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Tori Kreusch portrays Grace Hoyland during a rehearsal of the play “Bus Stop.”

PAOLA — Members of the Paola High School Thespian Troupe No. 66 are about to gain some national exposure.

The theater students have been invited to perform the play “Bus Stop” on the main stage of the International Thespian Festival. They will be one of six main stage shows.

The festival will take place June 20-24 at Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., and the Paola theater students will perform on the main stage at 2:30 and 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 22, in the Indiana University Bloomington auditorium.

“It’s a big deal to be selected to perform on the national main stage,” PHS Theater Director Leslie Coats said.

Local residents can catch an early performance before the students leave for the festival. The students plan to perform “Bus Stop” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 17, at the Paola High School auditorium. Tickets cost $10.

The play is a drama, with a blend of romantic and comedic elements.

It is set in a diner about 25 miles west of Kansas City in early March 1955.

A bus is halted by a freak snowstorm, and the eight characters have a weather-enforced layover in the diner from about 1 to 5 a.m. Professional scenic painter Bethany Elliott worked with Paola theater students to create a realistic 1950s diner setting.

The cast includes: Rachel Reimer as Elma Duckworth, Tori Kreusch as Grace Hoyland, Dylan George as Will Masters, Emma Haley as Cherie, Nathan Troutman as Dr. Gerald Lyman, Riley Scott as Carl, James Earlywine as Virgil Blessing and Riley Eidson as Bo Decker.

Paola High School theater students last performed on the main stage of the International Thespian Festival in 2018 when the festival took place at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

They were also selected to perform “All My Sons” at the 2020 International Thespian Festival, but the event became virtual due to COVID-19, and the students were unable to perform.

Senior Managing Editor Brian McCauley can be reached at (913) 294-2311 or brian.mccauley@miconews.com.

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