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The Bonus Round

Living In The Bonus Round

Where time speeds up and the prizes are better.

Updated: 2018-02-15T21:52:43.560-08:00


The Patterns of Chaos


A new love song based on chaos theory. Because, romantic.

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For my birthday, also St. Francis of Assisi Day,


here is "Rescue" the song I sang to Erika Amato's Buddy the dog. Imagine if we loved humans as much as we love our animals or as much as our animals love us. I still miss Steinbeck, Thurber and Howard, our three rescue cats.It's amazing experience to rescue a life. width="320" height="266" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>I happened upon something that touched me really deeply. Lynn McC, a UK fan of The Last Session, taped herself singing along with the track, in a salute to a group called "Futures For Dogs". reminded me there are so many groups I never heard of.I'd love to hear your story about that moment when your animal claimed you at a rescue shelter. Isn't that how it happens? They pick you?Extra Points: Post a link to your closest animal rescue group. And if you don't know of one, google one and link it. Here's the one for Lynn hadn't posted that video, I may never have heard of them. So, I'm passing it on!Here in NY: Zani's Furry Friendshttps://zanisfurryfriends.orgIn LA: The Pepper Foundation. Performer Points: Record yourself singing this song with your pet. Here's a chord chart: to me, my angels![...]

"Vacationing in Syria" by The Bonus Round Band.


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Here is the second video from our Garden concert.

Cold Comfort by the Bonus Round Band.


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Live in concert at the De Colores Garden, East Village, New York City. Jack Hardy Songwriter Exchange. Blake Zolfo and Bill Goffi joined me and made me sound better than I really am.

A Stunning Letter from Texas and Harvey.


My friend, Brenda Bateman, down in Texas wrote this after hours on a horse in the flood, freezing, saving animals and humans. This is an incredible read:There have been no walks along the path this week as I have followed the path of Hurricane Harvey instead.I have ridden a horse in lap-deep water for so many hours, I thought I would never feel warm again. I have listened to the desperate calls and read fb messages of people who have been on rooftops in pouring rain for hours and who were unable to get their calls thru to rescuers. I have dispatched those calls to the Cajun Navy, the Coast Guard and the Red Cross because I was gifted with the right contacts.I have been able to rescue a few people, some livestock and pets. I have also passed by the bloated floating bodies of animals who grew too weary and drowned.I have seen snakes and lizards and bats clinging to treetops and rooftops, looking just as shell-shocked as the people we were pulling into boats and processing at the shelters. I have seen neighbors from near and far...WAY out of up with boats, supplies and compassion. I have seen first responders who have been on scene since Saturday, sleep propped against a wall for a few minutes, then get up and do it all again.I have seen all this and much more. Every muscle in my body aches, my head hurts and my heart is shattered. I want and need to cry but there is no time yet for such self-indulgence. There are too many people in pain who need a kind touch and a tender word. Because they have lost home, vehicle, mementos and beloveds. They need love and they need hope.YOU can provide that. Many of you have already been opening your wallets to organizations who can meet some of these most immediate needs. Thank you for that. And there is going to be such a need for a while.Many of you are already planning and packing to go help with the cleanup...which will be weeks...maybe even the making. But you may not know how to start.The best way to help is to just show up. Go to one of the streets where you see debris piled by the curb and people hauling trash out. Just show up and start sorting....salvagable from ruined beyond description Take a hot meal with disposable plates and utensils to the homeowners/workers.shovel mud, sweep water, tear sheet rock, bleach walls, countertops and anything else water has touched. Play and talk with the children/teens as you work. They need to feel like they are seen and heard.Load up supplies. These are what I can think of in my distress; I am sure there are many others.gloves, masks, trash bags, string, duct tape, boxcutters, ladders, old tshirts and aprons that can be worn and then thrown away, bleach, cleaning supplies, spray bottles, paper towels, old or shop cloths, hammers, ziploc bags of all sizes for saving papers, photos, etc, sharpies to label, boxes of all sizes (clear plastic ones are best), insect repllent, fire ant killer, rat poison, animal traps.First aid supplies, hand cream, tylenol, nonperishable foods that can be eaten without preparation (fruit cups, sandwiches,juice boxes, bottled water, etc.)Things you can do while the cleaning goes on: play with the children (bring balls, cards and board games...they have lost everything, too), read to little ones make a clean, dry place for children or adults alike to lay down and nap while others work.provide toiletries (brushes & combs, too), diapers, linens (most of us have extra), pillows, phone/tablet chargers that can be used in your vehicle if they are still without electricity.Bring hot meals, cookies and snacks.I know this is long but my mind is all cluttered and my desire is to dispense as much info as possible to those of you who want to know what you can do. There is no limit.What is your talent? Your passion? your instruments, tell some cute jokes (they need to is heaing), take pictures and photo their damage/possessions for their insurance claims. Offer to run[...]

