I’m heading back to San Francisco this weekend to attend the SF Gay Men’s Chorus’ world premiere of New World Waking!, the latest work by my fabulous pal Steve Schalchlin, whom you may recall from his recent Off Broadway hit, The Big Voice: God Or Merman? Three-time Oscar nominee Piper Laurie will introduce the evening, which features Tony Award winner Jennifer Holliday as a guest vocalist. The show takes place Monday night at Davies Symphony Hall, get tickets here.
The night will be very special for me, because the closing song of Act 1 of New World Waking! is about me, sort of. Years ago, I belonged to an online discussion forum for aspiring writers and other artsy types, which is where I first met Steve Schlachlin. Back in January on JMG, I talked about how I met Steve in that forum, and explained how the song came to be:
Steve is a long-term AIDS survivor and he and I spoke many times about the horrors of the epidemic and the people we have lost. Discussion on the forum also often turned to the topic of dating, as those things usually do, and when questioned by Steve and other participants about my very long-running singleness, I would usually reply flippantly that I was burned out on losing people and was now officially “dead inside”.
Steve was intrigued by the concept of the emotional surrender implied by the phrase “dead inside” and thought it could make an interesting platform for a song. He asked me for some sample lyrics and being the great songwriter that he is, he immediately discarded my very lame attempt and went to work. A few months later, he sent me an audio file of his performance of Dead Inside and I was instantly wrecked. He nailed it. Last year he recorded another version using noted Chicago-based transgender cabaret singer Alexandra Billings. You can download the demo of the recording here.
It’s a beautiful/tough song – mournful and wistful – and I’m sure I’ll be a complete wreck by the second bar. Steve writes about how his conversations with me brought about Dead Inside:
In describing his life, he would frequently use the term “Dead Inside,” as a way to describe himself and other people who had simply stopped even trying to love because of the pain they’ve experienced. Expanding on his theme, “Dead Inside” evolved into a song about the kind of lost lives some GLBT people suffer as a result of homophobia that evolves into a kind of self-inflicted violence. In the song, which takes place in a bar, a man warns a prospective suitor that he has lost the ability to love only find out that that is precisely what the other man is seeking.
Luckily, there will be another nine songs in the show, during which I can hopefully pull it together enough to walk out under my own power. Below is a clip of the chorus rehearing the closing number, My Rising Up, which will be led by Jennifer Holliday. I hope to see and meet lots of you there.