BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince you that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way. And that you can accomplish great things if you just push ahead and don't let anyone tell you no.

I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City-- which is my way of describing how I feel having cheated death. (In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better.) Accepting my death changed me. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle.

Last year, I turned 60 and I had a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album (selling 10s of copies), headlining to a sold out house at a major night club in New York City and playing the lead role in a staged reading of a play not written by myself. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve [SHACK-lin] and we're just getting started.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Quick Personal Update.

Another big offer has come my way, and I'm not sure if I can officially announce it yet. If it does come through, it will be among the most challenging and meaningful things that could ever happen to me. It would be a dream come true. So, I don't want to jinx it by saying too much.

On that note, the also challenging and meaningful show Amy, Jim and I have been collaborating on is moving along nicely. We have 20 songs or more ready to go. Since I've been home, I've been working on them constantly while checking in with the medical professionals who keep me alive. I've focused on music rather than this blog. Or video. Now that I have 114, or whatever it is, videos on YouTube under the name steveshack, I actually have video fans! Or fan, anyway.

Healthwise, the new shoes are working out fine. I still favor my right foot when I walk. I'm always aware of how it's hitting the pavement. Knowing where that pressure point is, I want to give it every chance to heal. I have not started to run yet. Going up to San Francisco soon will be good because I can climb hills there, which is low impact exercise. How cold is it there? Geez, we have clothes for arctic New York or balmy El Lay. Not sure we have San Francisco clothing.

The other thing I did today was I went to the hospital to get a collector bag. It seems that I'm putting out a lot of protein (again) in my urine. It suggests that something may be affecting my kidneys.

In fact, when I went down to pick up my collector bag (doesn't that sound like party swag?), this brick red plastic inverted jug (neatly hidden away in a white plastic shopping bag), I ran into Dr. Ruchi on the sidewalk outside.

"Got something for me?" She eyed.

"No. Today I'm picking up."

"This is not something to worry about. You see my face?"

It's a young and beautiful face. Raven black hair. Dark brown, liquid East Indian eyes. Mischievous smile.

"Yes, I see your face." (She really is beautiful).

"When it's time to worry, you'll see it in my face. This is not my worry face."

I told her, "I've done this before, you know. Ten years ago. I've always had protein in my urine."

I might have said that a little too loud. (I wasn't using my spa voice.)

Got in the car and took it in for servicing. There's a big new grocery store over on Lankershim and I thought I could let them give it a once-over while I check out the new stores. (There was a juice bar with a sign out front begging people to vote for them for "Best Fruit Juice". And I thought, Why would I do that?).

So, today, collector bag in hand, I will stride forth.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Speaking of The Last Session...

I was approached by someone very seriously and passionately committed to seeing it all the way through as a movie. With electronics getting so cheap and with the current resurgence in musical movies, I really do feel like the time is now. As much as I might enjoy all the other songs and things that have been a result of finger tapping on keyboard or keyboards (music or computer), the music from this show means the most to me. In fact, the entire show means the most to me. Weirdly, even though The Big Voice was our most specifically personal project (being an autobiography and all), it's The Last Session that FEELS the most personal. I can't sing those songs without losing it.

On our cruise to Norway, a bunch of the people we had met on the ship -- both gay and straight; one woman who was a cancer survivor -- gathered together one afternoon and asked me to sing my "AIDS songs" which I had been talking about so much.

It was a tear-drenched afternoon in that little lounge. Let me tell you.

Toward the end, I started singing a bunch of my new comedic stuff just to lift the pall from the room. But the intense emotional outpouring invested in those songs never goes away. Never.

That's why I'm thrilled that there is going to be a brand new production this next season in Norwich Connecticut. And the guy Brett, the artistic director at the Spirit of Broadway Theatre, has chosen for Gideon makes my heart palpitate. I can't say too much until it's all official, but Jim and I have been invited to Norwich on Dec. 6th to host their annual awards show. ("We couldn't get Kathy Griffin, so we're asking you.")

So, we're the "not Kathy Griffin!" I like that. I wish I had her sharp tongue. Well, actually I do. But I don't let Loud Steve out of his cage very often. Makes me wonder if I shouldn't do a Loud Steve blog where I let my other, uninhibited side loose. That'd be fun!

But seeing all this action around The Last Session start to sizzle makes me a very happy boy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Unknown TLS

Funny what happens when you surf the Net. Jim discovered this clip of a production of The Last Session. Whoever this is, they totally kick ass. Apparently, it's from a production that was done in Florida featuring Gary Waldman as Gideon. I gotta tell ya. This group is really good.