Kathleen Turner Sang My Song.


Kathleen Turner was to debut my new song at 4PM.
One I'd written just for her -- for her new cabaret.
(An afternoon run-through for her
opening in Philadelphia on Sept. 25).
(Lyrics co-written with James Freeman).

I was feeling very weak, though recovering, so I had
Just about enough energy to get there
Don't Tell Mama, a club a few blocks away
Watch the show and come home

Saw lots of friends and got lots of hugs
But I sat down early and got comfortable

And it was glorious.
She sang once before in a play
So she hasn't made a career of singing
And she's not a technically skilled singer,
like opera or anything
But she's Kathleen Turner,
One of the most iconic voices of all time
She sings with great acting ability
Like all the classic cabaret great singers

That rich female baritone

After it was over, I went home and
Slept, missing project runway

Oh right! I have project runway to watch!

two guys in times square


AUG 23

a short walk
my first after my surgery

met two people

times square
1:30 pm
the constant current of people
must find strategic places
to shoot photos and video

middle island
a switch box on a wide green pole
wide shadow

i move to the pole
listening for the whine of the subways
beneath the grate
it’s the only place with that particular sound
but the crowd is too loud

i reach the pole
stop to position my camera
a guy jumps from the shadow of the pole
gives me a flyer for a tour bus

Older. 50s? Dark skin. 
Salt and pepper beard and hair.
Later, said he was Indian.

he asks, gruffly, “where ya from?”
“i live here. just out for a walk.”
“yeah? you look like the tourists from sweden or norway.”
“that’s my ancestry. i bet you get to know them all standing here.”

“i’m a child of god!” he proclaimed. “Shall I prove it to you?”


“i have no father or mother. i have no last name!
when i got my social security number, they told me,
‘you have no parents’
and that’s how i know God is my father.”

I thought of the movie The Lion.

i nodded, not sure how to respond.

“how many languages you speak?” He demanded, followed by,

“Parlez vous, Fr…” “Sprechen ze…”

Ashamed, I said "none," but then “Puedo habla espanol.”

“Meh. Everyone around here speaks Spanish.
It’s like speaking English. I'm Felix."

I said, “Mr. Bonus Round.”

But I think “Mr. Bonus Round” can learn a lot from this guy.

“Are you usually here?”

“They put me on different corners.”

“I’ll come find you again.”

met another guy on 44th and 7th.

I had stopped next to a trash can

A voice: “It never stops.”

Vaguely Eastern European. Male.

I turned.

Easy smile.

Tall. Handsome. Late 20s?

Very manly.

“No, it doesn’t. Except Sunday morning. Not a soul in sight.”

He pondered that.

“I’m from Belarus. Do you know where that is?” he laughed.

“You probably don’t.”

No. I couldn’t picture it on a map but,
“Eastern Europe, right? Was once part of the Soviet Union.”

“We are not part of it now.”
His easy smile evaporated for just a moment.
“I’ve been working in New Jersey and I came in to see it for the first time.”

We both looked at the coordinated masses streaming around us.

He said, “I like it.”

