WHEATON – In a world constantly filled by technology and business, moments of old-fashioned remembrance can be welcome.
"Hank Williams: Lost Highway" tries to capture that nostalgia, tapping into the tragic story of the American singer-songwriter, who released several influential hits before his death at age 29 after years of drug and alcohol abuse.
Former Wheaton resident Dana Black is reprising her role as an enamored waitress in a production through the American Blues Theater at its Greenhouse Theater Center in Chicago.
Lurz: Tell me a little about the show and how you got involved in it.
Black: Well, last year I did the same production. It's about the life and childhood of Hank Williams – it's a tribute. He's credited with influencing the blues and country music – he's really in the DNA of Americana. A lot of songs people might know came from him. This show follows his life from childhood, his relationship with his mother, his band, and many others.
Lurz: What's your role in the show?
Black: I play a poor waitress who works at a truckstop diner in Alabama. I sort of represent the American public: He comes into my diner one night and changes my life. I had already been a huge fan, and his visit affects me the rest of my life. It's a small part, but it's a really interesting, fun bit. It's a fun release and romp we have before going back to the songs.
Lurz: What brought you back to the role?
Black: Well, actors always want work, so when they asked, of course I'd do it again and bring the band back together. But to do this show with this bunch of people again was a huge gift. We had a successful run – we pretty much sold out last year, but couldn't continue, so we get the chance to.
Lurz: Was there anything about the role itself that enticed you?
Black: Well, my part is such a comedic release and that's such an exciting role for somebody to play. It's a humorous side of the story, and reflecting back on what the audience is feeling as well. I'm a mirror for them – I just spend most of my time working, talking to the customers and listening to the radio.
So much of the show is about how he made us feel – the yodel he was known for especially made women crazy listening to him. It's like the days at the Grand Ole Oprey – those days when you would tune in and listen to these singers. And I get to mirror that.
And hit shows are fun to do, my friend. That's the dream.
Lurz: What's in it for people who aren't familiar with his music?
Black: I think you'd be surprised about how many you do know that were him – "Jambalaya," "So Lonesome I Could Cry," "Mind Your Own Business." And we have a live band on stage, with drums and a guitar and an upright bass, a harmonica and spoons, lots of good music. I think it's worth the price of admission, for sure. It's a moving production and an incredible show.
And for the waitress, obviously.
Lurz: What do you enjoy the most about the show?
Black: Well, the music is incredible. It's still like I'm hearing it for the first time. But also in this world of technology and how fast the world is changing, to go back to a time where things were slightly more simple is quite enjoyable.
There's a sense of nostalgia and Americana that's gone and never coming back, which is kind of a theme of the play. Losing Hank, that's someone who is never returning. America lost someone quite incredible, and we're never getting him back.
See the show
"Hank Williams: Lost Highway" runs until Sept. 28. For show times and tickets, visit www.shawurl.com/1bxv.