The chattering and applause from the audience in Kaeuper Hall comes to a sharp halt as Joseph Bein '12 makes his way to the piano. This performance is the culmination of his James Millikin Scholar project, a staged reading of Bein's musical adaptation of Oscar Wilde's novel, "The Picture of Dorian Gray." Bein plants himself on the bench and, after a brief introduction, plays the score without sheet music while simultaneously leading his 12 actors through the entire 90-minute performance.
The project has taken nearly two years of work and planning by the visually-impaired student. "By the time I was accepted as a JMS student, I knew I wanted to write this," Bein says. "I wanted to do it before then, but I didn't have an excuse to spend that much time and effort on something that wasn't for a grade."
Bein worked on the project with several of Millikin's faculty, most notably his advisers for the project, Dr. Stephen Frech, associate professor of English, and Kevin Long, artist-in-residence. "I would have these long philosophical discussions with Dr. Frech that really had very little to do with the play itself," Bein says, "but they would wind up sparking all of these great ideas."
"Joseph writes with a well-deserved confidence," Frech says. "He trusts his own skills to see very difficult, challenging projects to a close."
Frech was also impressed with the comprehensive manner in which Bein told the story. "His wide-reaching care accounts for the success of the final product," he says. "He did not write it to prop up one story. He was mutually invested in all of them."
Dr. Vincent Landro, former assistant professor of theatre and dance, was also a source of inspiration for Bein. "Vince Landro was a constant source of engagement for me with dramatic material. I credit him with my continued interest in dramatic plots and wanting to do theatre," Bein says.
Bein's interest in theatre was also demonstrated in fall 2010, when he wrote and directed a student production of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Rappiccini's Daughter" for Pipe Dreams Studio Theatre. In addition to earning a bachelor's degree in theatre and English writing, Bein was involved with the music fraternity, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, serving multiple leadership positions for the fraternity, including as its vice president. He also played piano and saxophone for Gibson City Bible Church during his time as a student, which led to a position as a worship leader for the church after graduation.
"I let the pastor know if anything was needed I could help, so they asked me to lead New Year's Sunday," Bein says. "That went well, and I led the Sunday after that, and that went well, and it kind of went from there."
Bein and Megan Hanley '13 were married this June, and between his marriage, his church position and upcoming writing projects, Bein is ecstatic.
"After Megan graduates, I'll be looking for an MFA in playwriting or fiction writing," he says. "I can't decide between the two. In the meantime, I have plenty of space to feel creatively energized, so I have the opportunity to keep writing."
One audience member at the musical's performance, President Harold Jeffcoat, was exceptionally impressed by Bein's focus and creative energy.
"I have come to expect the unexpected from Millikin students," Jeffcoat says. "Joseph Bein and the cast were stunning. I came away from the performance with pride, saying to myself, 'These are Millikin students. Expect exceptional performance!'"