Hal Prince talks about Zero Mostel


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Best HIV/AIDS Blogs


I'm proud to announce that the Bonus Round blog has been named by as one of the Best HIV/AIDS blogs for 2017. At first I didn't respond to the email because I figured it was some kind of spam. Then, I got a note from Meagan Jones, following up.

I wrote back, asking how they came to choose me since, these days, I mostly link to new music.

She wrote back,"Hi Steve! Definitely not spam :). We took into account your amazing archive as well, and you have posted this year so we know you're still blogging, even if it isn't as frequent as before."

And they gave me a sparkling badge for this site.


Cold Comfort - Schalchlin & Goffi


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Jammin' out on a new song.

I called Bill Goffi the day before and said Jim Freeman had some green screen TV studio time at BRIC in Brooklyn and could we throw something together. So, this being the most recent "song of the week," I taught it to him in the hall and just said, "Sing harmony whenever you feel it."

You can see the lyrics taped between us. Then, Jim went outside the next morning and shot the sunrise in Prospect Park with his iPhone. Eureka was there, cheering us on -- and Bill chides me at the end. But there we are!

Guerrilla songwriting and creating!

Faithless Love - Blake Zolfo & Steve Schalchlin


Listen to us sing!

One final show on Thursday, June 22, 2017 at 7pm at The Metropolitan Room.

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25: A Premature Retrospective gets its first official review.


Thanks to Theater Pizzazz!"...these two charmers were retrospecting through a totally refreshing evening with some great material.""Blake Zolfo self-confidently lures an audience in.""Mr. Zolfo proved himself to be not only sweetly funny with a strong, beautiful voice, but a guy who holds back a little and sticks with the emotional truth of a moment."“'He Was Too Good to Me' (Shirley Horn) and ”Manhattan” (Sara Bareilles)—“I’ll tiptoe away so you don’t have to say you heard me leave”—were subtle and riveting.""A strong vocal team... beautiful harmonies.""The concept was clear: Blake, 25 years old, is too young to retrospect and Steve, on piano and vocals, sardonically supported the retrospective. But along the way, one realized that in our Justin Bieber world, 25 is older than 15; and our culture is good at assigning failure at any age."Steve Schalchlin, Brandon Flynn, Blake Zolfo. [...]

Playing Music.


Though I do read music, I hate playing scores. My mind sees the notes that comprise the chord on a page and will fight to play anything except those actual positions, preferring to find my own chord spellings.However, entering rehearsals on this show with Blake Zolfo -- they've asked us to return next month, May 25th -- I dutifully tried to learn how to play music he brought in. Particularly, his tap number, "What's The Point?", by John Kander and "Dreamscape" by Stephen Schwartz. Lots of notes on those pages. I drilled and drilled every morning, wanting Blake and Andy Gale, our director, to be proud of me. Wanting to get them "right," as if John and Stephen would be there in the room grading me.(If I hit all the notes, do I get an "A"?).But, to be honest, in rehearsal, I sucked. By having to stick so closely to the score, all the life was drained from my performance. It's just not how I play.So, finally, in a desperate attempt to not sound terrible, I typed out the words, wrote out the chord names over the top, and threw out the score, preferring to improvise.And the result was magical. Suddenly, they were vibrantly alive. Musical friends wondered where I had "gotten" those very sophisticated yet soulful new arrangements. Marveled at how "specific" and "innovative" it all sounded.I didn't know how to tell them I was just making it all up on the spot because I couldn't play them the real way. The only conclusion I can come to is that, over these 63 years, I've developed a "style." It's reflected in the songs I write.It also explains why, over the years, I struggled with writing out scores for my own songs. I almost never play them the same way twice. This can be disconcerting for a performer who needs a consistent arrangement. I might write out an arrangement and, the next day, think, "I would never play that."But, when you're dealing with a real musician/singer like Blake, who immediately goes with the flow and feels the music, and is able to also be improvisational "in the moment," it means, for the audience, we're all getting a totally unique moment. A new show every night.In many ways, I miss getting work, probably, because I don't have conservatory training and learned most of my skills in various bands, but I also feel sorry for musicians who cannot do this. Who cannot play a note unless it's all written out for them. Who don't understand "feel."Last night, according to everyone I trust, and perfect strangers, was a complete triumph. Both Blake and I felt at ease, the audience was screaming at us like we were the Beatles or Beyonce, and yet, we had moments of perfect silence, helped immeasurably by the obviously well trained waiters at the Metropolitan Room, who never disturbed a single moment.Cabaret is tricky. People want to hear songs they know, but they also want a fresh take, new material if possible, and human interaction. The art of it, when done correctly, makes you feel, at the end, as if you know the person on the stage, that they've opened up their hearts, generously.By all accounts, this happened last night. And now we do it again in a month. I hope, if you weren't able to make it, that you come this next time.[...]

