I attended the "Contemporary Music" program at Nova High School from 1970 to 1972 (under the name, Bill Setchfield).
I was in the following productions: "The Fantasticks" (Henry), "The Roar of the Greasepaint and the Smell of the Crowd" (Sir), "The Music Man" (Harold Hill), "Funny Girl" (Flo Ziegfeld), and numerous musical revues where my dancing skills earned me a permanent place in the back row.
After my first try at college (Florida State, 1972-1974), I returned to South Florida and worked in the box office at the Parker Playhouse. After a couple of years, I became Zev Bufman's production coordinator at Parker and the Miami Beach Theater of Performing Arts. During this period, I continued my association with Hall/Hill performing arts programs by directing "Dames at Sea" (the first production, at Nova) and appearing again as “Sir” in "The Roar of the Greasepaint..." (the second production, at Parker Playhouse).
In 1977, I moved to New York City, worked as a director in small off-off-Broadway theaters, and received a B.A. degree in Theater Arts from Columbia University in 1982. My favorite productions were those that involved other graduates of Hall/Hill programs: "The Legend," an Edith Piaf-inspired musical starring Paige O'Hara that never quite made it to off-Broadway; and my adaptation of John Gay's "The Beggar's Opera" (new music by Gary Green), featuring Dara Norman and Gary Mendelson on stage and Allen Hill in the orchestra, with choreography by Michael Scott Gregory.
By the mid-1980s, I was working regularly on new plays, but not on plays I particularly liked, so I began to write my own. I moved to Los Angeles in 1985 and have been writing plays and musicals ever since. Early L.A. productions included "The Family Hour," "Humane Treatment," "White Trash in Love" (music by David Coleman), and "Out of the Ordinary." The latter won awards from the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Foundation, and from the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation for dramatic work dealing with a period of gay history (in this case, an "outing" scandal involving members of Kaiser Wilhelm's entourage in 1907).
I closed the last millennium with the debuts of “Something Old, Something New” (a one-act musical with a score by David Coleman) and “Rosarium” (a full-length drama for chorus I wrote with composer Roger Bourland). The latter premiered at UCLA’s Royce Hall with professional soloists, the Angelus Chorale and the UCLA Master Chorale. A few years later, Mr. Bourland and I followed “Rosarium” with “The Crocodile’s Christmas Ball and Other Odd Tales”, a comic Christmas cantata. “Crocodile” has been performed all over the United States, by choruses and wind ensembles at numerous universities, and by gay choruses singing an all-male version of the piece. Mr. Bourland and I were also commissioned by the United States Navy to write an anthem, “Keeping the Ocean Free”, for the Navy band and chamber ensemble. We have written numerous other songs and these have been performed from coast to coast, primarily by gay and lesbian choruses.
Meanwhile, I completed an M.F.A. in Playwriting at UCLA and taught playwriting, dramaturgical analysis and theater history at various universities in the Southern California area for 12 years. I still work occasionally as a dramaturg in theaters in the United States and (thanks to the internet) Australia, and have published articles on Japanese medieval drama and on renowned gay theatrical artists of the twentieth century, including Langston Hughes and Gertrude Stein.
I recently completed a new Christmas anthem, the ironic “A Lovely Year”, with music by Allen Hill. Mr. Hill and I are in the planning stages of a new church musical, based on one of the mystery plays of the Middle Ages. David Coleman and I have expanded “Something Old, Something New” to a full-length musical and will go into the studio to record a demo by the end of the summer of 2012. The same year will also see the release of a new recording that includes a half-dozen or more of my lyrics: released by Parma Recordings and entitled “Bourland: Four Quartets of Songs & Arias”, it features internationally renowned opera singer, Juliana Gondek.
My partner and now husband, Neal Peterson, and I have been together since 1977. We were married during the six months gay marriage was legal in California in 2008 and look forward to the day when all our gay brothers and sisters share the same rights we now enjoy.
