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About the William Inge Theatre Festival

 Plunge into three extraordinary days overflowing with live performances, workshops, panels, discussions, tributes, parties and great food.  Sit in on master classes with Broadway veterans, thrill to terrific classic and contemporary  plays, and join theater buffs nationwide in saluting the best sages of the stage! 

For 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 theatrical giants such as Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, August Wilson, Wendy Wasserstein, and Stephen Sondheim.   Enjoy theater as experienced no place else! 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).