Cat 300.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Smoky Sky Outside.


The air here in the San Fernando Valley smells like smoke. Last night, when we went out for dinner, it was burning the back of my throat. Today, with all the TV newspeople telling us to stay inside as much as possible, I stepped outside to just take a look at the sky and the above photograph shows you what I saw. A thick cloud of dark, reddish tinged smoke lying across the Valley. On the horizon, you can see the blue sky and what it would look like if the fires weren't raging all around us.

We are not in any danger zone with regards to the fire, but the smoke is something else...

Is There A Physics To Musical Healing?

I recently received a fascinating email from a reader who saw some of my blogs writings about musical healing, and about how writing and singing the music for The Last Session, had a measurably healing effect on my body.

From Stuart Vail:

Steve,

I had a chance to read some of your writings online and was intrigued by what you had to say about the healing aspects of music. You may be interested in an editorial I wrote in my Internet magazine, of which this is an excerpt:

A French scientist who became interested in the connection between frequencies and sound discovered that a molecule can be broken down into a chain of amino acids, each possessing its own frequency, which is a vibration measured in cycles per second. In music, the "A" above middle "C" resonates at 440 cycles per second, therefore any molecule can be translated into musical terms. The scientist analyzed the frequencies of the amino acid chain for the molecule prolactin, a milk-inducing hormone, and notated the resulting melodic pattern. The melody was then played to a group of cows for eleven minutes every hour for a week. The cows then began to produce the largest quantity of milk anyone had ever seen, and it was by far the sweetest -- yielding the most flavorful cheese anyone had ever tasted.

Imagine the good that can come of this. The healing powers of music, written with the proper "amino acid/melodic relationships," could be wildly phenomenal. But, consider the potential for evil. In the 1930s the famous Argentinean tango composer, Carlos Gardel, composed a tango with a haunting melody which had a very strange effect on people. Many who heard it became severely depressed. There was a documented case of someone who jumped out of a window to her death. The French scientist analyzed the melody and, reversing the process, determined what chain of amino acids would be created by the melodic frequencies. The result was a drug that is a known major depressant.

How was Gardel to know? Imagine the power of music -- its powers to soothe, seduce, and heal. But with knowledge of molecular structures and their frequency relationships one could conceivably create melodies designed to kill. As of this writing, the French government has confiscated all of the scientist's research and has prohibited any further work on his part to this end.

Copyright 2001 by Stuart Vail

*************

Here is the full piece:
What do you think, reader? Is there a conspiracy afloat to keep a medication based on vibrations out of the market or is this a theory for Snopes to figure out? I'm not sure if I fully believe that vibrations can be turned into a medication as in the above story, but I do know what music did for me -- and what's done for countless others. I like what he says here at the end of his editorial:
Imagine a rhythm started by one person playing a conga drum at the pace of an average heartbeat. A neighbor hears the rhythm and joins in, perhaps playing a tambourine. Another plays along on a tom-tom. Someone else down the street adds to the rhythm with hand claps. Soon, the entire block is involved in a rhythmic jam session, pulsing out a groove for the rest of the neighborhood to hear. Others join in, and the beat travels to outlying areas. Entire communities become united in one collective rhythm. Like “Hands Across America” the country is soon linked coast-to-coast with a national heartbeat. It spreads across both borders into Mexico and Canada. Via telephone lines and satellite the beat travels overseas to Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia. The earth pulses with a unifying world beat. Every country is of one people, vibrating at the same frequency. Global entrainment. Imagine the possibilities. Imagine the potential.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Safe Schools Coalition Uses My Music.

I am very happy to have been informed that the Safe Schools Coalition has chosen to use three of my songs on their terrifically informative website. They're using "William's Song" on the page discussing Bias Crime, Hatred and Extremism.
"The Closet" on their Coming Out resources page.

"Intro to Gabi's Song" and "Will It Always Be Like This" on their Suicide resources page.

and all the songs are linked here:
Music on the Safe Schools Coalition Website.

The Wildfires.


A few people have written me asking if Jim and I are near the wildfires that are raging around southern California. We are not. However, we do have friends with homes in several of the areas and we are very concerned about them, their homes, their children and their pets. So, thank you for the notes. We have been warned to avoid going outside because the smoke is pervasive and very bad for people with asthma and allergies, to which both Jim and I are susceptible.

