DECATUR -- The student actors for Millikin University’s Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre are beginning their season with a loud start.
The first show for the black box theater will be “The Undeniable Sound of Right Now” beginning Sept. 22 until Oct. 8.
The play centers around the fictional Hank’s Bar in 1992 Chicago. Owner Hank has seen many bands break into the business through his bar.
“There are references to major bands that played there then became famous soon after,” said director Taylor Blaze Lindemann.
Music is a fundamental part of the show. Author Laura Eason named real Chicago-based bands as part of the story. Urge Overkill, Jesus Lizard and others are mentioned. Lindemann believes the music is a big draw for this play, written only two years ago.
“It is very easy to connect with and to engage with, because of the subject matter,” he said.
Hank’s Bar isn’t supposed to be the nicest of places, although it has a long history of successful music ventures. Hank is old school and feels comfortable with a handshake deal in place of a lease. “That’s the way it has been for 25 years,” Lindemann said.
One of the conflicts in the play is who owns the bar and the direction of the business. The music and the relationships Hank has made are important to him. However, the music and the direction it is going in the early 1990s is important to everyone associated with the play.
“The small club has made a huge difference in people’s lives,” Lindemann said.
Marielle Tepe, who plays Lena, Hank’s daughter, sees the conflict between the generations of the time. “That was the dichotomy between rock and DJing and house parties.” Tepe said.
The music was a draw for Benjamin Brawner, who plays Hank. He appreciated the opportunity to act while playing his guitar.
“Very rarely are you able to have music in a play without it being a musical,” he said. “I get to play live music without necessarily the song-and-dance element.”
Members of the cast believe Pipe Dreams Theatre is fitting environment for this type of play and the story that it tells. The story branches out across generations.
“Especially if you were a kid in the 60s and 70s and you liked the classic rock music of KISS and Eric Clapton,” Tepe said.
The black box theater known for its dark, plain atmosphere is an ideal setting for a dark, dingy bar. Lindemann wanted to make the setting feel how Hank’s bar would feel. The audience will be allowed to sit among the patrons of the bar, giving them an even closer connection with the characters. This is a trait the actors prefer.
“There is really nothing better than the black box setup where the audience is right there with you,” Brawner said. “You are always trying to get an intimacy with the audience, no matter the stage. Every detail is caught.”
Lindemann believes the unique play will have a connection with many in the community. As the director, he made sure the show was set in a place with people who are relatable, similar to the local clubs he sees around Millikin.
“And Decatur offers many choices for live music, similar to Hank’s,” he said.