With Pete's ex-wife, Carol, and her second husband, Paul Batchelder, we share two extraordinary children, Mark Peterson and Kathryn Reitman, and a son-in-law, Leon, none of whom is really a "child" any more. And we dote on our three beautiful, brilliant and talented grandchildren: Mark, Emma and Henry Reitman.
|I stumbled into performing arts
I was just trying to help my friend David with some ill-conceived set he was building and ended up hanging around with the cast of the Fantasticks, the group's first production in 1970. After destroying all of my family's Christmas lights to make the game board set for the Roar of the Greasepaint, I became a full-fledged member of the tech crew.
Eventually, I took over the tech crew, designing and building most of the sets for our first major musicals. While I enjoyed the thrill of all-night construction parties to meet our show deadlines, the limited budgets and equipment, and seeing how much we could overload Mrs. Hall's station wagon on trips to Causeway Lumber, I yearned to be in the spotlight. So I did Elvis impersonations in the variety shows, Mayor Shin in The Music Man and Nicky Arnstein in Funny Girl.
Thanks to my limited talents, I went off to the University of Florida after graduation to prepare for a "real" job, graduating in 1976 with a B.S. in Engineering Science. After a few years in Virginia working for General Electric, I moved to Southern California and worked in the Aerospace industry, where I managed a variety of projects to develop space sensors and high energy laser weapons for the government. I retired from Northrop Grumman in 2012.
My daughter Christina became the true performer in the family, studying and performing dance all through her school years and was a member of the San Pedro City Ballet Company for many years. I applied my stagecraft for some of her school shows, building sets and rigging a middle school cafeteria to make her fly as Peter Pan.
I have dear friends and fond memories from the original Performing Arts class at Nova. I enjoyed meeting and performing with the extremely talented group of people that Joyce and Allen continued to attract and train, after our humble beginnings in the Nova lecture halls. The lessons I learned helping to plan and execute shows at Nova, have served me well in the real world.
|After Graduating from the wonderful
American School of Correspondence in 1981. (that’s
a joke for all of us who did that.) I finished
my last year at the Atlantic Foundation and moved
to NYC with my friend David Truskinoff .
were roommates on the east side and had a blast
with Ayn Lauren Vitunic, who lived in the same
building. I worked as an actor doing commercials
and as a waiter at Caroline’s Comedy Club for
3 years. Then one day Ayn (Vitunic) needed help
at the talent agency where she worked. And I
never left the business of representing actors.
I was an agent at the J. Michael Bloom Agency
and then Abrams Artists until 1995. Then I moved
to Los Angeles and became a personal manager.
Which is what I still do today!
I live in beautiful, sunny Santa Monica, CA
with my other half David and our puppy Stella.
Life is good and I will always have nothing
but wonderful memories of our time together
in Fort Lauderdale, June 1998! Love to you all.
|After graduating from Nova in '75
I moved to New York City to try my hand at a theatre
career. I went to Julliard one year and studied
voice and dance privately. At the same time trying
to get a job in the theatre. By the following
summer I was out of money and could not afford
to stay in NY. I looked like I was 14 years old
and there was not much of chance at getting a
I moved back to Fort Lauderdale, continued
to study voice privately and started to dance
at the Atlantic Foundation. I also joined a
group of painters who would meet and critique
each others work a few times a week. I spent
the next few years studying and working in the
South Florida area. I spent the summers performing
on Norwegian Cruise Line and in the winter doing
extra work with the touring Metropolitan Opera
in Miami Beach, both as part of the Atlantic
Foundation and on my own.
In the fall of 1980, better prepared (I now
looked 17) I moved to New York for good. I worked
at Carnegie Hall and Macy's to make ends meet.
I was the third to move into the "Friends"
building tucked behind the Palace Theatre near
Times Square. I studied dance, voice and worked
more on my art, putting myself through art school.
Within a year I landed a position as an artist
at a advertising agency. I spent two years there,
letting go of the theatrical dreams and putting
my energy into an art career. I then moved into
a position with American Express and Lehman
Brothers. I spent the next 10 years there and
ended up as Art Director with a corporate title
of Assistant Vice President in Equity Research/Financial
Services. This position lasted through financial
boom of the late 80's until 1993.