Worst Song Title Ever


Last night at dinner with our friend, Mary Jo Catlett, who is in town for the opening of "Hello Dolly" with Bette Midler, the waiter told us of the most romantic moment he had with his new beau: When the boyfriend said, of the site where they met,

"I'm gonna delete my account for you. Would you delete yours?"

Our waiter responded to him, "Yes! I had already decided to delete mine!"

And now a year has gone by for them.

As a songwriter, I'm sitting there thinking, "I would delete my account for you," is the worst idea for a song hook ever.

Blake and Steve at the Metropolitan Room on April 21.


Come have fun with us!

Blake Zolfo & Steve Schalchlin in
25! A Premature Retrospective

A cabaret directed by Andy Gale

April 21, 2017
The Metropolitan Room
34 W. 22nd St. NY NY
Phone: 212-206-0440


Frederick Douglass, Rise Up!


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Recorded live. St. Clement's Episcopal Church, NYC, Sanctuary Choir. Vocalist: Steve Schalchlin. Music & Lyrics by Steve Schalchlin. Video by Jim Freeman & Steve Schalchlin. Fr. Jeff Hamblin, priest. Darryl Curry, Minister of Music.

Frederick Douglass and Religion.


A week ago, we sang the Frederick Douglass song I wrote. The video will be available soon. And just when I thought I was done...I performed a speech of Frederick Douglass' in church this past Sunday. I hadn't planned it. It was the speech about slavery and religion -- and how the religious leaders of the time -- so blithely accepted discrimination with a Biblical defense. And I spent the whole week memorizing it.Christian leaders were on the forefront of maintaining this cruelty. But... many were not.He used Christianity as one of his main sources for arguing, logically, for the end of slavery. He also knew the Constitution and used it in his arguments. He was a devout Christian.So why bring up slavery and religion? Aren't we nicely over it? I can tell you why. It's in the DNA of our country and our faith. Until I read Douglass, slavery wasn't real to me. Yes, I had seen images of floggings, etc. I understood the human physical suffering.It's the mental anguish that is the true torturer. A whipping ends. The mind endures. The shame, humiliation, degradation. When you read the words in the mind of an ex-slave, you may not have been through his experience, but you will know those feelings, if you are a creature with any kind of compassion.We have all felt those things. Now, imagine them going on all day, every day. Never could I have told my family, back when I was in the closet, what was going through my head. They probably just thought I was weird or selfish (which I am, too, but that's not today's topic).I felt from another world entirely, but I was dancing in this one. Desperately trying not to get found out. It was the 60s and 70s. Though much had changed, acceptance and understanding for those "of my kind" simply didn't exist in the bubble of east Texas.Not blaming anyone. Not shaming anyone. None of you (back then) could have known. I was a very good liar because I used religion to enforce the lie. It's a type of self-help thing attached to the idea of miracles. If you live the "miracle" "as if" it were true, then it would become true. So, it wasn't a lie if I "stepped out on faith." I just pretended.It's not the same thing as slavery. It's not the same thing as racial prejudice.So when I get into the mind of a brilliant thinker who began as a slave, I get as close as I can get. Only a fool, I would tell myself, would turn away from this kind of insight, wisdom and knowledge.What makes the Douglass journey so rewarding is that he handled it all with genuine wit. He could laugh at it while slicing it into ribbons. He could triumph because he had the mind to triumph.He was free because he never accepted himself as anything but a full human being. A free mind can do anything. Once I let the chains of whatever is holding me back in my head loose; once they are cleared out, then suddenly there is clarity.Just being inside his mind has changed me. And it's going to go on changing me because, as is written on a site dedicated to him "Every Month is Black History Month." And even more piercing, every month is also white history month. We are all the products of history.So, I thank 45 for bringing him back to me. And for those of you who read this far, thanks for letting me occupy your mindspace with my thoughts.p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Helvetica; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} [...]