The above graphic shows you satellite photos of southern California taken about three hours apart. The wind has been howling here and that's why the fires are almost impossible to contain.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Zero Hour Opens in SF on Nov. 10, 2007.

Zero Hour will head into San Francisco in a new three-week run at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, where we just did The Big Voice. It was a kind of surprise booking that made us very happy. At NCTC, the response to the one night staged reading was so overwhelming that Ed Decker, the artistic director, asked Jim if he could bring it in before the New York plans are firmed up. (More on that later).

Jim is really happy to have a chance to just run the show for a few weeks and work on rewrites, and -- well, give the show more buzz. As for us, we get to bring the cats and hang out in San Francisco again, something I am so looking forward to. I even got my jury duty postponed again.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Dancing Cockatoo.

He loves The Backstreet Boys.

h/t: My friend Diane.

Happy Anniversay, TLS

10 years ago yesterday, on October 17th 1997, The Last Session opened off-Broadway. Here's the diary entry for that night:

Thursday-Friday, October 17, 1997
Opening Night Part One.

Thursday night -- our last preview -- was a total disaster (or at least it seemed to be). The sound person was late and someone booted up the system incorrectly, so when Bob Stillman sat down and began singing the opening of TLS, he was singing a cappella. It was just one of those things that makes a composer go crazy. And not only that, we had critics in the audience. The guy on the sound board went into total heart attack (figuratively) and finally it all got put under control, but that's why you have previews: so you can figure out what can go wrong.

Since Mama Ronda and Kim were out from El Lay and seeing this production for the first time, it was shocking for them because (since the show was being mixed manually without benefit of the sound guy actually being able to hear it), they thought the mix was normal. By intermission they looked shell-shocked. For the second act, though, they had rebooted the system and got it under control. But what a scary ride that was!

The big opening was Friday night and everyone was on pins and needles. The actors were nervously getting ready down in their dressing rooms surrounded by bouquets of flowers, the producers were checking the guestlist and making sure everyone had a seat, the PR guys were handing out press packages for VIPs, and it was so exciting.

Myself, I put on my new suit (compliments of Carl and Jamie), Jimmy put on his new clothes, including a spiffy new hat which made him look like Citizen Kane, and we made our appearance. I had this ear to ear grin plastered on my face. Tonight would be the opening night of the off-Broadway production of The Last Session. My stomach was doing butterflies and flipflops but I knew we would be okay.

It took a while to get everyone piled into the little 47th Street Theatre, but when they finally got settled, I noticed an empty seat way down front, so I jumped into it just as the lights were going down. I grabbed Ronda's hand, took a deep breath and listened as Bob Stillman began the opening chords for "Save Me A Seat." Then I breathed a sigh of relief. The sound was working. It was beautiful.

All the actors were now in their element and with the sympathetic crowd, it was clear to me that this was going to be a prime performance. "Preacher and the Nurse" totally brought down the house as did Amy Coleman's new rendition of "Somebody's Friend." And once again, Stephen Bienskie's (and Bob's) "Going It Alone" took everyone's breath away.

There's a moment in that song where the music stops for just a moment -- where Gideon and Buddy turn to look at one another. The silence in the room at that moment was stunning. No one took a breath, no one coughed, no one shuffled. It was a crystal clear moment of absolute stillness. By the end of the act, the audience was in tears and the explosion of applause practically tore down the house. (Ah, theatre!)

Jimmy told me he's been to plenty of opening nights. When the play is lousy, everyone tries desperately to smile and try to have a good time, but it's apparent when it doesn't work. This opening was nothing like that. The buzz on the street, the tears, the hugging, the laughs -- complete strangers telling me they had never seen nor heard anything so "real" and so emotional in their lives.

Act Two went even better. The ovation for Bob Stillman's "Connected" seemed to last forever, as did the applause for Grace Garland's "Singer and the Song." At the end of the show, the actors demanded that Jimmy and I come up and take a bow. Well, I shot up to the stage and all I can say is my heart was about to burst. I know I had a grin on my face that practically knocked my ears off.

The roar from that crowd, all of them standing and stomping and screaming, was heart-pounding. I felt my heart would just rip out of my chest. We took a couple of bows with the cast and then went backstage with them, told them how terrific they were and headed out to the street.

