The newest production at Star City Playhouse, “Bus Stop,” opens on July 7. This is a drama, with quite a few laughs mixed in, written by William Inge and set in a diner outside of Kansas City circa 1955.
Several bus passengers have become stranded during a March snowstorm and take shelter overnight in the diner.
The cast is made up of eight characters.
Grace Hoyland is the owner of the diner. She is played by Diane Heard, who is from the Roanoke area. She appeared recently with Star City Playhouse in “The Nerd.” She has been involved with many productions locally, including Showtimers and Attic Productions, and others with Star City. She also has a history as a stage manager. She said she likes period pieces and was drawn to this character, who is at once, “motherly, streetwise, and a wisecracker.”
Elma Duckworth is a waitress at the diner, an innocent high school student. She is played by Kallie Parish in her first production with Star City Playhouse. Owner and director Marlow Ferguson describes Parish as “wonderfully talented.”
Bob Toven has the role of Will Masters, the local sheriff— tough, but goodhearted, and forced to restore some order in the diner overnight.
Toven appeared back in February in “Shakespeare in Love,” Star City’s first production after relocating the community theatre to Vinton. He is a speech and language graduate of James Madison University, and a longtime resident of the Roanoke Valley. He keeps busy as a substitute teacher and as a member of the board of directors at Showtimers Community Theatre. He has performed in most areas of entertainment including radio, television, movies, and live theatre.
He was interested in the role of the sheriff in “Bus Stop” because it was different than roles he had played before and he enjoys working with Marlow Ferguson.
Northside High School government and history teacher Joe Kavanaugh has assumed the role of Dr. Gerald Lyman, a college philosophy professor, who has a drinking problem and an unfortunate interest in underage women.
Kavanaugh co-sponsors the Viking Playhouse theatre group at Northside and appears in some of its productions, most recently in the spring musical, “The Wedding Singer.” He was recruited for the cast of “Bus Stop,” and was able to work the production into his schedule during the summer months when demands on his time are less. He has appeared in seven productions with Showtimers.
Meredith Dabney, a home-schooler from Radford, portrays Cherie, a teenager from a difficult Ozarks background who has been working in the Blue Dragon nightclub, with little innocence left to her. She finds herself on the bus, claiming to have been abducted by cowboy Bo Decker who intends to marry her– against her wishes.
Dabney has appeared in many musicals and other productions throughout the region, and in a yet-to-be released “major motion picture.” She says this role is a challenge for her as she is not generally cast as a “girly girl,” and believes it will help her build her resume without becoming stereotyped. She has performed with much acclaim for her musical talent, although her character’s bar song performance in “Bus Stop” can be described as less than melodic.
She is interested in a career in acting. Star City Playhouse co-owner Karon Ferguson says that Dabney is “so talented— she will make her mark.” She is so dynamic in the “Bus Stop” role that audiences may have the opportunity to say that they were fortunate to see her perform in the early days of her career.
Bo Decker is played by Lane Kinsley, a recent graduate of Community High School in Roanoke. He will be studying theatre arts at Roanoke College in the fall. He was recruited for the role by Diane Heard. He appeared in the Showtimers production of “Cheaper by the Dozen” last December and also in the Community High School production of “A Flea in Her Ear.”
His character is a bull-headed and naive cowboy who fell in love with Cherie after seeing her perform “Old Black Magic” at the nightclub. He refuses to take “no” as an answer to his marriage proposal. He plans for them to live happily ever after on his Montana ranch.
Copper Creek Records founder and owner Gary Reid plays Virgil Blessing, described as “an older, wiser cowboy who has become a father figure to Bo and encourages him to become more “gallant” and “tender” to win over Cherie.
Reid has lived in the area for 35 years and has gained recognition as a bluegrass performer, historian, author, and concert promoter. An added bonus to the “Bus Stop” production is hearing Reid perform on guitar as part of the story.
He says he was recruited by Karon Ferguson for the part, which he has played once before in his long career, which includes 60 different productions. He has been not just an actor, but a producer and stage manager for stage productions, short films, and commercials.
He has also toured the country with his one-man play, “A Life of Sorrow: the Life and Times of Carter Stanley” about the mountain music legend.
The final character in “Bus Stop” is Carl the bus driver, a role filled by Star City Playhouse owner Marlow Ferguson. The owner of the diner is “sweet on him” and there is the hint of a tryst while he is stranded at the diner.
Ferguson, who has served all roles in theatre— actor, director, producer, stage manager, casting director, and more, is celebrating an anniversary this week. He arrived in New York City on July 4, 1961, to begin his formal acting career, having grown up in Louisville, and has now been an equity actor for 41 years.
He not only loves acting himself, but thrives on helping other actors to develop their full potential. He is pleased that the cast of “Bus Stop” is made up of actors “hungry to learn” and “smart enough to learn” and perfect their craft. His expectation with each production is that the cast members will “find themselves and all come alive onstage.” He says he is not disappointed with his actors in “Bus Stop” who are all “very believable” in their roles.
Ferguson also says that his wife, Karon Semones Ferguson, is “second to none” as a costumer, producer, playwright, and set designer. The Fergusons have collected replica signs of Moon Pies and hot dogs from the 1950s, along with magazine covers featuring entertainer Debbie Reynolds. Local artist Tonya Kirk will be adding a “blizzard scene” to the set before performances begin. Karon Ferguson has once again selected period music for the intermissions.
“Bus Stop” runs about two hours including three acts and two intermissions with no set changes.
Performances are scheduled for three Fridays, July 7, 14, and 21 at 7 p.m. There will also be matinees at 2. p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, July 8.9.15,16, 22, and 23.
Tickets are $10. Reservations may be made by calling 366-1446.