‘Bus Stop’ in Peoria, Illinois

Another production of William Inge’s Bus Stop will be staged at the Peoria Civic Center, Illinois, on February 26 at 8pm. Appropriately, it is produced by the Montana Repertory Theatre (in the play, Bo wants to marry Cherie and take her to his ranch in Montana.)

“William Inge is such a great part of our dramatic literature in this country. It’s a desire to celebrate – as Inge did – the people of America. He said he celebrated the people of the Heartland. I think at this point in time when we are losing our faith in our institutions, perhaps and losing our faith in many of the things that we have believed in for so long, I think that one of the places where we can rediscover faith is in the American people. I think that is what Inge was writing about.”

Jere Lee Hodgin, director, quoted in Peoria Journal Star feature

Marilyn in Glasgow: The Girl, Redrawn

Francis Thorburn talks about the challenge of playing Marilyn at the Citizen’s Theatre, Glasgow.

‘When Frances Thorburn started rehearsals for the role of Marilyn Monroe in Sue Glover’s new play, ‘Marilyn’, she would occasionally have imaginary conversations with the long-dead star.

“I’m going to do my best to portray you well,” she would tell her.

Thorburn is keen that her portrayal in this play, which takes a snapshot of Monroe’s existence while she was making ‘Let’s Make Love’, does not diminish her subject. “One line I remember her saying in the last interview before she passed away is, ‘Please don’t make me out to be a joke.’ I have taken that to my heart.” Thorburn notes, too, that “Obviously Marilyn wasn’t perfect. She had some behavioural streaks that are hard to understand. But in those later years of her life she was on so many drugs – drugs to keep her awake, drugs to try to make her sleep. And I in my heart feel that she was a good soul. I want to honour that.”

In this new play, Glover takes as her focus the relationship between the actress and the French film star Simone Signoret, formed at a point in Monroe’s life when, as Thorburn points out, Monroe is emotionally “on a precipice”, suffering from insomnia and struggling in her marriage to Arthur Miller.

“I think if you get two icons in a room, or living across a hall, there are going to be [tensions],” Thorburn acknowledges.

“And also Simone is coming to Hollywood, so she’s coming to Marilyn’s domain. Meanwhile, Marilyn definitely wants to be the artist and taken seriously and talk about politics, which is what Simone is wonderful at.” Signoret was, she says, “phenomenal really: artistically, politically. And she was a beauty but she wasn’t about beauty. She hated that people would be wowed when she came in the room, so she dressed like a male.”

It is two days before she is to have her hair bleached the silvery blonde of Monroe’s and, in person, there is very little of “The Girl” about Thorburn. This is not surprising, given that she is a 21st-century woman living in a post-feminist world.

Thorburn is also a stage actor, not a film icon, working more in the chameleon-like tradition of deftly sliding between different roles. Her hair is the natural brunette that it has been all her life, her make-up subtle, her Glaswegian lilt only occasionally punctured by an energised girlish squeal. She is, she says, fascinated to discover how the colour-switch might change her. “Apparently, I have virgin hair,” she says, “which means it will be much easier to bleach. Will it alter how I perceive myself? I might have more kick, I might have more wiggle, I don’t know. Or I might be a little more introverted, more, ‘Don’t look at me’.”

When I call her several days later, post-transformation, it seems her feeling is very much the latter. Every time she passes the mirror she gets a flicker of shock, particularly since the blonde is so much whiter than what she expected. She is uncomfortable, too, out on the streets, “because I’m not very exhibitionist and people faintly turn their head”. But then, she points out, even Monroe didn’t always like to play Marilyn. “She knew how to turn it on or off, and she was able to get away with not being noticed.”

The problem for any actor playing Monroe therefore becomes clear. There is little footage that documents this “real” Marilyn, little to go on other than the interviews she performed towards the end of her life. In that sense, Thorburn has a certain freedom to improvise. “I don’t think there is any film of her real, which means I have to invent that, and that’s exciting as well because it means you have to bring your own self to it.”

She is keen not to “dishonour Marilyn”, while at the same time she is aware that the audience will be looking to see “a mixture of a real woman and the facade that she put on”. She points out that Signoret, in her autobiography, notes that in the whole of those months living alongside Monroe, she only saw her be “Marilyn” twice. Signoret also summed up Monroe’s predicament well: “Hordes of young girls never copied my hairdos or the way I talk or the way I dress. I have, therefore, never had to go through the stress of perpetuating an image that’s often the equivalent of one particular song that forever freezes a precise moment of one’s youth.” ‘

Read the interview in full at Herald Scotland

‘Bus Stop’ Onstage: ES Fan Review

Thanks to Angel aka ‘timetravelangel’ at Everlasting Star for her review of the Bus Stop revival at Newcastle-Under-Lyme’s New Vic Theatre.

