Thursday, April 19, 2012

Inge Festival — Opening Night

The family is back together again, along with new faces and old friends, too.

We started off with dinner in the Fireside Room at the Student Union. We re-introduced ourselves, told how long we’d been attending the festival, and what we were doing this year. It was great to see a lot of people who have been at the festival for as long or longer than I have, and also to welcome first-timers.

We then moved on to the William Inge Theatre and saw a reading of Off The Main Road, a play that Inge had written in the 1960’s based on a teleplay he’d done for “Bob Hope’s Chrysler Theatre” in 1964 starring Anne Bancroft and Jack Warden. I’m assuming that the play was probably a lot different than the TV version; the subject matter, the language, and some of the characters were a tad risque for the television of the time: domestic violence, the F-word, and openly gay characters were not something Bob Hope or Chrysler wanted up against Lawrence Welk, I’m sure.

The story is about a woman and her daughter moving into a tourist cabin outside St. Louis to get away from an abusive husband. Inge raises some interesting questions, but a lot of the characters and the dilemmas they face seem to be familiar, and even some of the dialogue is reminiscent of his earlier work in Bus Stop and Picnic. (I’ll be participating in a panel discussion this morning where we will plow this ground again.)

Today begins the workshops and the sessions dedicated to working with college and high school theatre students who get the chance to explore their possibilities with people who know the profession. This is one of the best parts of what the festival does: bringing the arts to the people who will carry it on to the next generation.