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Playwright Beth Henley Will Be Honored at 2017 William Inge Theatre Festival

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 the small Kansas town, named for 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 when you see a play, it smacks you in the face and changes your perception of the 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, which starred Jessica Lange, Diane Keaton, and Sissy Spacek.

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 Independence during the entire 2017 William Inge Theatre Festival, April 19-22, 2017. She will be joined by dozens of professional 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 Theater 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 Theater 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, The Kennedy Center, 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 theater with academic theatre training.

ICC is also home to the William Inge Collection, which includes some 400 pieces of correspondence, original artwork, and many original 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 Festival 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.

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