Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Greenbelt Arts Center Bus Stop

By • Oct 1st, 2009 • Category: Interviews
Bus Stop by William Inge
Greenbelt Arts Center
Greenbelt Arts Center, Greenbelt, MD
Through October 17th
$15/$12 Seniors and Students
Interviewed September 30th, 2009

Listen to the interview [MP3 12:31 11.5MB]

Mike: This is Mike Clark with ShowBiz Radio and today I am talking with Randy Barth who is the director of Greenbelt Arts Center’s production of Bus Stop which opened last weekend. Thanks for talking with me Randy.

Randy: Glad to be here.

Mike: So what is Bus Stop about? Can you give us a synopsis?

Randy: Yes, it is kind of a capturing of a number of very interesting personalities that are trapped in a blizzard outside Kansas City. They get caught in this blizzard and have to spend the night in this little bus stop and the relationships among them contrast. The loneliness of some of these people is a central theme to this show.

Mike: Isn’t this the show where there is a cowboy and there is a girl running away or running with him. Isn’t that this show?

Randy: Yes, the girl has been abducted by him. He is convinced that she ought to marry him and so he is trying to convince her to go out with him to his ranch in Montana. She is very much against it. She is a girl from the Ozarks originally and has been singing in a little night club. He has become so enamored of her. She is trying to get away from him and appeals to the local sheriff in this little town to protect her from the cowboy.

Mike: I remember that she had a wonderful chanteuse song that she sings. Is that in this show?

Randy: Yes it is. “Old Black Magic.” That is the song she sang and captured his heart with. He is convinced that she was singing it just for him. She’s kind of turned her head a little bit by him. She thought he was kind of cute, but she has had her problems particularly with his approach to her.

Of course, that is not the only love interest that is going on. There are a couple other very interesting ones. There is the owner of the bus stop who has feeling for the bus driver who she only normally sees for twenty minutes while he is going through. Since they are kind of captured for the night there is a chance for them to explore a little more. Then there is a professor who is spouting all kinds of Shakespeare and what have you in his very tipsy state. He is talking to the young high school girl who is working behind the counter and seems to have eyes on her.

So there are several things going on. Also the cowboy has a sidekick with him who has been watching over him for years. He keeps going back to the cowboy and asking how should I handle this? There are a lot of interesting characters going on. There is a lot of humor in this show, but also a lot of poignancy, too.

Mike: Tell me about the actors who are playing these different parts.

Randy: Well it’s interesting. Our singer is in fact a very good singer, but we really didn’t audition her on that basis. Because in fact often times the part is done by a very bad singer. She is quite good actually. The group was mostly at auditions that we held (we held open auditions) we actually only had seven people audition for the eight parts. So we cast all of them, although we lost our cowboy. He had to do other things so I had to recruit two of the parts.

We had a number of folks come out and they just seemed to fall right into the different characters very nicely. I was very pleased with that. When you get a small turn out at audition you always worry that you’re going to have twelve of what you need of one thing and nothing for everything else. That was very encouraging. They have a variety of backgrounds. Some are quite experienced in the area. Some are fairly new to it all. I’ve seen a lot of growth over the time that we have been doing this so they have really pulled it together. I’m very proud of all of them.

Mike: Have there been any challenges with the Greenbelt Arts Center facility?

Randy: The facility is like many other amateur facilities around here. They have their own challenges. For one thing it is in the three quarter round. Although we can rearrange things and do things with a proscenium occasionally, most of our shows are done in three quarter round. For some of your listeners who might not have done shows that way before that is always a challenge partially because you never know on a given night whether you are going to have people on all of the three sides. Some directors just play to the center section, but then the people on the sides get a half show. So I try to have my set up as thought I was going to have people on all three sides and then if occasionally I don’t then use your judgement to play to the side where you really have your people.

That is one of the challenges. Another challenge is there are a couple of big posts in the middle of the floor that we have to deal with and build things around so that you do not get blocked vision. So there are a few challenges with it. Then like many facilities they are trying to do a lot of stuff and book in a lot of things in order to pay the bills these days and that is kind of understandable so we have to kind of work around each other a lot. All the groups that sre there. The ones that are the Greenbelt Arts Center and the external groups that book in are very cooperative and we try to help each other out in that way because we know that is what is going to keep the group running.

Mike: I am stage managing Prince William Little Theatre’s Arcadia and we are also in that three quarter thrust. Watching the rehearsals and teaching the actors to stop cheating has been fun.

Randy: That is really hard. They are so used to facing a proscenium view that teaching them that it is OK to be pointed upstage is a real challenge. On the other hand, it is also good for the audience because you see something that looks more natural. It isn’t always cheating down. And so from the audience standpoint it is sometimes a better experience. We were talking at one point about Arena Stage before we went online and that was one of the things I always liked about the Fichandler Stage down there was seeing something in the full round because it just looks more natural.

Mike: Right. Absolutely. How is your set? When I saw it before it had a full three sided set, but you can’t do that so what type things do you have in the set?

Randy: Obviously you can have only one real wall and that is the back wall to work with. What often times you do in something like that, particularly where you have audience raked and the floor low, you use the floor as part of your set. A beautiful job has been done of making a linoleum floor tht was sponge painted by our set mistress Lynn Slater. She came in over several days and put several coats of several differnt colors and made this wonderful 50’s looking linoleum floor as well a doing a fomica counter top on the counter right down to the dirty footprints on the counter and the greasy stains on the back wall above the grill.

There have been a lot of nice touches to the set to make it play out that way. Conversely I would say compared to a lot of productions we haven’t done a lot with trying to do a lot with a blizzard outside. Partially because of just the logistics of the space and partially because we did not want to end up with something that looked really hokey. We leave that part of it more to the audiences’ imagination and expect them not to notice that their feet are not all wet and people are not covered with snow that doesn’t sit there on the floor to melt anyway. We just decided to finesse that part away. Just like those lights that nobody sees in the ceiling.

Mike: So tell us a little bit about yourself. What other shows have you worked on?

Randy: I have been involved with theater since I was kid practically in high school days (which was a long time ago). But I have been mostly involved with music and drama club out at Goddard. I have been involved with that since the mid 70’s and have done a lot of shows out there. I started working out a at Greenbelt about a decade ago or a little more than that, when I did A Streetcar Named Desire. Since then I have done What the Butler Saw. Another Tennessee Williams, Night of the Iguana. Last year I did Born Yesterday. Those are the shows I have directed out there. Out at Goddard I have both directed and been on stage over the years. More things than I care to name at this point.

Mike: Do you have a preference to be on stage or backstage?

Randy: I enjoy very much swapping back and forth. They are both rewarding in very different ways. I tend to pretty much alternate when I get the chance. Both are a lot of fun. Of course it makes it different when you are an actor not to want to go “Gee, I would not have directed that way.” One needs to control himself in that form. It is still exciting to be on stage and be in the spotlight, too.

Mike: What is your next show if any?

Randy: I will be helping out with Goddard’s production of Annie which is coming up. Mostly just working behind the scenes because it is coming up right on the tail of my production of Bus Stop so I have not been able to be involved in it. So my wife is going to be Miss Hannigan so I have an interest in that very much. Beyond that I have not really thought a lot about it. I tend to take these things as they come a little bit.

Mike: Are the Goddard shows open to the public?

Randy: Yes, they are and that’s a misconception tht some people have. They are available at is their site. Once you get a ticket they have a separate gate that you can get through, just show your ticket to the guard and you can get in. It is a little difficult for foreign nationals. They have to be approved in advance, but for most of the public you can buy a ticket like any other. For the first time we are selling tickets to mad show online so that makes it even easier for folks to do that.

Mike: Ok, well I will get them added to our website. I always had the impression that we couldn’t go out there.

Randy: We had a little problem for some years with the NASA legal folks. After 9/11 as you might expect things got very secure. And even now it is a little more difficult, but fortunately they have relaxed a little bit.

Mike: So tell me how people can get tickets and the show dates for Bus Stop.

Randy: The show is going to be running for three more weekends, October 2-17. We have Friday night and Saturday night performances at 8 and Sunday matinee at 2 PM. They can get tickets by calling the Greenbelt Arts Center: 301-441-8770. And they also have an online site which it So you can check that out. too.

Mike: Very good. I’m glad to have learned that. Well thank you very much, Randy.

Randy: Alright. Sure thing. Thanks.

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