There was a big meal planned for after the show, but it was like no one wanted to leave the theatre. We took photos and laughed and hugged. So many tears. So much joy. Then we all trudged off two blocks away to a fancy restaurant where the producers had set up a big opening night celebration for all 200 of us. By then, I was in a big foggy blur. Almost speechless.

After the meal, Carl, Jamie, Jay, Michael and Nancy -- the producers -- got up and thanked everyone involved in the project, past and present -- including the cast, First Angel Don Kirkpatrick, Kim & Ronda who were there from before the beginning, Jeremy Koch of Sound One, the cast, the crew, and then finally, Jimmy and me.

Jimmy said a few words thanking all of them and then gave me the microphone. Well, my mind was a total blank. I think I said something about Bob Stillman's rendition of "Connected" as being as good as or better than anything on any stage anywhere in the world, about how much of a role my friends had in keeping me alive, and how "you don't need an explanation when you care." And I also told everyone that Director Jim Brochu deserves all the credit for the miracles on that stage.

We came home and fell exhausted into bed. The neat thing was, since we had so many people who wanted to come on opening night, the producers scheduled TWO opening nights and we would get to replay the whole evening again on Saturday.

Bev's Thoughts On Ellen's Dog, Iggy

I thought Bev, who raises rescue puppies until the local ASPCA can adopt them out, had the most rational and informed "take" on Ellen Degeneres' situation where she adopted a puppy and then tried to give it away to a couple of kids (and family) who fell in love with it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Documented Harm Caused By "Ex-Gay" Ministries.

Peterson Toscano has been doing incredible work interviewing people who survived the so-called "ex-gay" ministries. In fact, he's interviewed over a thousand of them and has reached documented conclusions about the vast areas of harm that are inflicted upon GLBT person by these edifices of misdirection.

He lays it all out in a blog entry here. It's terrific reading.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Foot Doctor.

I finally saw my foot doctor so we could talk about the incredible pain that I've been having on an intermittent basis. What I told him was that I was having more frequent attacks of neuropathy in the last three toes of my right foot.

He asked, "What kind of pain? Burning? Sharp?

I said, "It's like someone hits it with a hammer. But, in the very next instant, I can squeeze those toes and they don't hurt at all."

He then began to squeeze my feet. Beginning by squeezing the entire foot, he then reached my toes and gave each a little squeeze. No real pain. Then he put his thumb on the ball of the foot beneath my third toe and squeezed.

WHOA! I jumped about a foot.

"That hurt?" He asked. "Uh, yeah."

Then he went to the second toe and hit the same spot on the ball, just at the joint of the toe. And WOW! That was it. That was the spot. That hurt like hell.

He said, "I know what's wrong, but we can take x-rays just to make sure it's not some kind of injury."

Here's what's happening: That foot bone going out to that toe is the longest one in my foot (and in most people's feet). Therefore, the big toe bones are kind of spreading out when I take a step on a flat surface, putting all the weight on this joint. The nerves and muscles become inflamed and they send out shock waves to my toes -- and because the nerves are damaged in my toes, it feels like someone hits them with a hammer.

Luckily, I was there to pick up new shoes (because of the diabetes). They have an orthopedic insert which distributes the weight around. I could tell immediately that this provided relief to the pressure on that bone. They aren't the prettiest shoes in the world. More like black gym shoes. But they work. That pain will probably nag me for awhile, but it's just inflammation of that joint. There's probably a little arthritis involved, too, he said.

And there you have it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Quote of the Day: Peter Mehlman

On the Information Age: "...we spend our lives preparing for an argument we'll never have with a person we'll never meet whose opinions we could never change.

"Just Give Me Some Truth"

He makes the observation that crimes and dishonors committed by people in power no longer get taken seriously because there's always a dozen other voices defending the wrongdoer. All "truth" becomes relative in the Modern Media.

The problem is that The Information Age is exactly the opposite. There's no longer anything even close to a consensus of where we gather truth. This isn't the information age, it's the blather-ation age. All we have is a trillion sources from which to choose truths we want to believe.
The 16th International Carnival of Pozitivies is being hosted by Ogre's Politics & Views.

Net Hilarity

I feel like I'm the last one to find this, but I think it's genius. Imagine that all the YouTube viral videos that you've had to endure were actually written, cast and performed by professionals. This three-episode "youtube," as they call the virals, is a mockumentary of the casting directors, as written and performed by Jeff Whitty of Avenue Q.

The mockumentary imagines them during the time that they are casting the recent viral video of one "Chris Crocker," whose raw, naked emotions are a sight to see (and possibly evidence of someone with too much time on his hands, but still..). I can only watch it in small doses. It starts to hurt after a few moments.



And now, under the category of I wish I had thought of this, "Meet the Casting Directors":

EPISODE ONE


EPISODE TWO


EPISODE THREE


I wanna meet these people and hug them.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Sex & Religion Round-Up

Reported at Ex-Gay Watch:

The UK evangelical ministry Courage lent its support to a new anti-discrimination campaign this past weekend.

Courage began in 1988 as an ex-gay ministry, but announced it was gay-affirming in 2001. Now the pioneering organisation is among the supporters of Would Jesus Discriminate?, a campaign being run by the Metropolitan Community Church in Bath, England. Other UK Christian organisations backing the initiative include Ekklesia and Accepting Evangelicals.

At the heart of the campaign is an appeal to Scripture, with a call to look again at the biblical teaching on homosexuality, beginning with an examination of Jesus and the Gospels:

The gospels are clear. Jesus refused to be bound by cultural prejudice. Repeatedly, he took up the cause of the oppressed and defended them against narrow-minded religious leaders. Unfortunately, the Church has often failed to live up to Jesus’ example.

Perhaps most significant is that the majority of the campaign’s proponents are evangelicals.
Those wacky evangelicals in the UK. Didn't anyone tell them there's a culture war going on?

Meanwhile, at Pam's Blend, I got a little squeamish at the way they blogged about a Baptist minister was found to have accidentally killed himself while engaging in kinky sex with himself. Go here if you want more the explicit details. Though I understand the value of exposing hypocrites, this poor guy died alone. When someone dies, it hurts me. I don't want to tromp all over him before his body goes cold.

I think some people felt I did that when Jerry Falwell died. So, perhaps the lesson here is to fix my own flaws before trying to fix anyone else (if that's even possible).

Andrew Sullivan referenced a news story out of Dayton that another Metropolitan Community Church congregation has left the denomination and joined the United Church of Christ. (I don't know anything about this story; so I have no new insight). But Andrew sees it as a sign that the "gay culture" is on a "death watch." Given the fact that more churches are examining their holy books and discovering that they might have gotten this one little thing wrong, I am more of the opinion that the heterosexual culture is on a death watch.

Gay church loses members as acceptance spreads


DAYTONA BEACH -- Metropolitan Community Church began in 1968 as an alternative for gays who felt alienated by most churches' condemnation of homosexuality.

After a contentious summer in which the denomination suspended local worship for a month and revoked the credentials of the local pastor, the Rev. Beau McDaniels, Hope Metropolitan Community Church members are doing what many congregations do after a fight with church headquarters.

They are thinking about joining another denomination. The United Church of Christ, a liberal Protestant church that has ordained openly gay clergy and affirmed same-sex marriage, is mentioned as a possible successor to the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches.

BoingBoing: It also seems that of progressives are discovering that they may have more in common with the average evangelical than evangelical leaders have ever wanted to admit. A site called "Revolution in Jesusland" is a blog that describes itself as "a guided tour for secular progressives to America's Fourth Great Awakening."
First, progressives will never achieve their goals as long as they are hostile toward and ignorant about the faith of 100 million of their own people who are born again Christians.

Second (and we know how difficult this is to believe) there is an incredibly large and beautiful social movement exploding among evangelicals right now that stands for nearly all of the same causes and goals that secular progressives do. Those goals include: eliminating poverty, saving the environment, promoting justice and equality along racial, gender and class lines and for immigrants--and even separation of church and state.

By learning to work together with "progressive" evangelicals, secular progressives will stand a better chance of achieving their goals and also learn an enormous amount from these remarkable people and their organizations that will help secular progressives strengthen their own movement.

Truthdig enforces this with an article by E.J. Dionne about a group called "A Third Way" whose goal is to "end the culture war" and learn to find the things people have in common -- allowing the things in disagreement to sit on the sidelines.

Joe.My.God. has a link to a really beautiful video which is an ad for Californians to legalize same sex marriages. I was thinking I might want to ask Jim to marry me. (In the video, a beautiful bride is getting ready to go to the ceremony, but suddenly all these obstacles appear, ripping off her vail, tripping her on the ground, etc).


Devin's Les Mis Blog.

The phenomenally talented (and gorgeous hunk) Devin Richards is playing Javert in the North Shore Music Theatre's production of Les Miserables and they chose him to write the blog for the show.

