Beth Henley is 2017 Inge Festival Honoree 

Acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Beth Henley will be honored with the William Inge Distinguished Achievement in American Theater Award at the 36th William Inge Theater Festival at Independence Community College, Kansas, April 19-22, 2017.

Henley joins the roster of renowned playwrights who have traveled to our small Kansas town, where we honor homegrown writer William Inge with a four-day theatrical celebration each spring.  Henley, a 1981 Pulitzer Prize-winner, joins select company including Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, David Henry Hwang, Tina Howe and August Wilson; these are but a few of the extraordinary writers we’ve honored at the Inge Festival.

“Sometimes you see a  play, and it smacks you in the face and changes your world forever.  Such was the case when I saw Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart in 1981,” says Inge Center Artistic Director Karen Carpenter. “Beth made me laugh and weep in the exact same moment. She is masterful in her depiction of women; her deft, comedic voice is singular in its embrace of life’s challenges. We are thrilled to bestow this honor on her.”

Born in Jackson, MS,  Henley is a writer whose work  embraces the region of her upbringing, much like William Inge. The Pulitzer Prize was awarded her  for  Crimes of the Heart, the story of three Southern sisters in the throes of a family crisis, her very first professional production.  Nominated for Best Play of the 1981 Tony Awards, Henley also wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay for the 1986 movie.

She followed this prestigious early accomplishment with The Miss Firecracker Contest, which she also adapted into a screenplay in 1989, starring Holly Hunter. Additional plays include The Wake Of Jamey Foster, The Debutante Ball, The Lucky Spot, Abundance, Impossible Marriage, and Family Week.

A 2012 production of her drama, The Jacksonian, premiered in New York to great acclaim; and her latest play, the polar opposite slapstick comedy Laugh, received its premiere at Studio Theater in 2015.

Henley’s other prestigious awards include the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play, American Theater Wing Award for Distinguished Achievement in Playwriting; Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award; and New York Stage and Film Honoree. She is Arts Presidential Professor at Loyola Marymount University and a member of The Fellowship of Southern Writers, the Dramatists Guild, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Beth Henley will be in Indpependence during the entire 2017 William Inge Theatre Festival, April 19-22, 2017. She will be joined by dozens of professiona theater makers in a celebration of her achievements and of the art of theater. The four-day Inge Festival features evening performances, a multitude of workshops and topical theater discussions, a Scholar's Conference, and social events.

The Inge Festival schedule and roster of Guest Artists will be released in the spring.

Tickets for the 36th Annual William Inge Theatre Festival go on sale online in March of 2017.  For further information, visit, or call (620) 332-5492 or e mail

Since its founding in 1981, the William Inge Theatre Festival has celebrated the accomplishments of nationally renowned playwrights.   Inge, who passed away in 1973, was the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of “Picnic” and Academy Award-winning screenwriter of “Splendor in the Grass.”

Major supporters of the William Inge Center for the Arts at Independence Community College include the William Inge Festival Foundation, Independence Chamber of Commerce, Kansas Health Foundation, Kansas Office of Travel and Tourism, and its host, Independence Community College.

The Inge Festival’s setting is the quaint small town of Independence, located in rural southeast Kansas.  It is 90 miles north of Tulsa, Okla., and 140 miles south of Kansas City, Mo.

The Inge Center partners with ICC’s Fine Arts program to provide a unique blend of professional theatre with academic theatre training.

ICC is also home to the William Inge Collection, which includes correspondence, original artwork, and some 400 manuscripts, as well as Inge’s personal book and record collections. The Inge Collection remains a valuable resource for both theater researchers and admirers of the playwright.  The Collection houses about 25 manuscripts by Inge that have not been published.

Thanks primarily to the work of longtime Tribute creator Mike Wood of Wichita State University, the Inge Center has amassed a vast collection of video interviews of America’s leading playwrights, composers, actors, directors, producers and other theatre professionals, gathered over the last three decades.  A sampling of playwright interviews is available on the website  The rest of the video collection is in the process of being digitally preserved for future generations.