“I have seen some truly wonderful theatre at the New Vic over the years and so I was thrilled when I found out my local professional theatre was doing Bus Stop by William Inge. Though I love all Marilyn Monroe movies, I must confess that certain scenes in the movie Bus Stop grate on my nerves  – mostly Bo Decker’s  persistent whooping and some of his  more moronic moments.

However, a Marilyn movie is a Marilyn movie and I was very excited about the opportunity to see the original theatrical version. Would it be better? Would it be different?

Comparisons between play and movie … In the play, there are eight characters. As in the movie we have Bo Decker and his friend, the guitar-strumming Virgil Blessing, Chérie (just “Chérie” – one name is all a chanteuse needs!), Elma Duckworth – the scholarly young waitress, Grace the owner of the diner and the bus-driver Carl. Two characters who do not appear in the movie are the sheriff and the professor (more on them later).

Louise Dylan as Cherie

In the movie, I don’t think anyone could disagree that Chérie and Bo are at the heart of the story. Bo’s journey into maturity and Chérie’s journey to learning what love really is are the meatiest character developments.

But in the play Elma features a lot more.  In fact, it appeared that Elma was the central figure. Her naivety is like the prism through which we see the other characters. She mediates between the other characters on several occasions, and it is she who persuades Chérie to get on a table and sing ‘That Old Black Magic.’

The play focuses on the theme of one persons need for another: even an individualist rancher, an itinerant night-club singer, a long-distance driver,or a lonely diner-owner. Virgil’s loneliness is particularly poignant especially at the end of act two when the diner has closed, the bus has left and he is left alone in the snow. Though he is alone, Virgil had mentioned that it has been his own choice to remain so.

This character has more depth in the play and I felt that this was the character with whom the playwright most identified; the outsider, the traveller, the wandering minstrel. In this production the final image was Virgil, alone on the stage with his guitar and a stream of snowflakes falling onto his widebrimmed cowboy hat. It was very effective. Perhaps the movie missed a trick in leaving out this angle?

On reflection, this theme of the need for another’s company being central to the human condition has been better dealt with by other American writers, for example, in ‘Of Mice And Men’ by Steinbeck. In fact, I kept thinking that the play had a second-hand feel to it and that it was a minor work.

There is something about the freshness of Marilyn Monroe’s performance that makes the work seem more original than it is – and I don’t think I’m saying that only because I am a devoted fan. She brings an emotional truth and a depth to the piece that I had appreciated before, but never so much as I do now.

It is a one-set play, the one set being Grace’s Diner. The snow storm forces these eight people to spend the night at the diner, even the telephone lines are down so the only interaction is between these eight people holed up at this bus stop.

The scenes which we see in the movie showing other locations, such as Bo’s ranch, the ‘Blue Dragon’ night spot, the parade and rodeo etc., are only experienced through reported speech. So, as you can imagine, act one is heavy on the exposition and it takes quite a bit of time to really get going.

Naturally, due to the constraint of one set, it lacks the spectacle of the film and I really began to appreciate what a fine job the screenwriter (George Axelrod) did in ‘opening out’ the play into the many locations we see in the movie.

Grace, the worldly owner of the diner is pretty much the same as in the movie and Grace’s lover, Carl the bus driver is present too. As I mentioned, two characters not seen in the movie are Sheriff Will Masters, the face of law and order and the professor, Dr. Gerald Lyman.

From what I could tell, in the movie version the sheriff’s role was merged with the role of Carl the bus driver. In the play it is the sheriff who stands up to Bo, beats him in a fight and insists he make his apology to Chérie.

Dr. Lyman’s loneliness has caused him to become a drunkard and a serial seducer of young girls. During the night at the bus stop, he faces up to his past misdeeds and as proof he has turned over a new leaf he even releases Elma from the date he had made with her.

The role of Dr. Gerald Lyman is completely absent from the film, but I don’t think the film is any the worse for it. I kept thinking of Blanche DuBois from ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, another character that looks for love in all the wrong places, and I kept thinking how much better Tennessee Williams’ treatment of that theme is.

Philip Correia as Bo

I think the movie was right to concentrate on Bo and Chérie and their development.  (To be fair though, there is a moment in act two when Lyman and Elma re-enact the balcony scene from ‘Romeo and Juliet’, and Lyman is reciting Romeo’s pledge that if Juliet will swear love for him he will henceforth be Romeo no more. At this moment, Lyman is struck by the realisation that love might transform him into a better man and that he might leave behind his shame. This moment serves as testament to the transforming power of theatre/ performance too. It was skilfully acted and one of the most affecting moments in the play.)

