THE UNDENIABLE SOUND OF RIGHT NOW: A Preview with Dana Black (Raven Theatre)

By Cesar Gonzales | cesar@viastage.com
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Undeniable Sound

Chicago (May 5, 2019) — THE UNDENIABLE SOUND OF RIGHT NOW runs through June 16th at the Raven Theatre.

“Chicago, 1992. the city and its culture are changing, but grungy old Hank’s Bar isn’t. The soulless noise of electronic house music is on the rise. So Hank, a proprietor of a legendary rock club must battle this rising tide of The Next Big Thing as it threatens to destroy his legacy and fracture his family.” according to a news release.

Here’s an excerpt of our interview with Dana Black who plays the character Bette..

 

VS:

THE UNDENIABLE SOUND OF RIGHT NOW… that’s a very interesting title for a play. It’s about rock music?

DB:

Yeah, it’s about rock music. It’s about family, it’s about generations, it’s about love. It’s about adapting. This is a play written by Laura Eason. She’s a Chicagoan, she famously wrote play called Sex With Strangers, now she writes for House of Cards. And she said that back in the day she, she found herself dating musicians and dating the band. And she was like, I don’t want to date the band, I want to be the band. So she’s an actress, she’s a director, she’s a writer and she’s a musician and back in the day in the nineties she was in a band called Tart. And they would play all over Chicago in certain clubs like Empty Bottle and around town. And so this play is a love letter to the nineties. This play takes place in 1992 at a bar that’s been open since 1967 so it’s a famous, you know, time in rock music, the 90s for sure.

VS:

Is it a story that can teach the audience about music history?

DB:

Yeah, it certainly can. Because this specific bar in the play is based off of Lounge Acts, which was a very famous alternative rock venue from 1987 to 2000 in Chicago. It was on Lincoln Avenue across from the Biograph. [This club] had millions of bands come through with like Liz Phair and Wilco and the Smashing Pumpkins and Tortoise and Poi Dog Pondering … and all these groups. And so this place is sort of loosely based on that, along with Empty Bottle and Metro and Double Door and all these other places in Chicago…  there’s a scene in the play where [the club owner is] telling a story about how he was the person who told the Kiss band that they should wear makeup, … there’s a whole scene where you hear Hank, I don’t want to give it away, but it’s a really sweet moment because… you’re like, is he talking about Kiss? Then it’s revealed to the story that he’s like… I take credit for telling them… The club in this play goes even further back in, in American music history or in rock history, and the change in music, which is house music with Frankie Knuckles and all these people coming up, this club owner doesn’t really respect that. He doesn’t really understand house music. He thinks it’s narcissistic and very about getting in touch with yourself and getting in touch with you and going inward. And it’s about drugs. And that it’s not not about the communal experience of how rock music is perceived. So it’s like new and the old, right? And so there’s a character in this play who is a DJ who wants to spin house music in this club and the owner, Hank, doesn’t want him there.

VS:

House music became really popular in the 90s. So do we get to see how a rock club like Hank’s Bar tries to adapt to all these changes, with the introduction of house music and other electronic influences?

DB:

Yeah, I mean… he’s really resistant to that… the only reason he really comes around to to agreeing to have house music in his club by this new DJ who has befriended his daughter, is because they’re increasing the rent. And so Lena, the daughter, is trying to tell him… this young Dj, he mixes in rock and pop and jazz and hip hop. He’s like, I don’t think I’d like it. So he is just hesitant to someone like that… It is the changing times —

VS:

In a way it sounds like another question is… What do you consider art? Writing and performing rock music is undoubtedly an artistic form, but if you’re a DJ and you’re mixing things in from samples of different genres, is that as on the same level as someone that has toiled and sweated to write something brilliant?

DB:

Right. Yeah. That’s hard to say. You know, I, I think it’s quite impressive, house music. But that’s just me. I think that’s a skill, … but the idea… the argument he makes about it’s narcissistic, and it’s about loving yourself instead of being in a room with others. You’re in a room with others, … it’s an inward journey. And that’s so interesting because that’s what he hates about it. And yet when you think about Woodstock, … it was a communal thing, but that was also considered a movement about drugs and free love and finding inner peace, … and that was a rock thing, … he’s judging house, … he’s judging something that might be similar to something that he understood… But I, yeah, I think house music is incredible…

VS:

If  you go back and listen to some of the house music from the 90s it’s still fun to listen to —

DB:

[Yeah and] even if you aren’t a music fan or you don’t know much about rock music or about house or anything, … it’s a play about family and it’s a play about love and it’s a play about legacy… and all of those things are universal. So. You know, identity and making a stake in the world and a claim in the world, … you can’t control politics, or gentrification or real estate or, you know, but you try to take a little piece of something on the earth, your own, and leave something behind. So…

VS:

Well, thank you very much, Dana.

DB:

Thank you so much. That was wonderful. Thank you.

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