Beth Henley is the Honoree of the 2017 36th Annual
William Inge Theatre Festival!

The Festival tqakes place April 19-22, 2017. Details will be announce
in the spring.

Each William Inge Theatre Festival is a celebration of theater in all its forms. For a hint of what takes place each festival, read about the activities at the previous William Inge Theatre Festival, below.


The 35th Annual William Inge Theatre Festival held in 2016 is in the books--
a celebration the great Playwright Honorees who have visited
the Inge Festival over the years.

The events of the 36th Annual Inge Festival, April 19-22, 2017, will be announced in February. However, the format will be similar to the 2016 Inge Festival.  Take a look below at the description of events that occured during our 35th William Inge Theatre Festival to get a flavor of the amazing educational and artistic opportunities that occur each year.


35TH Anniversary William Inge Theater Festival

 April 20-23, 2016



The Inge CollectionA collection of Inge memorabilia; including his personal library, artifacts from his life, furniture, papers, and original manuscripts.  Periodic presentations given by Inge Biographer, Ralph Voss. Located in the ICC Library. See daily schedule.  Free.


Professional Theatre Workshops & PanelsWorkshops conducted by leading theater professionals on playwriting, acting, directing, play development and more. Panels held on the state of contemporary theater development and practice.  Daily schedules available at the registration table in the Margaret Goheen foyer.  Director’s Package or Daytime Pass required for admission.  (Individual tickets are not available.)  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday: various times and locations on the ICC campus. 


NEW PLAY LAB: 35 Plays for 35 Years 35 writers’ new plays read by 24 actors over three afternoons.  Each weekday, new plays will be read and responded to by our audience and an expert panel of previous Honorees. Director’s Package and Daytime Pass includes readings. (Individual tickets available on site for $5 each afternoon; ticket holders can visit all three venues for duration of the readings that day.) Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 1:30-5:30 p.m., the Presbyterian Church, the Wesley Center of the Methodist Church, and the Booth Hotel. 


WRITERS WRITE HERE  –  Writers attending the Festival take turns writing in public.  See creative ideas flow from their mind through their fingers, and out onto the “page”, displayed on a flat screen TV.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:00 a.m. until closing, in the south room of Ane Mae’s Coffee, and the front window of Magnolia Scents by Design. Free. 


LUNCHEON LECTURE SERIES -- at the Independence Historical Museum, Noon-1:00 p.m. 

How the Inge Festival Came to Be, Dr. Jo Ann McDowell. Wednesday, April 20th 

Writing Inge’s Biography: The Inge Collection, Ralph Voss. Thursday April 21st

Where’s Daddy? Talk with Barbara Dana, (original Broadway cast). Friday, April 22nd 


A PLAYWRIGHTS’ REUNION  –  Scenes and Play Readings of new work by past Honorees and New Voices playwrights. Wednesday, April 20, at 7:30 p.m., William Inge Theater.


ALL ABOUT INGE : the 35th Festival Kick-off Party  –  Come enjoy a beverage or two and meet our Guest Artists and the Writers of the New Play Lab.  Enjoy our DJ spinning tunes from Inge’s era, and test your mettle with a trivia quiz game, all about Inge!  Included in Director’s Package  or Night Owl Package, individual tickets available. Wednesday, April 20, 9:30 – 11:30 p.m., Booth Hotel Ballroom. 


A Conversation with the PlaywrightsAn intimate discussion with past playwright honorees. Hosted by Scholars’ Conference Director, Jackson Bryer. Audience questions and comments encouraged.  Director’s Package or Daytime Pass required for admission.  (Individual tickets not available.) Thursday, April 21, 11:00 a.m., William Inge Theater, ICC.


President’s Dinner Pre-show dinner with the Inge Family and Special Guests, hosted by President Dan Barwick. (Invitation only.) Thursday, April 21 at 6:00 p.m., Home of Ken & Becky Brown.


WHERE’S DADDY?50th Anniversary production of William Inge’s play, starring Barbara Dana (original Broadway cast), Chuma Gault, and Ben Corbett.  Directed by Karen Carpenter. Included in Director’s Package or Night Owl Package.  Individual tickets available. Thursday, April 21st at 7:30 p.m., Memorial Hall Theater.


Scholars’ Conference Presentation of selected scholarly papers on William Inge and our past playwright honorees.  Conference Director:  Dr. Jackson Bryer, University of Maryland.  Director’s Package or Daytime Pass required for admission.  (Individual tickets are not available).  Friday, April 22nd, 1:30 – 3:30 p.m., and Saturday, April 23rd, 2:30-4:30 p.m., ICC.


High School 10-Minute Play CompetitionOur region’s most talented High School students compete for writing and acting scholarships in new 10 minute plays, penned and acted by the High School students themselves. Award ceremony follows.  Director’s Package or Daytime pass required for admission. (Individual Tickets also available at the door.)     Saturday, April 23, 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. William Inge Theater, ICC


Tour of Inge’s Independence and Inge About Town Guided tours of the Inge family home and many local spots that Inge frequented, encounter scenes from his plays in the locations that inspired them. Selected scenes from William Inge plays performed by ICC Theater students and other colleges attending. Director’s Package includes tour. Tickets also sold separately for $10 each. See posted schedule for various times. Seating is limited: check availability and schedule at registration in the Margaret Goheen foyer at the Inge Theater.