It made me laugh at how far we've come. The Last Session was among the first two or three shows to create as website/blog. No one else in New York had a website at the time. Now, they're choosing who will run the blog for this production, which runs four weeks. I love it.

Devin is a good writer and I love that he drove down from Boston to get Tarzan, his cat. I met Tarzan when I stayed there earlier while visiting the city. I know he's gonna be great in this.

Home & Music-Obsessed.

I might have mentioned this before, but it didn't hit me how glorious it all was until I got home and found a stack of birthday cards & letters. Jim knew that I've been itching/DYING to get back into my favorite recording studio and make a new piano/vocal recording just like in the old days when I was creating the score for The Last Session. At the time, it was out of necessity because I had NO money whatsoever and so I would end up piggybacking an hour from someone else's session.

But in order to make the session work, I had to know the material well enough to sit down and record the entire album in one sitting with no playback, no editing, no nothing. Live in the studio.

Now, for those of you who don't make records or work in music, you might think this is not that big a deal. But I can tell you that it's almost unheard of. NOBODY just sits down and records an album that way. They will record a take. Stop. Listen to it. Record it again. Stop. Listen to it again. Make corrections. Fix errors. Re-record over the top of that, etc. In all, one usually reserves three hours PER SONG on a BUDGET CD. So, three hours per song is usually the absolute MINIMUM time you reserve for making a record.

Actual signed artists with big budgets will spend HUNDREDS of hours on a single record.

But, as I said, out of necessity, I recorded the songs for my first CD in one hour, top to bottom. Finished, over and out.

At the time, I felt I was making an inferior product, of course. I had been trained to think that it all needs to be PERFECT. That "stuff" needed to be added. That "sweetening" was required.

As time passed, though, I found myself returning to those original sessions and loving them above all the other recordings I had ever made. The purity and the passion, the rawness and the fact that they were NOT processed into the pop gluck that passes for music we hear on the radio these days -- this very quality is what I (and others) prized so highly.

So, for my birthday, I told Jim I wanted a session just like at the beginning. Just me and the piano. Perhaps a friend or two who might want to join in and sing. Who knows. I'm making this up totally as I go along. But the point is to do it live, keep it real, and live with the results. Knowing my birthday was coming up, friends were asking Jim what I wanted. When he told them, they all decided they wanted to be a part of it. So, 10 bucks here. 20 bucks there. 100 bucks there.

I sent a note to Randy Tobin, in whose garage studio I recorded the original tracks. Told him I didn't have a whole lot of money (the going rate for a studio of that size is between $80 & $150 an hour), but could we make a deal to reserve the studio for a night.

And now the real work begins. As most of you might know, in collaboration with Amy Lynn Shapiro, I've been writing the score for a new show. Some of the songs I've had around for awhile, but most of the songs are brand new. So, for the next few weeks, I'm going to be obsessing and rehearsing over this score. Then, when the time is right and I feel like I'm ready, we're going to go into the studio and throw it down.

Unlike my past records, this one will not be autobiographical. It's going to be just, well, songs! Not everything has to be about me, you know. (At least, that's what people keep telling me as I just look at them quizzically). So, it will be a bit different. It's an experiment, really. This will be the first show I'll be making an attempt to really write for other voices, other points of view. The confessional singer/songwriter is going to widen his horizons just a bit.

But, to get back to the point, when we got home last night, I was greeted with a stack of cards and letters from all the people who wanted to be a part of this gift. And, in return, I'll send them the first copies of the session (whether they want them or not). Then, we'll see what we can do about making them available to anyone else who might be interested. What I can tell you is that our new show is taking shape quickly and we hope to have it finished by the end of the year. Already, several theatres have contacted me about it because they feel like a new show about...

Well, I don't want to give too much away, too soon... but they think it could have great audience appeal.

And now my obsessing begins...

Sunday, October 07, 2007

How Bush Honors Our Troops

I have long contended that the Bush administration treats our soldiers horribly. They are all talk about how "strong" they are and how much they "honor" the troops who have been dishonestly tossed into Iraq with no grand plan and no public mobilization to support them. But the evidence is glaring. First, instead of raising the proper number of actual troops (fearing the public would never support a draft, which would demand sacrifice from everyone), they swept through and took all the people on National Guard into this. I have friends who were ripped from their jobs and stationed in that sinkhole of pointlessness. And now this story:


Rhonda Erskine, Online Content Producer
WCSH6.com

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (NBC) -- When they came home from Iraq, 2,600 members of the Minnesota National Guard had been deployed longer than any other ground combat unit. The tour lasted 22 months and had been extended as part of President Bush's surge.

1st Lt. Jon Anderson said he never expected to come home to this: A government refusing to pay education benefits he says he should have earned under the GI bill.

"It's pretty much a slap in the face," Anderson said. "I think it was a scheme to save money, personally. I think it was a leadership failure by the senior Washington leadership... once again failing the soldiers."

Anderson's orders, and the orders of 1,161 other Minnesota guard members, were written for 729 days.

Had they been written for 730 days, just one day more, the soldiers would receive those benefits to pay for school.

"Which would be allowing the soldiers an extra $500 to $800 a month," Anderson said.
I honestly think this administration is filled with people who are the scum of the earth. I cannot wait until they are long GONE. How dare they pretend to "support our troops" while quietly stabbing them in the back. This is treason. This is the lowest form of insult possible, to pretend to love them on one hand while throwing them in the dirt with the other. Can you tell how pissed off this makes me?

The Last Big Voice in Tucson

We finished our run last night to a sold-out house which was filled with laughter and applause, two of the most beautiful sounds in the world. There were several moments where we just had to stop and wait, wait, wait for the laughter to die down so that we could get on with the show. It was most beautiful, to say the least.

But it also marked the end of a long five years that we've been doing The Big Voice. At this point, there are no other productions scheduled. But now that Samuel French is licensing it, there's no telling where it could pop up, with or without the two of us.

Still, after almost a year on the road, it will be nice to get back home. But there's news on the horizon about "Zero Hour." No dates or venues have been set yet, but I do have news and when I get the "all clear" sign to toss it at you, you'll be the first to know. Stay tuned.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Split The Kids Up!


In Utah, a drug-addicted mother with four children ranging in ages from 10 months to 11 years old has opted to let her children be raised in a loving home headed by her uncle. Even though he's already raising two children, he took them in and gave them a home.

Enter the state, which wants to take the kids out of this home, separate them so that they never see each other again, and throw them into the state foster parent system. Why?

Because that uncle is gay and is in a longterm stable relationship of five years with his partner. According to Utah law, you have to be married to adopt or be a foster parent. The couple would love to marry, but it's ILLEGAL. Why? Because only heterosexuals get the "special privilege" of marriage. Both men are native to Utah, have no criminal record and have excellent work records.

But that's not good enough in Utah. You have to be straight.

h/t: Dan Savage

My Very Happy Birthday.

Guess what I did most on my birthday? I slept. My favorite activity. Okay, it's not really my favorite activity. I have one other that slightly surpasses it: playing a show in front of an exuberant audience. And, boy, did that happen last night. In fact, it has happened two nights in a row. And not that the other audiences haven't been really and truly responsive. But something happened this week that is unexplainable.

In show biz terms, it's called "finding your audience." Or, in this case, it's probably more accurate to say that our audience found us. Week One you get the regulars. The people who are season ticket holders. Here, they tended to be a bit older, a bit reserved in terms of their response (and I mean only "a bit"). But word from the office was that they were "loving" the show. Chances are they went out and told a friend or two.

Week Two, the reviews come out. If you've been following the blog, you know that every single review here has been magnanimous in their praise. So, you begin to get newbies who saw the review and are curious. The houses were full but not sold out -- however, we did get a LOT of walk-ups. So, a house reserved at 50% full would end up being 80% full by curtain. (This makes the office very happy to see). It meant that a lot of people were wanting to go out, hadn't decided yet what to do and made a last minute decision based on what they read in the paper.

The beginning of the Tidal Wave hit, however, on Sunday. (The weekend was also very good, but we were battling local UA and high school football, etc. so not quite a sell-out) But on Sunday! A total sell-out. Jammed to the rafters. Wonderful response. It felt good. However, Jim and I knew that last Sunday was also sold out because this is when the most elderly can get out -- in the afternoon. The real test of whether we were going to have a great run would be this last week.

See, "word of mouth sales," as I learned from the marketers in New York, doesn't mean, "I told my friend and she immediately bought tickets." "Word Of Mouth" sales are that you tell your friend, it lodges in your friend's head, then friend sees it in the paper, remembers someone said something about it, and then, in the best of all situations, someone ELSE tells friend about the show, they see it again in the paper and buy a ticket.

