The New York cast, crew and playwright of the off-Broadway show “The Bus” will stage a single show tonight at Wichita State University as a counter-protest to Westboro Baptist Church’s anti-gay picketing.
The performance, at the CAC Theater at 1845 Fairmont, will be followed by an open session with playwright James Lantz and the cast.
The play, which debuted in 2006, revolves around two teen boys discovering an attraction to each other, their journey in hiding their relationship in a small suburban town under the influence of the church, and their decision to bring the relationship to light despite the consequences.
Wichita is one of two Kansas destinations for the show; the other is Topeka. “When we started this project, we decided to be proactive and take it to a place that resonated, where hate groups are actively pursuing high schools,” Lantz said.
Lantz said the show was inspired by the spike in gay teen suicide.
“As a teacher and a parent, it broke my heart to see these teenagers, who have such a beautiful spark to them, committing suicide because someone else sees their lifestyle as threatening,” he said.
Lantz says the reason for his venture to e-mails and letters he’s received. Teens across the country wrote to him about struggling with trying to have a normal life while living in the Bible belt and the alienation they face, he said. Lantz hopes to promote the awareness of homophobia and the effects it has on gay people. “I want to work as hard as I can to prevent another teen suicide.”
The project’s supporters include Nate Phelps, the estranged son of Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church leader Fred Phelps. The church is known for picketing military funerals and claiming that military deaths are God’s punishment for America’s tolerance of homosexuality.
Lantz, who grew up in a conservative family from Vermont, where he still resides, said he respects religion and is not trying to attack it. “I get it. I wanted to create this drama that involved real situations and real beliefs from both sides of the fence,” he said. “This is my attempt at reconciling the two. When we saw how people were reacting to it, we felt very inclined to share that with people.”
The show is for mature teens and adults as involves adult situations. General admission is $10, or $5 for WSU students. Tickets will be available for purchase one hour before the show. For more information, visit www.TheBusThePlay.com.