Playwright Carlyle Brown Is Honoree of the 37th Annual William Inge Theatre Festival

Playwright Carlyle Brown is the recipient of the William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award, at the 37th Annual William Inge Theatre Festival at Independence Community College, Kansas.  The Inge Festival, the Official Theatre Festival of the State of Kansas, takes place May 9-12, 2018.

Carlyle Brown is a playwright, actor, and artistic director of Carlyle Brown & Company, which he founded in Minneapolis in 2002. Known for his historical works about African Americans, his extremely theatrical work occupies a wide range of aesthetic forms.

Described by The New York Times as “one of America’s more significant playwrights” he has a long and rich history of creating plays that dramatize historical events in a way that makes them accessible to present-day audiences.

His best-known play is indicative of this style. “The African Company Presents Richard the Third”, premiered in 1987.  It is about the staging of Shakespeare’s tragedy by a touring African-American troupe in colonial-era New York City.


Additional historic-based plays imagine a meeting between President Lincoln and the literary character of Uncle Tom from the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel (“Abe Lincoln and Uncle Tom in the White House”). The play “Dartmoor Prison” centers on an African- prisoner and his relationship to white United States captives in a British prison during the War of 1812; and “The Negro of Peter the Great” is based on an unfinished story by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, inspired by the tale of a kidnapped African prince and the 18th century Russian Czar.

Carlyle Brown further examines the black experience in plays such as “The Masks of Othello: A Theatrical Essay,” which explores the meaning of race throughout the ages in the production history of “Othello”; and “The Fula From American: an African Journey”, an autobiographical solo show about Carlyle’s adventures in West Africa, as an African-American in search for his African identify.


“Carlyle Brown’s fascinating body of work is highly worthy as one of the outstanding achievements by contemporary American playwrights, which we are excited to recognize and celebrate,” said Eric Rutherford, Artistic Director of the William Inge Center for the Arts.  “Even if theater patrons are not yet introduced to Mr. Brown’s scholarly yet accessible stories, I have no doubt they will become lifelong fans after getting acquainted,” Rutherford said.

Carlyle Brown is currently a writer/performer and artistic director of Carlyle Brown & Company, based in Minneapolis.  Carlyle Brown & Company was formed in 2002 around a constellation of culturally and ethnically diverse artists dedicated to the development and performance of his work in an atmosphere of collaborative co-creation.  The Company is interested in innovations in dramatic form, rich story-telling and shaping ideas into theatrical events.

Brown has received commissions from major theaters across the nation.  He is also the 2006 recipient of the Black Theatre Network’s Winona Lee Fletcher Award for outstanding achievement and artistic excellence.

A Core Writer of the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, and an alumnus of New Dramatists in New York, Brown is also recipient of numerous fellowships.  Brown has served on the board of directors of The Playwrights' Center and Theatre Communications Group and is a member of the board of the Jerome Foundation. He is a member of the Charleston Jazz Initiative Circle at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, where his works and papers are archived.

Brown now joins a select roster of world-renowned playwrights who have traveled to the Inge Festival to receive the William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award.   They include Arthur Miller, Stephen Sondheim, Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, David Henry Hwang, Tina Howe, August Wilson, and Neil Simon, to name only a few.

The William Inge Theater Festival is named for the Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winning writer William Inge, a native of Independence, Kansas.  The town is located 90 miles north of Tulsa, Okla.

The Inge Festival was founded in 1981 at Independence Community College, to celebrate the work of living playwrights.  In 2010, the Kansas State Legislature designated it as the Official Theater Festival of the State of Kansas.

Independence Community College also houses the William Inge Collection, It comprises more than 400 original manuscripts by Inge, including some not yet published.  The Collection also has numerous personal and other memorabilia from Inge’s career.

More About Carlyle Brown

Writer/performer and artistic director Carlyle Brown’s first professional theater production was his Little Tommy Parker Celebrated Colored Minstrel Show at Penumbra Theatre Company in 1986.  The next year Penumbra premiered his now famous The African Company Presents Richard III.  With a Penumbra premier of Buffalo Hair in 1994 and a National McKnight Fellowship, Brown moved to the Twin Cities and it has been his artistic home ever since.  Other Twin Cities productions: Beggars’ Strike at the Children’s Theater Company, the Mixed Blood production of Pure Confidence that moved to off-Broadway in New York and American Family at Park Square Theater  

His plays include The Negro of Peter the Great, A Big Blue Nail, Dartmoor Prison, The Pool Room, Yellow Moon Rising, Down in Mississippi and others.  He has received commissions from Arena Stage, the Houston Grand Opera, the Children’s Theatre Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Goodman Theater, Miami University of Ohio and the University of Louisville.  He is recipient of playwriting fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Theatre Communications Group and the Pew Charitable Trust.  Mr. Brown has been artist-in-residence at New York University School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program, The James Thurber House in Columbus, and Ohio State University Theater Department.

Readings held for Fall 2017 Inge House Resident Playwrights Mary Sue Price and Deborah Yarchun

Two new scripts-in-progress by the Inge House Playwrights-in-Residence were presented Saturday (Nov. 11, 2017) at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the William Inge Theater at Independence Community College.  "Preservation," by Deborah Yarchun, and "Chat Rats: Oronogo," by Mary Sue Price.

The cast includes professional Guest Artists. Elaine Bromka, Garrett Neergaard, and Laura Ramdei are featured in both plays. Joining the ensemble are also James Allerdyce and Shea Ketchum, along with Independence-based actors Jackson Reinhart, Tyler Ridgeway,and Heather Mydosh.

Directors are Jess Chayes ("Preservation") and JJ Lind ("Chat Rats: Oronogo.")

The Inge Center Playwrights-in-Residence Play Development readings is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes a great nation deserves great art.

Fall 2017 Inge House Playwrights Take Residence



The Fall 2017 Inge House Playwrights-in-Residence, for the William Inge Center for the Arts at Independence Community College, bring a wealth of awards, productions and expertise to their educational and artistic duties in Independence. While in residence they will also work on new scripts, and each have a professional play development reading. The readings will take place Saturday, November 11, at the William Inge Theatre at ICC, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Deborah Yarchun is the first visiting playwright. The Austin-based writer has plays at numerous theaters and festivals nationwide. Her honors include two Jerome Fellowships at The Playwrights’ Center, an EST/Sloan Commission, The Kennedy Center's Jean Kennedy Smith Playwriting Award, and many more. She will teach playwriting at Labette County High School, as part of the Inge House Residency’s Playwrights-in-the-Schools program. It is one of the few such educational programs in the nation to teach playwriting to rural high school students. Yarchun will be joined by Mary Sue Price. A fifth generation native of the Missouri Ozarks, she is a writer for stage and screen. She has won two Emmy Awards (2003, 2009) and a 2012 Writers Guild of America Award as a member of the ‘General Hospital’ writing team. For the stage, Mary Sue Price’s plays have been produced in New York and throughout the United States. She is a previous Inge Center Playwright-in-Residence. She will continue work on her “Chat Rats Trilogy” plays, centered on the history of people in the Ozark mining industry and in Picher, Okla. The playwrights also share their teaching and expertise with ICC students during the residency. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. "To find out more about how National Endowment for the Arts grants impact individuals and communities, visit

Inge High School 24 Hour Plays a Creative Success

The William Inge Center's 15th Annual High School 24-Hour Plays turned in 6 new original short plays, all written and performed by more than 50 students representing six different Kansas high schools. Held on Aug. 26, the performance ranged from contemporary drama to farce. Participating schools were: Campus High School--Haysville. Dorathea Kelly, instructor. Field Kindley High School--Coffeyville. Brian Walrod, instructor. Independence High School. Elizabeth Bennin, instructor. Labette County High School--Altamont. Heather Wilson, instructor. Neodesha High School. Cindy Henry, instructor. Wichita Collegiate School. Emily Goodpasture, instructor.

2000 Honoree A.R. Gurney Passes

Honoree A.R. Gurney with Tribute Producer Mike Wood at the 2000 Inge Festival.

A.R. Gurney, the 2000 Honoree of the William Inge Theater Festival, has passed away at the age of 86. Also known by his nickname “Pete,” Mr. Gurney is the author of numerous celebrated plays such as The Dining Room, Love Letters, and The Cocktail Hour. Much of his stories were set in patrician surroundings, featuring characters of the upper class, comically as well as dramatically dealing with their fears and angst.

The opulent living-room settings for some of his plays are an ironic contrast to the settings of the plays by William Inge. Regardless of these differences, the Buffalo-born Mr. Gurney traveled to Independence in April 2000 to accept the Inge Festival’s Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award at Independence Community College. Festival patrons recall Mr. Gurney as gracious and generous in his visit to small-town Kansas.

Mr. Gurney attended Williams College, switching major from pre-med to English Literature. He later enlisted in the Navy for three years and returned to college to earn an MFA from Yale University. He became a professor of literature and humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Writing plays during the summer months, he started enjoying critical success in 1970.

Mr. Gurney was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in 1985 for The Dining Room, and again in 1990 for Love Letters. The Inge Center, as it has with all its past Honorees whoa re deceased, will plant a tree in Mr. Gurney’s memory in the Playwrights’ Garden at Independence Community College.

He is survived by his wife, Molly, two sons, two daughters, an older sister, a younger brother, and eight grandchildren.

Beth Henley Feted as 2017 Inge Festival Honoree

The stage is dark, parking lots empty, but our memory of the 36th Annual William Inge Theater Festival is “abundant”! We want to pay homage to each and all of the amazing people who took part in welcoming and celebrating our Honoree, Beth Henley.  We believe that our inspirational festival founder Margaret Goheen would be proud of how the Inge Festival continues bring America's outstanding writers to Independence to celerate their achievements.

Beth Henley joined the roster of renowned playwrights who have traveled to our small Kansas town, where we honor the memory of homegrown writer William Inge with a theatrical celebration each spring.  Beth Henley, a 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winner, joins a select company of acclaimed writers we’ve honored.


See the full press release here:






The Inge Festival Experience: as described by the media




American Theatre magazine, April 21, 2015. "Donald Marguiles, Brooklyn Boy, Feted in William Inge's Hometown"



American Theatre magazine, April 28, 2016. "Inge Festival Brings the Theatre World to Independence"



New York Times, Aug. 5, 2009. "Out of Kansas, Into the World; A Trove of Inge Plays."




New York Times, April 22, 1998. "Frank Rich Journal; Kansas Night Music"




New York Times, April 24, 1996. "Hospitality Takes Center Stage at a Town's Festival for its Native-Son Playwright"




PBS News Hour, June 12, 2006 “William Inge Theater Festival Honors Playwrights



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