Off the Rails on track for summer of successful shows
Passengers will rub elbows and even interact with performers as the show unfolds on a moving train. Set in the summer of 1944 in the midst of World War II, “Off the Rails” mixes humor, heartbreak, romance and deceit. Audience members will be on the edge of their seats as the action takes place in the aisle, causing them to laugh one minute, then hold their breath at what might happen next.
The play is the brainchild of Jeff Schober, a writer and English teacher at Frontier High School. This marks the second play he has written for the Arcade and Attica railroad, with fellow Frontier English teacher Ryan Collins serving as director.
“It’s fun to see the process unfold from the first read through,” said Schober, who is known for his novels “Undercurrent” and “Broken and Profane.” He said that he enjoys watching the actors embody and evolve the characters he created.
“I learn different dimensions that I didn’t see when I first wrote the show,” he said.
“Off the Rails” centers around a memory-addled soldier returning home from the front, a kind yet flirtatious nurse, a mother of a fallen soldier stricken with grief, a conniving German war bond salesman and a no-nonsense train conductor, whose worlds’ collide on a train ride to Attica. Yet as the train chugs onward, it becomes apparent that not everyone is who they claim to be. Love blooms and alliances form as the play — and train — head toward an all-but-explosive ending.
“I am very excited to be part of this production,” said Matt Chandler, a writer as well as Blasdell Village trustee. Chandler plays Rufus T. Boswell, a war bond hawker hiding a big secret.
“It has been on my bucket list for a long time to act in a play,” he continued, adding that the fact the play is set on a train makes it all the more thrilling. “The performance is especially unique, not just for the actors but for the audience as well,” he said.
Schober echoed Chandler’s sentiments, though he added that acting in such an environment is far from easy.
“I love that you are right in there with the audience. But from the first train whistle, to bumping into one another as the train travels the tracks, it’s kind of a challenge,” he said.
“Off the Rails” will feel authentic, as passengers will be transported by the railroad’s World War II-era engine.
“Our center cab switcher was made in 1942 and purchased from the military,” said Trudy Ling, who manages the Arcade and Attica Railroad with her husband, George.
In addition to offering passenger excursions and special events, the railroad maintains a souvenir shop and a modest museum for its visitors.
Ling always makes it a point to attend each play set on the railroad.
“Where else can you ride a train and enjoy a theater performance at the same time?,” she said
Tickets for “Off the Rails” are $40 per person, which includes the ride itself, and a chicken barbecue dinner at the Curriers Station during the play’s intermission.
Performances will be held Saturday evenings on July 7, July 28, Aug. 18, Sept. 8 and Sept. 29. Passengers must arrive at 4:30 p.m. and the train will depart at 5 p.m.
To purchase a ticket or for more information, visit the railroad’s website at www.arcadeandatticarr.com or call 585-492-3100.