, California.
- The characters are:
- Gideon, the songwriter with AIDS, whose story is loosely based on Steve Schalchlin's own life.
- Jim, the "crabby" producer/engineer in the booth who knows Gideon's secret and has agreed to help him with this one last recording session.
- Vicki, an old pal of Gideon's who used to sing in his band, but who, these days, drinks just a tad too much. She and Gideon have a stormy past which is revealed during the play.
- Tryshia, a professional back-up singer for every major artist in the music business and who also used to be in Gideon's old band.
- Buddy, a young evangelist/singer who is a last minute substitute vocalist and who idolizes Gideon from Gideon's days as a Gospel singer.
Jim, Gideon, Vicki and Tricia are old friends and the session begins as a loving family situation. But when Buddy arrives, everything changes. Buddy is a young man fresh from Texas and very excited to finally meet his idol, Gideon. But Buddy is a Fundamentalist Christian and when he realizes he's stuck in an airtight room with a man who's not only gay, but has AIDS, he feels compelled to speak out. Unfortunately, Gideon is in no mood for lectures and Bible verses thrown like knives, and though he likes the boy, it all reminds him of Job's well-meaning, but haranguing, "friends."
Five people in a bomb shelter. Making music, making war.
Audience members do not consider The Last Session to be about AIDS at all. Gideon is a man who is faced with a seemingly impossible challenge and his own attempts to rise to that challenge. This is a show about a man's search for a reason to live. It's also a show about love and Christianity and divorce and suicide and hope.
And with all these heavy themes Jim has written an impossibly funny book (that's the "script," to all you film types) with flesh and blood characters. It's also deeply touching and genuinely "real." The few who have witnessed it say it is unlike anything they had ever seen or heard.
We thank our "first angel," Don Kirkpatrick, a Survival Site reader who saw the show and Kim and Ronda Espy from Bob-A-Lew Music who believed in this musical from the very first day I sat in Ronda's office and read her the words to The Group. On that day, I looked at her and said "I don't know what I have here, but from the tears streaming down your face, it occurs to me that it might be pretty good."
Thanks to Kim and Ronda, we have a home page to document this historic event and to bring The Last Session fully to life.
Special thanks to Andrew Miller & Amy Kiehl of the Currican Theatre along with Special Thanks to Mike Wills, who "discovered" THE LAST SESSION at the New York staged readings and brought it to Currican/Playful. --Steve Schalchlin
Please send me e-mail if you get this far and say hello. If you want more information about anything at all, please write me or call me:Bob-A-Lew Music, 11712 Moorpark St. #111, Studio City, CA 91604
Go to the Broadway GeoCities if you've reached this page and have never seen the neighborhood. Geocities is a cool little cyber-community and the home page locations are free!
© 1997 Steve_S@Cliffhanger.com