In the screenplay, a major improvement is made to character of Chérie. It is her dream of getting to Hollywood (‘Hollywood and Vine!’) which is so exuberantly expressed by Marilyn Monroe that helps flesh out Chérie – gives her aims in life, hopes and dreams, albeit impossible dreams. This extra dimension is absent in the play.

Also, the movie Chérie is less shallow than her theatrical counterpart. In the play it is Elma who tells her that her name means ‘dear one’, Chérie responding that she picked the name because she just thought it sounded pretty.

The scenes in the ‘Blue Dragon’ definitely add to the character. It is so much better to actually see Chérie sing there, to get a sense of how far she is from achieving her dream, and to see Bo adoring her. Learning of it through reported speech just isn’t the same.

In the play, it is also reported that Bo and Chérie have “had relations” (as he puts it) before he abducts her. I’m guessing this was axed from the movie because of the Hays Code censorship. However, I don’t think the movie suffers because of that.

The play had the effect of making me love the movie more. When I think of all the stand-out moments: that first image of Marilyn sitting in the window; Marilyn purposely singing badly with such courage and conviction, warbling ‘That Old Black Magic’ in the mermaid costume and casting a wink at Bo; Marilyn telling Bo he is “real beau regard”; Marilyn’s monologue on the bus; Marilyn trying to reach out to Bo when he gets beat; Marilyn’s sensitivity when she attempts to lessen Bo’s heartache by telling him she has led a wicked life and perhaps he’s better off without her; Marilyn getting into Bo’s warm coat – a metaphor for the warmth and protection true love affords.

If you have seen the movie but not the play, I think you have seen the best of this work. If you have seen the play but not the movie, I’d say see the movie. And if you have seen both you come away thinking- that Marilyn Monroe- wow! She was gooood and extremely underrated. And she is very much missed.

This production … All of the actors were excellent and their Mid-West American accents were spot-on. Each character was defined and memorable. Throughout the play, most of the characters remained onstage meaning that they had to find some stage business to do. This was easy for the actress playing Elma – she could brush up, wipe down tables etc.

But the poor actress playing Chérie (Louise Dylan) was given nothing to do but get out her compact and reapply her make-up – which she did like, ten times. It made her character less sympathetic because she appeared vain and shallow. I think the director should have given her something else to do.

That said, they all stayed in character and gave very detailed performances.  As I stated before, Virgil and Lyman both provided poignant moments. Elma was clear, youthful chirpy and Grace provided the biggest laugh by barging on to the stage to watch the brawl- but with serious bedhair, thus giving away what she and Carl had been up to upstairs.

Bo gave just the right amount of brash chauvinism, beautifully countered by insecurity and bewilderment. His entrance gave a much-needed boost of energy to act one.

The set design is always incredible at the New Vic and ‘Bus Stop’ is no exception. It was detailed and practical to the extent of cooking eggs on a griddle! The aroma filled the theatre making me wish I could put in an order myself.

A large, three-dimensional  ‘Bus Stop’ sign in chrome and  blue light hung over the centre of the stage and a period jukebox provided some background music and added to the atmosphere at key moments.

I don’t think it is the greatest play ever written and I came away wondering why they chose to do it at all. That said, the production was faultless and it was a good night out.”

Bus Stop: ‘A Hopper Painting With Dialogue’

The New Vic production of William Inge’s Bus Stop, now showing in Newcastle-Under-Lyme, gets a five-star, rave review from Alfred Hickling in today’s Guardian.

“Inge’s structure is simplicity itself … But there is something beguiling about this forlorn slice of Americana, which meditates on the distances between towns and the distances between people, like an Edward Hopper painting with dialogue … Louise Dylan is supremely demure as his reluctant beau, a nightclub singer so little exposed to daylight her lips look like a June bug on a field of snow.”

Marilyn at the Komedia, Brighton

Brighton’s very own MM lookalike, Laura Nixon, comes to the Komedia for Alive and Swinging on Sunday, February 27th. Dinner at 6.30pm (optional), show begins at 8. Tickets from £15.

“Marilyn Monroe is finding heaven a bore, no drinking smoking or sex, and worst of all, no swinging music. She returns to earth for one more night of fun, bringing old showbiz fling Frank Sinatra, and Las Vegas legend Elvis Presley.

Join the three superstars, special guests and plenty of swing as they sing and dance away their final night on Earth, until the voice of god finds them missing and demands they return to Heaven.

Dinner, Show and Dance!”

Alive & Swinging Website

Facebook Group

Marilyn and Simone

Dramatist Sue Glover talks to The List about her new play, Marilyn. Exploring the unusual friendship between Monroe and Simone Signoret (and the love affair that tore them apart), Marilyn opens at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, on February 17.

