Theater: Laughing in sin with ‘Hell’s Awesome’

I picture heaven a very clean, cozy place full of polite and patient people, where there are unlimited free massages, dark chocolate, lots of greenery and happy woodland creatures. There is no loud noise, cigarette smoke or sporting events, the air smells like Snuggle dryer sheets, and Barbra Streisand sings all day long. But Corey Music and Nick Potter, two University of Louisville students and local playwrights, insist heaven isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, you should start sinning immediately and as often as possible, because if you want to have any fun in the afterlife, you better reserve a room in the fiery underworld. Forget anything you learned in philosophy or religion class, Music and Potter’s play, “Hell’s Awesome,” is sure to clear up any questions you might have about the hereafter in under an hour and for free.

“If heaven is an absence of sin and a paradise, then wouldn’t it be kind of boring?” says Music. “We kind of discussed that and thought, ‘Well, hell would be a lot of fun!’” They said they were at Music’s house one evening discussing this very idea and decided it would be good fodder for a play. Both regular participants in U of L’s student-run Studio Theater company, they have the ability not only to have their play performed, but they are also directing it and starring in it — as themselves.

The production tells the story of Corey and Nick’s tragic death and passage into the afterlife. Nick was an honest, noble man and rightfully ended up in heaven, only to discover it wasn’t the paradise he expected. There are lots of rules, including mandatory church attendance, and without sin, there is obviously no pleasure or amusement. Corey, a big sinner, ends up in hell where he parties with Satan and several celebrities, free to do as many immoral activities as he pleases. Nick misses Corey, is jealous of his newly gained eternal lifestyle and is determined to do something evil to get kicked out of heaven and sent to hell, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are a lot of obstacles and other characters involved.

“We’ve got St. Peter — he welcomes everybody — then you have God, who shows up later, and Jesus,” explains Corey. “And in hell we have Satan, who’s really cool and laid-back, and celebrity cameos like Heath Ledger, Hunter S. Thompson and Brittany Murphy. There are no real demons in hell — those are scary.”

The show will use lighting and minimal set pieces to convey the polar-opposite worlds, and it should be pretty easy for the viewers to tell which is which — blue for heaven, red for hell, etc.

“We just went with the clichés,” says Potter. “But we twisted them around.”

Music and Potter have enjoyed working with the other seven members of the cast and the way they have brought their freshly written script to life in such a short period.

“(The other actors) are bringing a lot of creativity to the table, having their own jokes and concepts in mind,” says Music. “A lot of the script is different from what’s written down because all of the actors have added their own flavor to the characters.”

Potter says that was their intention when writing it, pointing out that performing their own play gives them the freedom to change it as needed. They are both excited about bringing their creation to life — and for helping keep the Studio Theater program moving forward.

“It’s my last semester, and I wanted to do something awesome,” Music says. “I thought, ‘If we’re going do this, we’ve got to do it now.’” There are a handful of studio “slots” each semester, often with at least two one-act plays following one another, but this particular show will run solo. They both agree Studio Theater is a great opportunity for students and would like to see more members of the community attend, in addition to family and friends.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Potter says. “We always go to other Studio shows to support each other. There’s not as much pressure as with main stage shows.”

“Hell’s Awesome” is expected to run about 45 minutes, and Music promises a lot of laughs and even some audience interaction. “It’s a short, sweet and hopefully hilarious theatrical experience.”

‘Hell’s Awesome’
March 11-13
University of Louisville
Studio Theater
2314 S. Floyd St.
Free; 8 p.m.