BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince everyone I meet that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way.

I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City. That 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 played 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].

Monday, December 03, 2012

VIP Celebrity Master of Ceremonies? Really??

It's really fun to go to a place where people actually think you're a celebrity. Here in New York, when you're surrounded by REAL celebrities, no matter what you've done in life, you tend to feel dwarfed. Hell, I'm not even the "celebrity" in our apartment. People are always asking Jim to do stuff, like when he sang for a fundraiser last night at the new hot spot 54 Below. I mean, he does have that Drama Desk Award, after all.



But, me? I don't even strive for "celebrity." After all, I'm mostly a writer and you know the old joke about the  Polish actress who slept with the writer...

Anyway, when I got up to Norwich, Connecticut to host the Spirit Awards for the Spirit of Broadway Theater, I had more than a few people come up to me who said they bought a ticket to the gala just because they saw my name on the program. How sweet!

It was held at the beautiful Norwich Inn and Health Spa -- I should remember to use their spa next time; I'm not really a spa person -- where, at lunch, it's filled with ladies wearing big fluffy robes. At least they had vegetarian choices on the menu, though I joked later with writer Sean Hartley that they spelled "entrees" with an apostrophe. (He said he ordered his apostrophes on the side).

The real star, though was Steinbeck the cat doing the Steinbeck Stretch. It seems like everyone had seen him on this video Jim posted at Facebook.

So, I guess I know who the REAL celebrity is.

Anyway, the event was to celebrate the 15 years of original programming by Brett Bernardini, the artistic director. I mean how many theaters, honestly, can say that they not only survived 15 years, but did it by providing NEW and ORIGINAL musicals?

Most theaters think they have to play it safe in order to survive, running an endless series of Hello Dollys or Man of La Manchas in order to keep an audience. But Brett has carefully nurtured the audience there to expect new and daring works every season. It's remarkable, really. And you may have to be in the business to truly understand how rare this is. But he manages to do it -- and he does it with only two weeks of rehearsals!

Im. Possible.

I began the night by holding up a folder with pages in it and I said, "This is what a musical looks like without a producer. How many of you are going to pay to see a book?"

Producers are largely ignored, scorned or ridiculed for being little more than names above a show. The actors and composers and authors usually get all the praise. But it's really the producer who finally makes it all happen. They choose the material, gather the creative team, and focus the vision of what people will actually see on that stage.

We who toil over computers doing nothing but putting words and notes on the page would be nothing without a great producer putting flesh and blood under the spotlights. So, when they gave Brett a Lifetime Achievement Award -- which he was totally not expecting -- it was well deserved.

I went on to tell them that producers do more than that, especially if they're running their own theater. They're also unplugging toilets and endlessly, endlessly, endlessly begging for money and audiences. It's a job I wouldn't take for all the money in the world -- which I would no longer have if I took it to produce.

So, when Brett asked me to take the train up there, I was only too happy to do it. He also did a revival of The Last Session up there which was an enormous hit for them -- and which he's promised to revive again. (He usually includes at least one revival in each season).

So, the big shots can make fun of small theaters like Spirit of Broadway, knowing it will never make a fortune for the people who toil and clean and fix the pipes and make it work, but for the lowly writers who need to see their work before they even know if it will work, it's the kind of place you beg for and dream about.

 So, here's to the jewel box called the Spirit of Broadway, to their 15 years of life -- and to many years more.
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