The latest production at the Depot Theater Company features a script by Kansas-born playwright William Inge.
A bus headed from Kansas City to Topeka is stranded by a blizzard. The four passengers and the bus driver take shelter in Grace's Diner, a lonely, isolated cafe. They are joined by Grace and her waitress, the local sheriff and a couple of local cowboys.
The play, by Kansas-born playwright William Inge, is set in March of 1955 and the action takes place from 1 to 5 a.m.
The Depot Theater Company's production of "Bus Stop" opens Friday for a three-week run.
Jennifer Vierthaler, director of the production, said "It all just kind of worked out nicely — it's the company's 30th season, we did 'Mousetrap' in the fall and it's celebrating it's 60th anniversary, and this year is the 100th anniversary of Inge's birth."
Vierthaler has enjoyed working on the script partly because it's set in Kansas.
"We don't get a lot of press as a grand place to set a play here in Kansas. This play takes place in a tiny town with normal, everyday people going about their lives. Then suddenly something like a blizzard happens and it's an exciting night — there's romance, there are fights, there are suspicious characters," she said.
Although he grew up in Kansas and the characters in "Bus Stop" are supposedly based on people he met in the small, northeastern Kansas town of Tonganoxie, Inge followed the dramatic standard of the time and wrote dialogue for his characters in an exaggerated dialect.
"The way it's written makes Kansans sound like hillbillies," Vierthaler said.
"We've toned that down a little."
The cast for the production features eight company veterans, some of whom are just getting started and others who have been away from the stage for a few years.
"It's nice to see those experienced actors back on stage after they've been gone for awhile," Vierthaler said.
The newest company member in the cast is Anna Klecker, who was previously in the company's production of "Cinderella."
"She has just thrown herself into it and she's doing a wonderful job," Vierthaler said.
Several other members of the cast have been involved with more than one show this season.
Bradley Lies, for instance, was on stage in "Mousetrap" in October and "Funny Money" in December.
"Bradley is never going to stop doing theater as long as he can walk and breathe," Vierthaler said.
Vierthaler directed Lies in his first show with the company, "Twelve Angry Men," and has enjoyed watching him develop as an actor.
"It's wonderful to watch him bloom into a confident performer," she said.
"I think he's excited to play a character in this show that's completely different from anything he's done before."
Kim Smith, food and beverage manager for the Depot, has put together a diner-inspired menu for the production: Tomato and basil bisque, country buttermilk biscuits, golden mashed potatoes and gravy, baked chicken fried steak, garden blend vegetables, Grace's Mountain apple cobbler and vanilla bean ice cream.
In the lobby
There's always more to an evening at the Depot than just the dinner and show.
In the lobby for "Bus Stop" will be a display of memorabilia from many of the company's productions over the past 30 years. Costumes, props, programs and photos recall the theater's history of producing outstanding shows.
In the theater gallery, a display of artwork by the group THUGS. And in the bar, a signature drink created specially for the production. Watch the Globe for more information later in the week.
Write what you know
William Inge, the play's author, grew up in Independence, Kan., and graduated from the University of Kansas in 1935.
He was offered a scholarship to attend Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville.
Inge left Nashville without completing his master's degree and returned to Kansas, where he worked on the state highway system, worked as a news announcer in Wichita and taught English and drama at Cherokee County Community High School in Columbus.
Eventually Inge returned to Peabody to complete his master's. He then taught at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo., until 1943.
Inge began his career in drama as a drama critic for the St. Louis Star-Times.
He wrote his first play in 1947 and followed it with "Come Back, Little Sheba," which ran for 190 performances on Broadway in 1950.
In 1953, "Picnic" won Inge a Pulitzer Prize and Inge began to develop his affinity for life in small Kansas towns — he began to earn the moniker "Playwright of the Midwest."
Inge's career peaked with "Bus Stop" in 1955 and "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" in 1957.
Inge had some success in both the film and television industries.
In 1961, ABC produced a series of 25 hour-long shows called "Bus Stop," which Inge served as script supervisor for. The shows were set in a fictional town in Colorado and explored the lives of the townspeople and the bus passengers who stopped through.
By 1970, Inge was living in Los Angeles and teaching playwriting at the University of California.
His writing was out of fashion and got little attention.
Inge chose carbon monoxide to commit suicide in 1973 at the age of 60.
In 1982, Independence Community College and the William Inge Center for the Arts began an annual theater festival with the intention of honoring playwrights. The festival brings together noted playwrights, critics and scholars.
The 2013 festival will celebrate the 100th anniversary of William Inge's birth, with four days of lectures, performances and special events.
Scheduled for May 1 to 4, the festival will begin with a full production of "Bus Stop."
IF YOU GO
What: "Bus Stop," by William Inge presented by the Depot Theater Company
When: Opens Friday, Feb. 8 for a three-week run
Where: The Depot Theater Company
Tickets: $40 for dinner and the show
Reservations: (620) 225-1001