The Iron Bridge Dinner Theatre of Tyrone will present an “Unscheduled Stop,” a play about the tragic train derailment that occurred in 1893. The accident took place near where the iron bridge is located on Old Route 220 just outside downtown Tyrone.
The play was written by State College playwright Donna Derdel and will be directed by Drew Baker, artistic director at the Iron Bridge Dinner Theatre.
Baker, born and raised in Tyrone, has long had a fascination with the history of the tragedy.
The production opens on Wednesday, the 125th Anniversary of the "Walter L. Main Circus" train wreck.
It all started just before dawn on May 30, 1893, when the Walter L. Main circus train carrying dozens of animals and performers ran off the tracks in central Pennsylvania. Many animals perished and circus staff members were injured or killed.
“For the past five years there has been a memorial service to mark the date of the tragedy,” Baker said. “And I have been the keynote speaker at the service. I have had a love for the circus since I was a little kid.”
Baker said that both he and Derdel spent months researching the wreck and how it impacted the residents of Tyrone and nearby towns.
“This fictional account of a factual occurrence includes a lot of historic accuracy,” Baker said.
In the play, 12 actors will portray many different roles. “The tone of the piece is similar to the Broadway musical 'Come From Away' in the way we handle the history,” Baker said.
The play includes songs written by Derdel.
“It took me all winter to write the play,” she said. “Drew has always been interested in Walter L. Main, and I have made him the central character of the play.”
In two acts, the show will attempt to capture a strong sense of the reactions that local residents had in 1893.
“Drew has been saying ‘Someday we’ll do this.' Well some day is here,” Derdel said.
The process has proven difficult.
“It’s been quite challenging for me. The great loss of life, both human and animal, was difficult to handle. I didn’t want to write a eulogy. I wanted it to be historical and entertaining," Derdel said.
She found the entire process fascinating, but most enjoyed writing the songs.
“It was difficult to keep the show light in the face of morbid tragedy,” Derdel said. “It took three months to create a plot for the show.”
Both Baker and Derdel feel confident they have achieved what they set out to do, create an historic representation not a tragedy or comedy.
“The actors will need to have circus skills,” Derdel said.
If you go
What: Iron Bridge Dinner Theatre's "Unscheduled Stop"
When: May 30-June 10; meal is served at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.
Where: Iron Bridge Dinner Theatre, 427 McFarland Road, Tyrone,