Frederick Douglass Tribute.


On Sunday morning, Feb. 19 at 11am, we will attempt to bring Frederick Douglass into the beautiful chapel at St. Clement's Church with a new composition I've been working on. (Our choir is a highly trained, world class choir with magnificent voices and Broadway credits. I'd be a fool to not use them. I'm so excited. If you're planning to come, come early because we'll be in the tiny chapel rather than on the stage in the main theater).For weeks, I have been obsessing over this great man, reading all his speeches and rereading his autobiographies. I feel wholly inadequate to the task, so I will have to pray for his spirit to rise up and guide me -- and us.But the only way I truly know how to learn about him is to listen to his words as I say them aloud in my work sessions. Listen to the meticulously careful way he allows his deeply felt, pain and anger to be expressed. Graceful, humble, hilarious, truthful, gentle, unrelenting, credible, sometimes with sarcasm so subtle that it feels more like a loving parent's gentle rebuke and yet so pointed, a razor-sharp, ninja slice so deadly, that no logical argument against it, however brilliant and twisted, is even possible.Naked, without his mother, alone on a dirt floor. He rose from the bottom of a corrupt society. He had nothing to lose. So he told the truth.Imagine that. Someone who tells the truth.In our day, and just as much in his day, clever people are/were able to use just enough of the truth to form an acceptable argument for those predisposed to the message. This happens on all sides. This is the human condition. This is not merely about politics. A good con man knows this.This is who we are.But every once in a while some voice comes along. And you know the voice is telling a truth that is grounded in a deeper place.Someone with nothing left to lose, who has already seen the worst horror, has already lived the worst atrocity, there is nothing left that you can do to him except try to lock him up again.The Fugitive Slave Act speech that Douglass gives, where he exposes the fact that this law returned the entire country into a slave state, meant that every word and every movement of his could land him in some hellhole, naked on a plantation in Mississippi or Alabama. (Though world famous, had a very angry and frustrated "owner.")So he simply told the truth.I experienced this myself when I thought I was going to die, 20 years ago. When I had nothing left to lose, when I knew that my end was coming, a different kind of chemical must've invaded my head from someplace deep inside because I can remember the exact moment when it went away, and I thought to myself, "Is this what life used to be like?"And I've been chasing that state of mind ever since.It is like a transcendent experience. No way to convey it it to you. Because there is only my memory of it. Then there is the description of my memory of it. Then there is your reception of the description of my memory of it. And finally, your conclusion about the reception of the description of my memory of it.I have been yearning to find that state again. To accept my death so presently that I can get my those chemicals pumping back into my head again. That state of mind.And I found it. I found it in the writings of Frederick Douglass. It is there. It is unmistakable. It is wise. It is final. It is thrilling. It comes from direct experience but it's only a state of mind. And everyone knows it when they hear it.To be born again.And it is there in the hand and the pen and the voice and the words and the spirit of Frederic[...]

Jim & Steve at 54 Below on Valentine's Day.


Love songs and stories by real life Broadway couples, Jim and Steve included, at 54 Below.



Rise Up, Frederick Douglass.

The autobiographies of Frederick Douglass are FREE.