“They are as different as they are similar. I think Marilyn certainly envied a lot about Simone; how cultured she was, her vast circle of friends, her self-assurance and the fact she was a mother. She would have wanted all of that. Simone may also have been envious of Marilyn. Simone was only five years older than Marilyn but she was approaching middle-age and may have felt insecure and jealous of a younger woman. Interestingly they were both very independent but also both enthralled by their men. They both needed to be married and both of them endured a lot because of that.”

“Marilyn had lost a child during the filming of ‘Some Like It Hot’ the previous year. The marriage to Arthur Miller was ending and her unreliability at the time was notorious. I think this was the beginning of her losing it in all senses of the phrase. I also think in a way Signoret never recovered from what happened that summer. It was a huge moment in their lives.”

Miller Reference in ‘The Good Wife’

Nancy Crozier (played by Mamie Gummer) is a recurring character in US legal drama, The Good Wife. In Season 2, Episode 4 (‘Cleaning House’), Crozier, who works for a rival firm, is appointed co-counsel on a case with Alicia Florrick (Julianna Marguiles.)

Florrick is defending a DJ at a nightclub where a young woman died in a stampede, while Crozier represents the security firm on duty when the tragedy occurred.

Judge Jared Quinn is a chauvinist who throws Alicia out of court for wearing trousers. Crozier wins Quinn over when she sees a photograph of his daughter in a high-school production of Arthur Miller’s 1964 play, After the Fall. She tells him that she once played Maggie (the character believed to be based on Marilyn Monroe), and quotes the line, ‘You tried to kill me, mister. I been killed by a lot of people, some couldn’t hardly spell, but it’s the same, mister.’

In the courtroom, Crozier exaggerates her ditzy blonde persona, stating that she knows nothing about the drug world while asking leading questions. She insinuates that the other clubgoers, high on PCP, became aggressive and attacked the woman.

It soon becomes clear that Crozier is seeking to clear the security firm of blame while showing Alicia’s client in a negative light. However, Alicia’s assistant discovers that the skids for holding the revolving stage were uncovered that night, which had caused the guests to trip and fall on top of the victim.

Therefore, Alicia finally outwits Crozier. It is interesting that Crozier had previously played a Monroe-like character in a play, because like Monroe, she is far more intelligent than she lets on, and uses her feminine wiles to manipulate men.

However, unlike Marilyn, Crozier is tough and calculating. Her character is also reminiscent of Elle Woods, the attorney played by Reese Witherspoon in the 2001 comedy, Legally Blonde.

In another plot twist, a deposition made to Alicia by Glenn Childs (Titus Welliver), Peter Florrick’s political rival, is leaked to the press. Childs believes (incorrectly) that Alicia, Florrick’s wife, is the source of the leak.

What’s also intriguing here is that Welliver previously played Joe DiMaggio in the 2001 mini-series, Blonde, while Griffin Dunne, who plays Judge Quinn in the After the Fall sequence, also featured in Blonde as the play’s author, Arthur Miller.

Finally, if Mamie Gummer (Crozier) looks familiar to you, she is, in fact, the 27 year-old daughter of acting legend Meryl Streep. Gummer also stars in the new medical drama, Off The Map, and will appear in John Carpenter’s forthcoming horror flick, The Ward.

‘Bus Stop’ in the Midlands

Louise Dylan will play Cherie

“In his day, William Inge was as well-known and influential as his friend and mentor Tennesse Williams, with Broadway hits and Hollywood movies. He came from Kansas, writing about small town life and people.

In the UK productions of his work are rare so I’m delighted that we are presenting the in-the-round premiere of Bus Stop here in the Midlands.

Theresa Heskins, artistic director of the New Vic, Newcastle-Under-Lyme

This new production of Inge’s original play (which differs slightly from the famous MM movie) runs from January 28 until February 19, before transferring to the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.

The eight-strong cast includes Louise Dylan (Harriet Smith in the 2009 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma), Patrick Driver, Philip Correia, Abigail McKern and Beth Park.  James Dacre directs. Ticket prices range from £9.50 – £18.50.

Terence Rattigan Centenary

“Perhaps the apex of (Rattigan’s) glittering career can be identified as August 18 1956, the night he threw a party to coincide with the filming of his 1953 play The Sleeping Prince, re-dubbed The Prince and the Showgirl. His two co-stars – Marilyn Monroe and Laurence Olivier – were royally entertained at his country pad in Sunningdale, Berkshire, along with Monroe’s new husband, Arthur Miller, and anyone who was anyone at the time. The whole ritzy episode is being recreated from the diary of bemused set-assistant Colin Clark in a forthcoming star-studded Simon Curtis film, My Week With Marilyn.

Daily Telegraph

With Rattigan at a press conference, February 1956
Dressed for Rattigan’s house party, with husband Arthur Miller in England