Though I have had some involvement with theatre over the years, this was my first time on a theatrical stage since playing a flutist in Comedy of Errors in 1993. Writing for Steve is always a fun experience, and I am continually surprised at how well we work together.
This time was fun because I got to be on stage with him instead of out in the audience, and because most of the music for this production is completely new. In the past I’ve been the invisible collaborator, and we’ve often recycled music from my catalog.
While that can be interesting, there’s nothing like diving into a project with new expectations. In his monologue performance, Steve tells his stories of Catholic grade school and high school, finding the humorous and serious aspects of the positive (and negative) role models of his youth. With references to secular events (such as the Kennedy Assassination and the NASA moon landing), as well as more religious happenings (the world’s oldest nun giving sex advice, another nun teaching Marriage Class and, of course, Vatican II and the Baltimore Catechism), Schrum seeks to discover how his Catholic school education shaped the college professor he is today.
While not Catholic myself, I grew up in an area gripped hard by Catholic doctrine and dogma. I do not have first-person experience of the same things that Steve talks about in this play, but as an Italian American transplant to the Northeastern PA coal region who didn’t go to any church, I do have similar experiences, so I understood what Immaculate Misconceptions was getting at, and immediately wanted to be a part of it even before I read the script. What I did not know was that the material would speak to me so much that it would conjure images and ideas that would go beyond the scope of the play, and continue my interest in socio-political topics (something I had shrugged off from an artistic standpoint).
Steve is probably the first person I have worked with who has been just as self-critical about what he does on stage. And yet, there was so much flexibility in our collaboration that I did not feel I was being dictated to unjustly. In fact, I think Steve was harder on himself in some ways than he needed to be. The last-minute changes and interactions that came out of our rehearsals were proof positive that we could do this stuff more often.
We both seemed to focus well together, and our work ethic seemed to match well. Neither of us wanted to rehearse things to death, but there were key places where we clearly wanted to make sure we got things right. In the places where mistakes were made, or transitions didn’t come off as well as we’d hoped, we took it in stride. I’m looking forward to offering this show locally.