Inside the walls of an old Hannibal bank building, Joe Anderson envisions a “black box theater,” a space where talent can perform before an intimate group of friends and family. Within that space there will be a state of the art sound system, lighting, and seating that maintains the flare of historic Hannibal.
The building, located at 212 Broadway, has been under-utilized for many of the years since the F&M Bank moved to 501 Broadway in 1970. But its structure and character remain intact, which makes it a perfect venue for a theater offering.
Joe Anderson, who built a similar offering in Canada, has a vision for Hannibal.
“The city I came from is very parallel to Hannibal. Both were established in the early 1800s on a waterfront. Both were railway towns and developed their own industrial bases.”
In the early 1990s, the town went through a downturn, Anderson said. The stores that were downtown moved to the outskirts. The good paying union jobs disappeared.
In order to rebuild, “We focused on cultural collateral of our unique assets.” He sees that same vision in Hannibal. “We need to amass all our cultural attributes and help them work together.
“There are 15 million people who live within a four-hour drive of this city,” he said, and he wants to help Hannibal tap into that resource. “I’d like to be part of the story,” he said.
The first step was the purchase of the old bank building at 212 Broadway, which will serve as the base for “Bluff City Theater.”
First on the agenda will be a series of Theater Day Camps scheduled in June. The camps will be age specific, and will introduce children to various aspects of theater performance, from creative expression to storytelling, dance and music. Camps will be held at the Bluff City Theater building, 212 Broadway. The price, at $130 per week, is set as to be competitive with day care options. Camp for children ages 7-10 begins June 9; and camp for children 11-13 begins June 16.
Another summer venue is planned beginning in July, “Tales of an Urban Indian,” featuring Darrell Dennis. This is a semi-autobiographical tale about Simon Douglas, a kid growing up on an Indian reserve and in the city of Vancouver, Canada. This play, performed on a moving transit bus, presents an array of characters that come in and out of Simon’s life as seen through his eyes.
“People will board the bus, and the bus will pull away. It will stop at a bus stop, where the actor gets on. He does 40 different characters, including his grandmother who carries a fly swatter. He plays all the characters himself,” Anderson said, “and deals with very adult issues, such as alcohol, drug abuse.” Each performance lasts approximately 65 minutes. “Audiences feel extremely uplifted because of this story,” he said.
“Theater has to be entertaining,” Anderson said, “and also has to cause you to think. The types of works we choose will be thought-provoking and entertaining. There needs to be a message for it to really matter.”
When complete, the “black box” theater will be fitted with 100 seats, which were salvaged when the Hannibal High School auditorium was refitted some years ago. Anderson said the 100 seat venue will be perfect for “friends and family” type performances, and even community theater.
For information, the theater phone number is (573) 719-3226. The theater’s web site is: bluffcitytheater.com