Movie version of William Inge’s play solidified Marilyn Monroe’s career as a serious actress
Sheriff Will (Justin Ariola, left) and Grace (Beth Egan) share a laugh while stranded overnight at Grace’s diner during a howling midwestern blizzard in Act 1 DeSales University’s production of Bus Stop.
Act 1 DeSales University Theatre opens its 46th season with William Inge’s comedy, “Bus Stop.” The play runs September 30 through October 11 on the Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts, Center Valley, PA.
The 1956 movie starred a young Marilyn Monroe, who’s work up until then consisted of comedies and musicals. “Bus Stop” was the first film in which she appeared after having studied at Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio in New York City. Monroe received accolades for her performance and was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture—musical or comedy—by the 1956 Hollywood Foreign Press Association, solidifying her career as a serious and talented actress. Of her performance, the New York Times said, “Hold onto your chairs, everybody, and get set for a rattling surprise. Marilyn Monroe has finally proved herself an actress in ‘Bus Stop.’”
“Bus Stop” premiered in New York on March 2, 1955, running for a total of 478 performances. The opening night cast included Kim Stanley and was directed by theatre luminary Harold Clurman. It was nominated for four Tony awards in 1956: Best Play, Best Scenic Design, Best Director, and Best Featured Actress in a Play. That actress was the legendary Elaine Stritch, who came to visit DeSales University in 2009 to treat our theatre students and guests to a talk and selections from her musical repertoire.
“Bus Stop” takes place in the middle of a howling midwestern blizzard, as a bus pulls up to Gracie’s roadside diner. All the roads are blocked and the weary travelers are stranded overnight. Cherie, a flighty nightclub singer, belligerent cowboy Bo and his friend Virgil, and a drunken doctor are joined by the sheriff, the bus driver, a young waitress, and Gracie herself. Waiting for the roads to be cleared, they devise entertainments while sharing hopes and dreams over coffee, donuts, and a little Shakespeare. An uproariously funny celebration of love, “Bus Stop” is a tale about growing up.
‘“Bus Stop’ is one of those plays which features a group of diverse characters captured in an unexpected situation—outsiders among outsiders,” says performing arts division head John Bell. “And the excitement of this type of theatre is watching vivid personalities colliding in surprising ways.”
With Tennessee Williams as a mentor, William Inge was so inspired after seeing “The Glass Menagerie” that he decided to try his hand as a playwright. His first two efforts, “Farther Off From Heaven” (1947) and “Come Back Little Sheba” (1950) earned him the title of “most promising playwright of the 1950 Broadway season,” but his career was only beginning to gain momentum.
He followed this success with “Picnic” (1952), which won him a Pulitzer Prize, the Drama Critics Circle Award, the Outer Circle Award, and the Theatre Club Award. Next came “Bus Stop” (1955) and two years later, “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” (1957), a reworking of his first play, premiered on Broadway.
By this time, critics were hailing Inge as another Tennessee Williams. Unfortunately, his later works would not fulfill that promise. Inge was plagued by a string of box office failures, and his only real success during that period was his screenplay for “Splendor in the Grass” (1961), for which he won an Academy Award. Convinced that he could no longer write, the small-town Inge fell into a deep depression and, on June 10, 1973, at his home in the Hollywood Hills, William Inge took his own life.
“William Inge often commented that he believed his upbringing led to his understanding of human behavior,” adds Bell. “He once said, ‘I’ve often wondered how people raised in our great cities ever develop any knowledge of humankind. People who grow up in small towns get to know each other so much more closely than they do in cities.’ The intimacy of this small-town environment has resulted in Inge having created some of the most unique and fully-shaped characters of the 20th century and these characters are great studies for our young actors.”
“Bus Stop” is directed by associate professor of theatre Steven Dennis. Of the production he says, “‘Bus Stop’ takes place during a quieter, simpler, and perhaps more innocent world—but one inhabited by characters who shared similar hopes and desires, as well as comparable challenges and foibles, as many people do today. This play is thought of as perhaps playwright William Inge’s most humorous work, and our actors have discovered plenty of comedic opportunities along the way.
Gracie’s Diner comes to life with sets and costumes by Act 1’s resident creative faculty team: scenic designer Will Neuert, costume designer Amy Best, and lighting and sound designer Elizabeth Elliott.
The production runs September 30 to October 11, 2015 on the Main Stage of the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts. Performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM and Sundays at 2:00 PM. There is a morning matinee on Monday, October 5 at 9:45 AM, followed by a talk back with the director and cast. A talk back is also scheduled for Sunday, October 4 after the 2:00 PM performance.
In an effort to improve accessibility for all patrons, the Saturday, October 10, 8:00 PM performance will feature Open Captioning for patrons who are deaf or hearing impaired and Audio Descriptions for patrons who are blind or visually impaired. During Open Captioned performances, all dialogue and sound effects are presented in real-time on an LED screen that is adjacent to the stage. During Audio Described performances, all action and physical appearances are described live through a headset. Tickets are half price for patrons using these special services on this date. Please call box office manager Catherine Logan at 610-282-3654, ext. 1 for more information.
Ticket prices are $21 for adults and $19 for students and seniors on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and $25 for adults and $23 for students and seniors on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Group discounts are available for all performances. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Labuda Center box office at 610-282-3192 or by visiting the web site at www.desales.edu/act1.
The Labuda Center is fully accessible and equipped with a listening enhancement system. Special seating is available for our patrons using wheelchairs or requiring other assistance. Please inform the box office of your needs when ordering tickets.
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