Step into any saloon on a random Wednesday afternoon, and you’ll probably see a few longtime patrons bellied up to the bar.
But what happens to them when developers buy the bar? Or a new owner turns it into a sports bar?
That’s the idea behind playwright Steve Emily’s “The Tap,” a 90-minute show that takes place on Christmas Eve in a rundown bar on Chicago’s north side. The owner has received an offer to sell it, and he and a few regulars sit around and talk about what the place has meant to them and the neighborhood.
“The people are all good people just trying to get through life,” said Emily. “Because it takes place on Christmas Eve, there’s a certain sentimentality that comes along with that, but it’s not mawkish.”
The show opens Thursday at Millibo Art Theatre.
The bar in the show is based on an amalgam of different, yet similar, drinking establishments, said Emily, but he recalls one in particular from his days of living in the Windy City.
“One bar I went in once, it was kind of a stereotypical old guy bar, where’s it’s just dank and somewhat gloomy,” he said. “I remember driving by a couple of months later, and suddenly a radio station van was out front. There was a new sign. They were hosting viewing parties for college football parties all of a sudden. I wondered what would happen to those old guys, who wouldn’t feel welcome in this new thing.”
Emily, a staple in the local theater scene, most recently appeared as Macbeth in TheatreWorks’ summer Shakespeare offering. He’ll do double duty as playwright and actor. In an unexpected twist, director and MAT co-founder Jim Jackson suggested he take on the role of the bartender.
“I hadn’t planned on that,” said Emily. “I thought, well, I’ve got one target on my back, let’s add another one. It’s a challenge. I’ve never done that before.”
This will be Emily’s first full-length show, though he’s had a couple of short plays staged at MAT, at Craft Production Resource, a local group that produces new plays by southern Colorado writers, and a couple of other theaters around the country.
“I try to write like people talk,” he said. “And write in sentences that flow off the tongue. Whether it’s someone who drops too many F bombs or their English isn’t very good, I try to make it sound as natural as possible.”
JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM