LOS ANGELES -- Al Martinez, whose city-side column appears twice weekly in the Los Angeles Times, focused this week on Steve Schalchlin, composer of the musical The Last Session , which opened Off-Broadway eight months ago and recently celebrated its 100th performance.
Martinez met Schalchlin two years ago in the North Hollywood apartment he shares with his life partner (and librettist) Jim Brochu. The latter had encouraged Schalchlin to write not only about his own struggle with AIDS but about the sometimes scornful attitudes of others toward him. The result was The Last Session , a musical about a fictional composer named Gideon Welles, who decides to kill himself rather than die slowly of AIDS.
"Its title is derived from the last recording session Gideon has arranged before planning to take his life," writes Martinez. "Friends try talking him out of it, but scorn comes from a religious fundamentalist who decides that 'a man can't be a Christian and a fag at the same time.'"
As the son of a Baptist preacher, Schalchlin knows whereof he speaks, Martinez points out, adding that in the end, though, "he sees only good guys in his musical, an innovative combination of soft rock and gospel that tells Gideon's story in bright and unsentimental tones. In the end, Gideon opts for life and the fundamentalist alters his attitude."
Martinez's column also describes the efforts Schalchlin is making online to reach large audiences with messages about AIDS. He offers a diary of his daily struggles with AIDS for anyone willing to tap into his home page at http:/www.geocities.com/Broadway/1173. -- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent