‘Bus Stop’ comes to Washburn

Cowboys Bo Decker (Matthew Steiner) and Virgil (Michaul Garbo) play a heated game of poker at the bus stop. Decker owns a Montana ranch and is looking for love in all the wrong places.

Niel Thompson

Last Friday, Washburn University debuted its fall play “Bus Stop,” written by famous Kansas playwright William Inge. “Bus Stop” is unique from other plays recently performed at Washburn because it is a naturalistic play, meaning the actors and actresses actually interacted with the set. For instance, light switches actually turned on lights, tables were jumped, and the actors ate real food.

In addition, actors onstage interacted with each other and their environment before the show started and during intermission, never breaking character.

The play’s premise is as follows: Passengers on a bus are forced to take shelter in a diner after a powerful blizzard blocks the roads and cuts out phone service, turning a routine trip into an ordeal that lasts for hours. Inside the diner, an old professor hits on an 18-year-old waitress, the bus driver cements a relationship with the diner’s owner, a cowboy tries to force marriage onto a young chanteuse and a sheriff attempts to keep the order.

The professor, known as Dr. Lyman, is played by Chris Waugh, who performed his first play at Washburn in 1971 and received his major in theater in 1984. Waugh portrays Lyman as a man whose body can’t keep up with his youthful essence.

“I told everybody that I know that this is the best deal in town,” said Waugh. “The tickets are $5 and you get a really darn good show.”

The 18-year-old waitress to whom Dr. Lyman takes a shine is Elma Duckworth, portrayed by Katy Warner, a sophomore who was involved with Washburn’s Children’s Theater Tour last year and this year. Warner said her character has a brighter and more optimistic view of the world than the other characters, and doesn’t have much experience with men.

Warner steps up to the plate with a lot of energy at her disposal. She said this show is different from others with which she has been involved.

“It’s really different from the past shows I’ve been in at Washburn because they weren’t naturalistic plays,” said Warner. “It’s very interesting to see these different people come together in just one place.”

Junior Frank Hernandez, who portrays Carl, the bus driver, has been involved in Washburn’s theater program since 2003. He was the stage manager for “Jekyll and Hyde.”

Tonia Schoen plays nightclub singer Cherie. Schoen, who has a degree in English from KU and is hoping to get a license to teach English to high schoolers, has worked with EMU Theater in Lawrence for 8 years.

“This is the first full scale production I’ve ever done,” said Schoen. “I’ve never had somebody step up and measure me, do costumes for me, and I love working with Paul. I’ve never had so much good direction before. He’s fun to work with and, I like all the people in the theater department.”