Saturday, April 24, 2004

Inge Update

It was a raw and rainy day here at the William Inge Theatre Festival on Friday, but it didn’t keep the crowds down and we had a great turn-out for the workshops and the scholar’s conference. Arthur Laurents was very entertaining with his stories about writing the librettos for West Side Story and Gypsy and passing along bits of gossip from those days; for example, Stephen Sondheim used to refer to Ethel Merman as “the talking dog.” Mr. Laurents also said that he is currently working on a revision of his 1967 Tony-award winning musical Hallelujah, Baby! which I saw on Broadway in September 1967, and the show that gave Leslie Uggams her big break. It closed after a nine-month run and has never been heard from again.

I attended several of the panel discussions, including one with director David Saint on the playwright/director relationship (which is an interest of mine). Then we all gathered at the Independence Country Club for a gala fundraising dinner for the Inge Foundation, emceed by Independence native Bill Kurtis (formerly of CBS News, now a guiding force on A&E). The gala included a silent auction (I got a framed poster from the 2001 Inge Festival which honored Lanford Wilson), and a hilarious little play by Paul Dooley and Winnie Holtzman called Post-Its; a take-off on A.R. Gurney’s Love Letters. The evening ended with a tribute to my friend Jo Ann Kirchmaier, who was William Inge’s niece and a long-time festival supporter. Three of her four children were here to help us remember this remarkable woman.

Saturday we’ll have a reading of a new play by our New Voices playwright Mary Portser, a picnic at Riverside Park, where the picnic in Picnic takes place, and we’ll wrap it up with “Curtain Up!”, the tribute to Arthur Laurents. That ought to keep me out of trouble for a little while, at least.