THE LIGHT AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS: A Tribute to Inge and our HonoreesMulti-media presentation featuring live performances, video interviews and special guest stars; celebrates William Inge and past Honorees who’ve received the Distinguished Achievement in American Theatre Award. Friday, April 22 at 7:00 p.m. William Inge Theater, ICC.


Moonglow at Glencliff FarmsAn after-show party in the barn with live music, featuring tours of the historic Glencliff home. Included in Director’s and Night Owl Packages.  Limited tickets available.  Friday, April 22 at 9:30 p.m., Glencliff Farms.


The “Picnic”  A good old-fashioned picnic with our Honorees and Guest Artists; named for Inge’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play! Director’s Pass and Luncheon Lecture Series includes picnic. Individual tickets available. Saturday, April 23, 12:30 -1:30 p.m., in and outside the Shelter House in Riverside Park, near the Inge sculptures.


35th Anniversary Gala and Show Celebrating William Inge and 35 Years of the Festival. Features live musical entertainment, award and scholarship presentations. Dance to live music until the wee hours.  Cocktails, 6:00 p.m, Dinner 7:00 p.m., Saturday, April 23, Independence Country Club.



About the William Inge Theater Festival

Plunge into four extraordinary days overflowing with live performances, workshops, panels, discussions, tributes, and exceptional midwestern hospitality.  Sit in on master classes with Broadway veterans, thrill to terrific classic and contemporary plays, and join theater artists and theaeter buffs nationwide in saluting the best sages of the stage! 

For over three decades, some of our nation’s brightest stars have met in writer William Inge’s hometown to celebrate the best in American theater.  Since 1982, the small prairie town of Independence, Kansas, has welcomed thousands of theater artists as it honors theatrical giants such as Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, August Wilson, Wendy Wasserstein, and Stephen Sondheim.  

The Inge Festival is the Official Theatre Festival of the State of Kansas.


About William Inge


William Motter Inge (1913-1973)

Born in Independence on May 3, 1913, he was the second son of Luther Clay Inge and Maude Sarah Gibson-Inge, and the youngest of five children. Independence had a profound influence on the young Inge and he would later attribute his understanding of human behavior to growing up in this small town.

In 1930, Inge graduated from Independence High School and went on to attend Independence Junior College (now Independence Community College,) graduated from The University of Kansas, and George Peabody College for Teachers, in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1937-38, Inge taught high school English and Drama in Columbus, Kansas and from 1938-1943, was a member of the faculty at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. In 1943, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he worked as the drama and music critic for the St. Louis Times. It was while he worked as a drama critic that Inge became acquainted with Tennessee Williams and accompanied him to a performance of his play The Glass Menagerie in Chicago. Within three months he had completed Farther Off From Heaven, which was produced by Margo Jones in Dallas. Inge returned to a teaching position at Washington University in St. Louis and began serious work on turning a fragmentary short story into a one act play. This work evolved into a play that earned Inge the title of most promising playwright of the 1950 Broadway season. The play was Come Back, Little Sheba. In 1952, Paramount Pictures released the film version of Come Back, Little Sheba, directed by Daniel Mann, and starring Shirley Booth and Burt Lancaster.

In 1953, Picnic opened at The Music Box Theatre in New York City, and won Inge a Pulitzer Prize, The Drama Critic Circle Award, The Outer Circle Award, and The Theatre Club Award. In 1956, Columbia Picures released the film version of Picnic, directed by Joshua Logan and starring William Holden, Kim Novak and Rosalind Russell.

Inge’s next success came in 1955 when Bus Stop opened at The Music Box Theatre in New York City. Directed by Joshua Logan, the film version of Bus Stop was released by Fox in 1956 with Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray and Eileen Heckart, in starring roles.


The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, a reworking of his first play, Farther Off From Heaven, opened on Broadway in 1957.  The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, considered to be Inge’s finest play, is the one in which he draws most directly from his past. It was released as a film starring Dorothy McGuire, Robert Preston, Shirley Knight, Eve Arden, and Angela Lansbury, in 1960.


In 1959, A Loss of Roses opened to poor reviews and closed after a three week run.  In 1960, Inge's first screenplay, Splendor in the Grass, was filmed in New York.  It starred Natalie Wood, Pat Hingle and newcomer Warren Beatty.  It also featured the only screen appearance of Inge himself, who played the part of Reverend Whitman.  Splendor in the Grass was a triumph for Inge and won him an Academy Award for Best Screenplay. 

His next two plays were Natural Affection in 1963 and Where's Daddy? in 1965.  Both were unsuccessful.  This prompted him to leave New York in 1963 at the age of fifty and move to California.  Off the Main Road was produced in 1964, as a teleplay on Bob Hope's Chrysler Theater television show. In 1968-70, he resumed his teaching career at the University of California at Irvine. In his remaining years he published two novels: “Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff” (1970)and “My Son Is a Splendid Driver” (1971).