Friday, April 17, 2015

The Inge Festival

It’s that time of year again…

Inge Theatre outside daytime

The William Inge Theatre on the campus of Independence Community College

This weekend is the 34th annual William Inge Theatre Festival, and my twenty-fourth trip to the town of Independence, Kansas.  Long-time readers know of my annual pilgrimage where for three days I get to resume my other identity as a theatre scholar and playwright full-time.

My first Inge Festival was in 1991 when the honoree was Edward Albee.  This year the recognition for distinguished achievement goes to Donald Margulies.

So, who’s William Inge?  Well, among other things, he won the Pulitzer Prize for the play Picnic and an Oscar for the screenplay for Splendor in the Grass.  At the height of his fame in the early 1950’s he was considered to be one of the best American playwrights of the time along with Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller.  He wrote many plays, including a collection of short plays.  His works are revived on Broadway every so often, including a stand-out production of Come Back, Little Sheba starring S. Epatha Merkerson in 2008 that should have won the Tony that year.  But fame and adulation doesn’t last forever or ensure happiness, and in 1973, convinced that he had lost his ability to tell any more stories, he committed suicide at the age of 60.  He is buried in Independence under a simple marker with his name, dates, and the word “Playwright.”

Since I’m going to be traveling today and diving in to the festivities, blogging will be light and variable until I get back Monday night.  But I’ll be putting up some reflections on theatre and perhaps some pictures, so I hope you’ll stop by.