by Rita Charleston
“Bus Stop” by William Inge is the next production from Old Academy Players in East Falls. Directed by Paul Muscarella and running on weekends starting March 6 through March 22, it is the story of Cherie, a girl from the Ozarks, who sings at a seedy nightclub in Kansas City where she captivates Beau, fresh off the ranch for the first time.
He decides she is the one for him and hustles her on a bus for home. Unfortunately, they don’t get too far when they become snowbound with others at Grace’s diner. Mt. Airy resident Robert Toczek plays Carl, the bus driver who has an ongoing relationship with Grace and who delivers the group to the diner, where they are stuck for hours. “My part is fairly small,” says Toczek. “I basically bring the characters into the diner and return at the end of the play to take them back out again. But it’s fun, and I’m kind of used to it, having played the role once before.”
According to Toczek, “The play changes according to what actors are in the roles, what director is in charge and the actual physical stage the play takes place on. All those things bring a different energy to the play. As for me, I find the role fairly easy to play because I think I’m very much like Carl so I can relate to him completely. I’m not a bus driver, but I am his physical type. He’s in his mid- to late-40s, and I’m 52. All this makes the role easier to play.”
Toczek, who grew up in Upper Darby, moved to Mt. Airy 10 years ago when he married his fiancee Jane, who is also involved in the theater, directing projects primarily at Stagecrafters, where she sits on the board and is involved with fundraising. He says he first got bitten by the acting bug when he was 16,when he accompanied his mother, Barbara Lemmon, and his stepfather, Robert Ross, as they volunteered to build sets at the Philadelphia Repertory Company.
“I met some of the people who were in the play, ‘American Buffalo,’ and I got so excited watching what they were doing that I decided to take classes there. I did, and whenever they needed a young kid to play a part, they’d often call on me.”
Later, Toczek attended Temple University, where he majored in Communications and continued taking acting classes at such venues as the Walnut Street Theatre, but says his acting performances were curtailed because of his school demands. But after graduation all that changed, and he began performing at Old Academy, Stagecrafters, the Drama Guild in Germantown and many others.
When he’s not on stage, Toczek does carpentry work and maintains a handyman business in Northwest Philadelphia. He admits he doesn’t know what his future holds, but he’s open to anything. “I certainly wouldn’t turn down TV or film work, but at my age I’m not sure I’m willing to do all the work that is required to have any success. So I’ll just continue doing what I do and let the chips fall where they may.”
Old Academy Players is located at 3544 Indian Queen Lane. For tickets call the box office at 215-843-1109.