"The Skin of Our Teeth" presented by ICC Theatre, Oct. 7-9, 2016

Karen Carpenter, artistic director of the William Inge Center for the Arts, directs an ensemble of talented Independence Community College Theatre Department students in the philosophically epic comedy “The Skin of Our Teeth,” Oct. 7-9, 2016.

 Performances of this Pulitzer Prize winning comedy by Thornton Wilder are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday Oct. 7-8, and 2 p.m. Sunday Oct. 9 at the William Inge Theatre at the ICC campus.

Admission is $8 adults, $5 students and seniors, and free to all ICC students and staff.

The story condenses all of human history into a family comedy. George and Maggie Antrobus, married for 5,000 years, confront flood, pestilence, ice age, and other imminent apocalypses. But they always look to the future with optimism.  Thornton Wilder’s classic reminds us that humanity has overcome troubles in the past and will do so in the future—somehow!

“The Skin of Our Teeth” involves a large cast of ICC and community actors. Among student actors, Mr. and Mrs. Antrobus are played Casey Smith (Moore, Ok) and Jessica Harper (Cherryvale); playing their children are Rylie Shoop (Neodesha) and Bryson Cole (Goddard.) The time-traveling family is completed by the wry maid Sabina, played by Madeline Booth (Owasso, Ok).

ICC students in the ensemble are Steven Franco (Ulysses); Maurice House II (St. Louis/Elkhardt, IN); Emmalie Ingram (Cherryvale); Julie Ledoux (Belgium); Annestazia Morton (Jenks, Ok); and Courtlyn Rose (Independence).

Community actors include David Allen, Terri Barbera, Jake Bryant, Jess Calhoon, Anthony Keafer, LaTonya Pinkard, and Mike Wood of Independence, and Kenny Aduddell of Coffeyville.

ICC Technical Director Harty Blackert is set designer.  Student backstage help includes Kimberly Bryant (San Diego, CA); Caleb Kimbrel (Independence); Les McDowell (Altamont) and Jordan Rausch (Parsons.)


Inge Center Artistic Director Named 

Karen Carpenter joins the William Inge Center for the Arts as the new Artistic Director, after filling the Interim Director role since September, 2014. She is a celebrated creative both in and out of the theatre, where she has served a U.S. President, worked for non-profit organizations, and taught in universities across the country.

She joins ICC having taught, directed, and produced for 30 years, creating theatre and large-scale events to enormous success. Karen’s greatest directing success came from her direction of Love Loss and What I Wore, scripted by Nora and Delia Ephron, and produced by Daryl Roth. Her production has been celebrated with a record 1,013 performances in New York, met critical acclaim, and won the Drama Desk Award for Best Unique Theatrical Experience.

In 2010, Boston University’s School of Theatre Arts established The Karen Carpenter Award for Excellence in Theatre Arts. It is awarded to a graduating student who has shown exceptional merit. The honor her alma mater bestowed speaks of her own merit.

Earlier in her career, Karen took the post as Associate Artistic Director for the renowned Old Globe Theater, where she had worked alongside some of the most illustrious actors, composers, directors, and playwrights of the stage. She taught for several years at the Yale School of Drama, and has since taught master theater courses in universities across the country. She has worked as project coordinator for President Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative, which looks for creative solutions to the world’s issues. And she has been involved in numerous non-profit campaigns, including: UN/World Health Organization campaign “Deliver Now for Women and Children”, Friends of the United Nation campaign “The Big Push”, and the Million Women’s Heart Project “Take Heart”.

Karen has previous experience working for the Inge Center, having previously guest directed for the Inge Festival, and curated previously unseen short works by William Inge later entitled Inge: Complex. She has since served on the William Inge Festival Foundation Board of Trustees.

Please join ICC in welcoming Karen Carpenter as its William Inge Center for the Arts Artistic Director.