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Our play about small-town homophobia is headed Off Broadway AND to one of the most anti-gay places in the U.S.
Created by

Jim Lantz

396 backers pledged $50,492 to help bring this project to life.

Three years later, thanks to you, THE BUS keeps rolling on. News, reviews and photos from London UK

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One Year Anniversary

Hello Backer of THE BUS!

One year ago on July 31, 2011 you helped successfully fund our play THE BUS here on Kickstarter.

It’s been an incredible year! In addition to performing our play Off Broadway for one month, receiving some terrific reviews and touring it to Wichita and then Topeka, Kansas (where we played within a mile of the Westboro Baptist Church) the play was also picked up by a theater company in Cape Town, South Africa, where it just finished a successful two week run at Milnerton Playhouse. In a review in the Cape Times, Cape Town S.A., Sheila Chisholm headlined her review: "Dramatic Tale of Gay Love and Religious Conflict Well Worth Getting a Ticket for "The Bus."

We’re also proud to announce that New Conservatory Theater Center in San Francisco has picked up the play and added it to its 2012/2013 season where it will play for one month. When we performed the play at 59E59 Theaters New York City, NCTC Artistic Director Ed Decker traveled from San Francisco to see a performance; he then secured the West Coast premiere rights to perform THE BUS at NCTC. We’re doubly excited about our play being in San Francisco because Ed has also decided that following its run at NCTC, he’s going to tour the play to rural areas of Northern California.

In addition to these runs, we continue to field requests from other theaters around the country interested in producing THE BUS.

The experience of producing THE BUS has showed me the awesome power of crowd-funding. And while you were there in spirit, I wish you could’ve been with us actually in Kansas and seen our audiences, including the kids that drove nearly three hours to see us perform. Or when we were performing in New York City and a doctor of AIDS patients wept uncontrollably during one performance, or another performance that was attended by a girls academy that just admitted their first openly gay student. Or the two elderly gentlemen who came to one show in bow ties and held hands during a touching scene. Or when we performed to a packed house in a church basement in Topeka and used candles for stage lights.

I feel a little like Clarence from ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ here, but without you none of this would’ve ever happened. Please know how extraordinarily grateful I am for your support.

Here’s wishing you all the best!

Jim

ps. My next project is producing a documentary film that's pitting Chick-fil-a against Bo Muller-Moore, a Vermont t-shirt artist. You can find out more about the film at the Kickstarter site where we funded the project by googling A Defiant Dude (best-selling author Neil Gaiman and singer Jackson Browne are just two of our nearly 2000 backers). If you'd like to become part of the project, or just be added to our update list, please don't hesitate to send me your e-mail address.

pps. a few pictures from the Cape Town, South Africa production.

One Year Anniversary

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The Bus in Kansas

So we're back from Kansas where 'The Bus' played to over 400 people in Wichita and Topeka -- on behalf of the cast and crew we want to say: WOW! 

During our mini-tour, we were treated to our largest audiences to date, and were moved to tears by the hospitality and generosity of the good people of the Sunflower State. Many on our team said it was the most humbling and moving experience of their professional lives. Our goal was to perform as near the Westboro Baptist Church as we could, and indeed, we did -- we were within sight of the Kansas State Capitol building and just over a mile from the notorious church headed by Pastor Fred Phelps and his family. 

In our audience was a mother whose son died of AIDS, parents who came to understand, students who drove up to three hours to see our show, gay couples and straight folk, believers and atheists, people on the front lines fighting for LGBT rights in Kansas -- and even a couple of Kickstarter supporters.

I don't think any of our cast and crew expected the intense and warm reception we were to receive Kansas. Before we left New York and Vermont, friends and family expressed concern about us bringing a gay-themed play to Kansas, much less with the stated purpose to perform near an infamous hate group. I drove our set out from Vermont and on the way to Topeka, I passed a number of church billboards proclaiming 1 woman + 1 man = Family -- and the largest roadside cross I've ever seen -- at over 200 feet tall, it looms over the mid-west on Interstate 70. 