They are also be the most harrowing, the most lovely, the most forgiving, the most thrilling and the most important books I have or ever will read about the American experience.

Ten years ago or so, while trolling through the "free books" online, randomly enjoying all this new accessibility, I found them. I had heard of Douglass, but like most people, I knew very little about him. I wasn’t researching anything. They were free! That was the promise of this new connectivity.

They weren't easy to read because, at the time, the only copies I could find were photos of the pages in a low-rez pdf.

If you've seen or read "12 Years A Slave," it was nothing compared to what Douglass endured. And then he was friends with Abraham Lincoln.

Born in a shack, naked for much of his early childhood. Illegal for him to be taught. Torn from his mother, who hiked miles every night to hold him just for a moment and then hiked back to start her day as a slave on another plantation.

Started learning when he looked at the master kid’s lessons, surreptitiously. Traded lessons for favors with poor "white trash" kids. Beaten nearly to death multiple times. Then he escaped, helped by an abolitionist.

When he first spoke to an abolitionist group up north, he reports that many/most thought he was like a trained monkey, reciting words that had been given to him. Even those opposed to slavery still had no clue that Black people had minds and brains, and could even be smarter than the self-satisfied White people who lived then (and now).

Faced with his towering intellect, they suddenly realized they were not the smartest people in the room, and they didn't know how to process this.

He should have been the president after Lincoln. Imagine that as an alt-universe.

I’m glad President Trump stumbled over this. It might seem a small thing to those who support him. And who knows? Maybe I’m misjudging him. Maybe he knows all about Frederick Douglass. Maybe that’s just the way he talks. I’m willing to give him benefit of the doubt.

But what I really think needs to happen is for people to learn about Frederick Douglass.

Look in that mirror.

And if you don’t see yourself and your own humanity, go back and pick up his book and read it again.

His story is the epic I’ve been wanting to see dramatized for a decade now. I don’t think I can write it. But I know I can write about him. In fact, I just did.

I think he can teach us a lot more than any of us even know. Thank you, Mr. Trump. Without you, Black History Month would be little more than a series of Google doodles.

Rise up, Frederick Douglass.

Rise up.

Prospero's Kidney Stone.


In class yesterday, I was doing a speech from Prospero which evoked deep feelings of mortality. It all felt so intense, I had to leave class after doing the scene.

But, actually, I was passing a kidney stone. I think I'm still passing it. I know the little tickle well. Thankfully, I'm not in pain. Just discomfort, like when you kind of sit on one of your balls and it didn't hurt so much as just cause a lingering ache, and you can't quite find a way to sit that doesn't feel like you're squeezing it again.

So today, I must drink lots of lemon water and convalesce. And pee.

Violence of the Tongue.


Ridicule of your opponent is strictly forbidden in a legitimate peace movement. #MLK called it Violence of the Tongue.

This is why it's ineffective in persuasion.

#MLKday #peace #nonviolence #resistance #soulforce

RIP George Michael, Godfather of New World Waking.


If not for George Michael, I wouldn't have played John Lennon's IMAGINE piano. We would not have had our mini-concert under the tree planted in Bill Clayton's memory which gave me the concept of New World Waking.

I'm sorry I never got to meet or speak to him and tell him how much he affected my life. I hope, in the new year, you will reach out to someone who affected your life in some small or large miraculous way, unknowingly perhaps, and let them know.

For instance, the creator of the drug that saved my life, Dr. Bruce Dorsey, reached out to me after reading about my new life in my Bonus Round journal, long before it was a Bonus Round. He got to see me come back to life, whereas his life was really constrained to a lab. He job was molecules, not lives saved.

He said, "It's so great to actually see someone living their life because of something I did. I usually only see the lab."

So, thank you, Caroline True, for coordinating the John Lennon IMAGINE piano project. I don't know what became of it, but I know what it did for me. And since you were his friend, I am sending you my sincere love and sympathy. I knew, in person, how much you cared for him.

This is, indeed, a sad day.

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