From there I took a position at Tishman Construction
and Realty Corporation also located at 666 5th
Ave. in Manhattan. At that time Tishman was
starting a marketing department and I was hired
as Art Director. Tishman is the third largest
building and realty company in the world . We
are currently working all over the U.S., South
America and Europe. I have spent the last four
years working with an excellent staff, on everything
from multi-media presentations for government
jobs, directing photo shoots to designing building
facades for the renovation of the New 42nd Street.
My designs are being used in the current renovation
going on in the Time Square area. I am also
part of the creative force that is building
the first green building in the world, located
at 4 Times Square, located to the east of One
Times Square, where the ball drops every New
On the fine arts side, I have had a few group
exhibitions and one one-man exhibitions of my
art work in NY. I am still painting and drawing,
and have now added photography to my creative
outlet. I am currently working on a new body
of work that I hope to exhibit in the spring
When not making art, or the world a more beautiful
place to look at, I am hanging with my partner
of 16 years, Richard Byrnes. We live about one
hour outside of New York on the south shore
of Long Island, in the midst of vineyards and
beaches. Currently we are in the process of
renovating a 100 year old Victorian house and
Gary in CATS
|I was 13 years of age, when I saw
my first Performing Arts production at Parker
Playhouse, Strike Up The Band.
The year was 1976, and I knew then that my
destiny was right there in front of me on that
stage. I went home that afternoon and told my
parents that I wanted to go to The Performing
Arts School at Dillard. I remember going to
the old auditorium at Dillard and auditioning
for Joyce and Allen. They asked us to prepare
a monologue and a song, I sang You’re My Best
Girl from Mame and did not have the music. I
was pleasantly surprised that Allen was not
only able to play my song, but he played it
in my key. The key of puberty!
I was sitting in my 8th grade Science class
at Perry Junior High, when I received a note
from the Principles Office, (attached) saying
that I had been accepted into the Performing
Arts program at Dillard High School. I’ve been
on Cloud Nine ever since.
The first two years in PA, I was thrilled to
receive gym credits for the rigorous dance training
and was excused from any athletic classes or
activities at Nova. For that, being in PA was
worth it! Joyce and Allen really gave me all
the tools I needed to prepare myself for the
road that lay ahead. They gave me a strong foundation
of which to draw from. My first show I was in
was One for Performing Arts, which I was so
excited, for I knew how to do a Time Step and
knew the whole opening dance from A Chorus Line.
On to Applause, the most controversial show
I have ever been involved in. It was also my
most memorable. I got to dance with Paige O’Hara
on the tables during the show-stopping number
But Alive. I remember after one of the rehearsals
I went home and told my mom that “I have to
have a yellow jumpsuit made for me to wear for
this number. I get to dance with Paige on the
tables center stage.” Thank you Mom for that
jumpsuit, may it rest in peace.(What was I thinking?)
Here is a list of the other shows that I was
involved in; Hard Knock Life, Dames At Sea,
The Nutcracker, This Is The Biz, George M!,
The Energy Source. And The Music Man.
I followed the school to The Atlantic Foundation
for the Performing Arts and continued my academic
education through The American School in Chicago.
What a treat this was, I was tutored for two
hours in the morning with my academics then
had the rest of the day to spend learning and
doing all the things that I loved. Performing.
Joyce and Allen not only taught us how to sing,
act and dance but they gave us the power to
believe in the knowledge and ourselves to be
prepared to expect the unexpected. From finding
an apartment to finding a survival job their
teaching skills were priceless.
In the summer of 1980 I moved up to New York
City. Michael Scott Gregory, Michael McDyer,
Allen Hill and I took an apartment on 47th Street
right behind the Palace Theatre, in the heart
of Times Square. My first job was selling dancewear
and shoes at Capezio’s, as well as a coat check/Juice
Boy at the Anta Theatre. I was taking dance
classes from two of my idols, Ann Reinking and
Peter Genarro at the American Dance Machine,
(they recreated original choreography from old
Broadway shows). After a year of this I landed
my first show, Neil Simon’s Little Me, on Broadway
at the Eugene O’Neil Theatre. I was so excited
for my 3 goals were being met. I was in a Broadway
show, therefore I was now an Equity member and
I was working with Bob Fosse, who had come in
at the last second to help Peter Genarro. A
star studded event and after 6 months the show
There I was with all my goals met and dumbfounded
as to what was next. Remembering the things
Allen and Joyce had taught me I proceeded to
look for alternative work while waiting for
the next performing job. I had many in between
jobs, yet one in particular would eventually
assist in bringing me to where I am currently.
I worked in a candle store in between my many
theatrical jobs, and found that there was a
major need for mail order candles and candle
making supplies made available to the consumer.
With the blessing of the storeowner, I started
a home-based mail-order business called Candles
By Mail, which took off quickly and immediately
couldn’t move around my apartment as the wax
began to consume the space around me. I then
started the rounds of doing street fairs and
flea markets in New York. Let me tell you, the
training I received in Pas de duex class came
in handy, having to lug heavy wax to and from
the street fairs and my apartment. A friend
of mine owned a gourmet food shop and couldn’t
bare the thought of me selling wax out in the
cold of winter. She invited me in to sell my
candles in her shop for 3 months, in exchange
for decorating her store…not a bad deal, eh?
3 months turned into 6 lucrative holiday months
and afforded me the opportunity to open my very
own storefront on the Upper West Side of Manhattan
called Candleshtick. After the first 6 months
I had a hit on my hands and was once again shining
bright on Broadway. 4 years later I decided
to expand the business with my business partner
and opened another Candleshtick store down in
In 1995, I met my best friend and soul mate,
Kevin Allard (now the Director of Information
Technology for The Brooklyn Public Library).
Together, after 1 year of dating, we decided
to have a wedding ceremony down in Boca Raton,
Florida with over 100 guests. Honeymooned in
Paris, Amsterdam and Vienna while visiting friends
and people who we had both worked with through
the years. Upon our return, we found out that
we were both in want of having children in our
lives and decided to explore the many possibilities
in front of us as a gay couple. Becoming Foster
Parents at first seemed to be the best route
in bringing a child into a home with two Dads.
So, with the assistance of ABC Variety House
(funded through Kathie and Frank Gifford), we
brought home our 4 year old son, Richard just
4 months after our initial inquiries of foster
care. Richard came to us as a pre-adoptive foster
child. We filed the adoption papers 6 months
later, legally changed our last name to Allard-Mendelson,
got a call from our lawyer 3 months and 12 days
later that our Adoption Day would be tomorrow,
December 12th, 1997. We were informed by the
AFCLU that we were the first gay, lesbian or
domestic partnership to have adopted jointly
in New York State. Pretty neat we think. With
Richard in our lives, we decided to move to
Park Slope, Brooklyn and sell my shares of the
Chelsea store to my business partner. It was
just too much for one person to handle. The
PTA was calling and I was ready to act as an
active parent in my child’s education.
In March of the following year, we brought
home our second child, Sean. At 4 years old
he and Richard, now 5, sure hit it off and became
fast friends and the best of brothers. Our life
was “Instant Family”. We decided then that we
were in need of a place to go on the weekends
and holidays and have a place for the kids to
get out doors and play around. So we bought
a wonderful house with 4 bedrooms, 2-baths on
3 acres of land in Dingmans Ferry, PA. Right
off of the Delaware Water Gap. In the area,
please let me know, our door is always opened
to our friends and family.
Being in Park Slope, Kevin and I realized that
this would be the best place for a candle store
and that I should open up a store of my very
own. June 13, 1998 (Brooklyn Pride Day) I opened
what is now BIG WICK candles and more at 215
7th Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11215 Toll-free (877)
BIG WICK or (718) 832-4844. I carry candles
and candle related items from over 500 different
manufacturing companies and artists from around
the world. (Know of any cool candle-makers or
candles- please let me know I am always on the
look out for fun and innovative products.) Plans
are in the works for a mail-order division as
well as an on-line candle catalog. Also, within
the store we are working on having an area to
bring in candle-makers from around the world
sharing their talents in candle-making classes.
Sounds like a lot I know. I have recently sold
my interest in the Broadway location of Candleshtick
and I’m in the process of simplifying my life.
Once the boys are ready for middle school and
Kevin is no longer on the school board of our
district we have decided that a move out west
to the San Francisco area is definitely in order.
And now I’m up to date…until we meet again…
Love and light to all.
867 36th Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94121
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