When we arrived in Topeka, we kept seeing 'no gun' signs -- they're everywhere, posted near the entrances to many public buildings. In Kansas, it's legal to carry a concealed weapon and these signs are meant to deter carrying firearms into public buildings.

So even though, in hindsight, there were few reasons for us to be concerned, some of us in the production were feeling a bit uneasy about this romantic idea of taking our play to middle America. 

And then we began performing, and meeting lots of really nice Kansans.

During the shows I stood in the back of the theater and watched as The Bus unfolded for some of the most attentive audiences we've ever played for. The cast felt it, too -- one of our actors, Bryan Fitzgerald, said that, 'Like no other time, he felt every eye focused on the show like a laser.' It was fascinating to listen to our audiences, too -- what they laughed at, when they were quiet, and when a few of them audibly gasped. Some jokes in the script that never got a response in New York, got hearty and sustained laughter from our generous folks in Kansas.

At the end of every show our cast received standing ovations -- lots of tears, smiles and people saying how much they appreciated us bringing the show to their state. We were so moved. 

We played in three very different venues -- a college theater on the campus of Wichita State University, The Blue Planet Cafe, in Topeka, and probably our most interesting venue -- the social hall of the MCC Church in Topeka, where we were also treated to a church dinner just before the show. A super big thank you to all three of these places for hosting us.

After each show we participated in a talk back where the cast, crew and our special guests could talk with our audience. We were honored to have Nate Phelps, the estranged son of Fred Phelps with us along with Kerry Wilks and Steph Mott of Kansas Equality Coalition -- an organization in Kansas striving for LGBT rights (and who treated us to a great night of Karaoke in Wichita!). During the talk backs we heard a lot of frustration about Westboro Baptist Church. Our audiences wanted us to know that the Phelps family in no way represented them or the rest of Kansas.

We received good publicity, too -- The Wichita Eagle wrote a nice article about us on the day of our show here, and the Topeka Capital-Journal wrote about us here  as well as the state's LGBT magazine, Liberty Press. Two television stations covered our visit including one station that taped part of the show.

Steph Mott of Kansas Equality Coalition also wrote a beautiful blog about us saying, "I have never been more moved by any experience in my life than to be a tiny part of the phenomenal presence of "The Bus" in our town. Topeka has shifted a bit more away from bigotry, and a bit closer to equality. The hearts and minds of those who were fortunate enough to be a part of this experience will be forever changed." You you can read Steph's post here.

To say that we're incredibly grateful for this experience is beyond understatement. We're proud to have gone to Kansas and to have met some super people there who we now call friends -- and none of it would've been possible without you! During our talk backs we told each audience that we wanted to introduce to them to you, our over 400 Kickstarter backers who couldn't be there but who were responsible for the show existing Off Broadway and in Kansas.

So, once again, THANK YOU for your support -- even though we're not done yet!

I'll have another post in the coming days wrapping things up, with information on rewards delivery (I promise, they're coming!) and some thoughts on where our play is headed from here. But until then, here are some photos from our shows in Kansas.

Our poster at Wichita State University.

At Wichita State University -- our roadie, Shepherd Michael, taking tickets.

Before the show starts at Wichita State University.

Bruce, who came to our show, is a Wichita legend -- in the 1970's he threw a pie in the face of Anita Bryant.

Kerry Wilks and Kansas Equality treated our cast and crew to a great night of Karaoke in Wichita (pictured: Will Roland at the mike)

Our venue in Topeka, The Blue Planet Cafe is within walking distance of the Kansas State Capitol and serves vegan food and damn good coffee.

Melissa and owner Linda Carson (not pictured) were our hosts at The Blue Planet.

The Kansas State Capitol was across the street from our hotel and just down the street from The Blue Planet Cafe.

Our stage is set with about 65 seats in the back of The Blue Planet.

These guys were great! This is Chris Johnson of Journey 4 Justice -- this group actively seeks to disrupt Westboro Baptist Church protests by displaying flags in front of Westboro's picket signs. Journey 4 Justice showed up at all of our Topeka shows. Their presence may have been one of the reasons that Westboro decided not to protest our performance in Topeka. You can learn more about them here.