When we got to the theatre Wednesday night, we were told, "Tonight you're sold out." Really?? On a Wednesday? On the night that Top Chef is having its finale? Well!

And what a show! First of all, as most of you who have seen the show know, Jim is very bad to me on stage. During the scene where I have to inform my "Baptist band" that I'm leaving them, he gets very naughty. His goal is to make me laugh inappropriately in the scene, to totally lose it. And I know he's about to go for the jugular when he gets this glint in his eye.

Me, I never fake this. Never. I tried once in New York to see if it would be funny to turn that moment into a "bit" -- because audiences love seeing performers lose it on stage -- but I failed miserably in "pretending" to laugh. So, I made a decision way back then that if I laugh, I laugh. If I don't laugh, then we just proceed with the scene.

But if Jimmy gets me started -- think of the old Carol Burnett Show when Tim Conway would crack up Harvey Corman -- he doesn't just let it lie there. It's like blood to a shark. Suddenly, in this squeaky, little voice he'll say, "Don't lay-uff. Jay-zus don't lack it when yew lay-uff." And I'm gone. Well, this night, the audience was right there with us. They saw me going and they started going.

And we couldn't stop. All through the end of the act, everything was funny. Tears were STREAMING down my face. I was completely out of control. And the audience was ROARING at this. They LOVED it. I don't think, in all my years of being on a stage, I've ever experienced a night like this, where everyone was weak and hurting from laughing so hard.

Then, last night. Thursday night.

Sold out house.

And to make it even more fun, there was a large contingent from the GLBT group called "Wingspan." This time, however, though I kept my cool in "that" scene, the rest of the show played just as hilariously as the night before. The difference was that it was the audience alone which was rolling in the aisles. All we had to do was stand there and just deliver our lines. But they were talking back, allowing themselves to get involved, laughing and applauding as one. It was almost as if they were doing the show and we were watching them.

Talk about being connected! At the end, the entire audience was on its feet before the lights even came back up. They were shouting and roaring at us!

Then, Suz, the artistic director, appeared on the side with a little cheesecake surrounded by sugar free cookies. She tried to quiet them down, but it was impossible. They kept on. Finally, she got them quiet and she gave them permission to sit, but they wouldn't. They stayed on their feet while we all sang happy birthday (to me).

I told them how honored I was that they were there. (The greatest birthday gift for an actor is to be working on his birthday). I told them about how I call my website "Living in the Bonus Round" and how truly happy I was to be alive at that very moment with them.

And that truly IS a happy birthday.

(And thank you for all the cards and best wishes. BTW, you'll notice that there are no pictures from last night. Stupid me left the memory card for the camera in my computer. BAD blogger. BAD blogger.)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Happy St. Francis of Assissi Day!

There's something else going on today, but I can't remember what it was. Some old guy's having a birthday.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I can't believe it's already our last week here in Tucson, but the truth is, as much as we love the people here -- and we really do -- it will also be nice to be home for awhile (except for the following's quick weekend trip up to Indio for two performances of "Zero Hour").

We realized last night that we've been almost continually on the road (or on the seas) since last November -- and we miss our home, our kitties, our everything.

However, if we were going to end our busy period on a high note, we couldn't have picked a nicer place. The houses here have been near sell-outs each night. The people, even though they are a little older than we normally experience, have been PASSIONATE about the play. It's really lovely. And there's a part of me that believes that we've been able to educate folks about what a "gay marriage" really looks like. (i.e. we're just folks, too).

I also met, in person at long last, a young man I've been corresponding with through the Net for a very long time. His name is Alex and he was very active in the student groups at University of Arizona. He and I had lots of email conversations about life. He's now graduated and has a great job at a local TV station.


I also met a guy named Kevin who runs a theatre company here in Tucson. He told me in the "hug line" that he was a huge fan of The Last Session, having seen it three or four times in New York -- and that the score was a huge comfort to him during a time of personal crisis. He also teaches drama to high school students here and from his stories, I could tell that they are very lucky kids. He seems to care about them very much.
So, there's really not a lot to tell except that we're doing well. Everyone is happy. And maybe we'll even get in the car and go looking around this place at some point. God, we're such terrible travelers. If the sights don't come to us, you can't drag us out of our comfy chairs.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Drag Queen Workshop

Joe.My.God posted a hilarious video this morning promoting the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. Then posted a link to this one: The Drag Queen Workshop. (Created by David Quantic.) I couldn't resist: