William Inge—the heralded voice of the Midwest of the American stage—is the focus of the 32nd annual William Inge Theatre Festival during his centennial year. Tickets are now on sale for this celebration of talent, taking place May 1-4 in Independence, Kansas, at Independence Community College. As always, the Festival will be filled with theatre luminaries, professional artists and scholars from across the country.
The great writer was born 100 years ago, May 3, 1913, so it is fitting that the Inge Festival salutes his legacy, with special new programs that celebrate his theatrical heritage.
Tickets for all events are available at www.ingecenter.org/tickets or by calling (620) 332-5491, between 1pm and 5pm, Monday through Friday.
Many of William Inge’s works were inspired by the small town of Independence itself, so one new addition to the Inge Festival is to perform excerpts from his plays at various locations in downtown Independence. The “Inge About Town” event is Saturday afternoon, May 4, with actors turning various locations of historic Independence into stages. Each scene includes interpretive talks by guest scholars and special guests.
Several other new features enhance this year’s Ingefest during the daytime events. The Inge Center commissioned some of our past playwrights to write short plays based on the characters and settings of William Inge. These short plays will be heard publically for the first time read by a mix of professional performers and regional talent. The Inge Center has also launched a region-wide Inge Acting competition where talented High School students compete for cash scholarships by performing selected scenes by Inge.
The Inge Festival kick-off is a fully staged production of “Bus Stop,” perhaps William Inge’s most beloved comedy. New York based director Erma Duricko helms the production, which includes professional actors mixed with regional performers and graduates of the Inge Center for the Arts Acting Program at Independence Community College.
And as a special fundraising event with limited seating, there will be late night, good natured victorian Séances at the William Inge Boyhood Home as a fund-raiser for further renovations of the historic House, which is used year round as an artists retreat.
“Bus Stop” plays at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1.
Thursday May 2 features the exciting presentation of the annual Otis Guernsey New Voices Award winner’s newest play. Samuel D. Hunter is the 2013 winner of the award, which is named for the respected theater scholar and editor Otis Guernsey, who was also a frequent visitor and staunch advocate of the Inge Festival.
Hunter will be present at the Inge Festival for a concert reading of his new work in progress, “A Great Wilderness” that takes place Thursday, May 2, at 7:30 p.m. The director is Braden Abraham, associate artistic director at Seattle Repertory Theatre.
The Inge Festival turns to the Independence Civic Center Friday, May 3, as professional guest artists entertain with music at the Gala 100th Birthday Party for William Inge. This musical theater songfest features a full-service dinner and a chance for citizens to share a meal with our special guest performers and out-of-town visitors.
The Inge Festival concludes Saturday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m., with “Farther off from Heaven” a salute to the works and legacy of William Inge. This multi-media extravaganza features live performances, video, and guest performers in honor of Inge’s Centennial.
Mike Wood is creator/writer/director, with live scenes and staging director, Karen Carpenter.
There will be plenty more going on during the daylight hours, too. Thursday-Saturday, May 2-4, Inge Festival patrons have the rare opportunity to learn from working professionals during public workshops and panels. The guest artists address the full range of performing arts, including production, performances, and current trends.
Also during the daytime hours are “Scenes at the Inge House.” Excerpts of scenes from plays by William Inge and other great playwrights take place in the living room of the William Inge boyhood home in Independence. The historic home, restored with period furnishings, is now used by professional guest artists and playwrights-in-residence.
Patrons may also ride on a “Tour of Inge’s Independence,” viewing the sites of William Inge’s boyhood—still intact in historic Independence.
An all-festival pass of $200 includes all four evening events, daytime panels, the Inge-About-Town, and two meals, including the Gala Dinner on Friday and Picnic lunch on Saturday at Riverside Park. A pass for just the evening events, including “Bus Stop”, “A Great Wilderness”, the Gala Dinner/Birthday Party, and “Farther off from Heaven” costs $110.
Individual tickets for evening events range from $12-$25, with Inge-About-Town admission of $20. The Tour of Inge’s Independence and Scenes at the Inge House are $5 admission.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.ingecenter.org, or by phone at (800) 842-6063 ext. 5491 weekdays 1-5 p.m. In person, tickets are available at the Inge Center office at the Fine Arts Building, Room 123, at Independence Community College, 1057 W. College Ave., 1-5 p.m. weekdays. The box office mailing address is The William Inge Center for the Arts, PO Box 708, Independence, Kansas, 67301.
The Inge Festival is named for the late William Inge, an Independence native who won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (“Picnic”) and Oscar for Best Screenplay (“Splendor in the Grass.”)
Major funders of the Inge Center are the National Endowment for the Arts, the William Inge Festival Foundation, the Independence Chamber of Commerce, and Independence Community College; the Inge Center’s host and chief sponsor.
Independence, Kansas, is located 90 miles north of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and 140 miles south of Kansas City, Missouri.