Journey 4 Justice in front of The Blue Planet Cafe for our evening performance.

Nate Phelps, Steph Mott (KEC) and the cast doing a talk back following a performance at The Blue Planet Cafe.

Actress Kerry McGann and stage manager Josh Wright during a talk back.

Actor Bryan Fitzgerald during a talk back.

Bryan Fitzgerald, Will Roland and Travis Mitchell during a talkback.

l. to r. Bryan Fitzgerald, Steph Mott (Kansas Equality), Nate Phelps, Jim Lantz, Shepherd Michael, Travis Mitchell, Will Roland, Julia Lawler, Bob Nuner, Kerry McGann and Josh Wright. (not pictured: our incredible director John Simpkins)

Journey 4 Justice gave Nate Phelps an award.

These guys drove three hours from Pittsburg, Kansas to see our show.

Loading the set into MCC Church, Topeka.

Prepping set and sound at MCC Church.

Nate Phelps introduced The Bus at MCC Church with a moving speech.

The long drive home with our set. Total miles traveled: 3100.

Kansas Shows Set for This Week; Nate Phelps to Attend

Hello Awesome Backers of The Bus! 

Sorry it's been a little while since we last spoke -- it's been an awesomely busy couple of weeks preparing for our shows in Kansas -- work that's taken us from New York, to Kansas, Vermont and now, back to Kansas.

So we've got the van packed with our set, the cast rehearses once more tomorrow and then everybody jumps on a plane and heads to Topeka, Kansas, where our shows are set for this week.

We've met a lot of new friends in Topeka and Wichita and we're anxious to show them The Bus! I can already tell that it's going to be great trip to the Sunflower State.

So if you're around Wichita on Thursday, or Topeka on Friday or Saturday of this week, come on by and catch a performance of The Bus -- OH! -- and Nate Phelps, the estranged son of Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church will be attending the shows in Topeka to participate in a talkback following the show. Thanks, Nate!

Here's our Kansas performance schedule: 

Thurs, Dec 8, 7:00pm Wichita State University, Wichita, KS, CAC Theater (next to Rhatigan Student Center), The playwright and cast will conduct a talk back following the performance.

  • TICKETS: $5 WSU community and students; $10 general public. General admission. Tickets will be sold at the door, beginning one hour prior to the show. Note: A talk back with the playwright and cast will follow the show.
  • Sponsored by Wichita State University's Fairmont College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Modern and Classic Languages and Literatures

Friday, Dec 9, 7:00pm, Blue Planet Cafe, Topeka, KS, 110 SE 8th Avenue, Topeka, KS, 785 783-8883.

  • Note: Nate Phelps, estranged son of Pastor Fred Phelps, will conduct a talk back following this performance along with the playwright and cast.
  • TICKETS: $10.00 students, $15 General Public. Tickets available for purchase beginning Tuesday, Dec 6 at Blue Planet Cafe. Limited seating.

Saturday, Dec 10, 1:00pm Matinee, Blue Planet Cafe, Topeka, KS, 110 SE 8th Avenue, Topeka, KS, 785 783-8883

  • Note: Nate Phelps, estranged son of Pastor Fred Phelps, will conduct a talk back following this performance along with the playwright and cast.
  • TICKETS: $10.00 students, $15 General Public. Tickets available for purchase beginning Tuesday, Dec 6 at Blue Planet Cafe. Limited seating.

Saturday, Dec 10, 7:00pm Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) Topeka 4425 SW 19th Avenue, Topeka, KS, 785 215-7436

  • Note: Nate Phelps, estranged son of Pastor Fred Phelps, will conduct a talk back following this performance along with the playwright and cast.
  • TICKETS: $10.00 students, $15 General Public. Tickets available for purchase at the door. Limited seating. For more info on MCC Church, click here.

PS ... this is where we're performing in Wichita at Wichita State University.