William Inge Play to Preview at Inge Festival, 4/18


Stage plays customarily undergo long periods of development-though not as long as a half century. Yet such is the case for the opening presentation at the 31st annual William Inge Theatre Festival in Independence, Kansas.

On April 18, 2012, at long last, a play completed in the early 1960s by the late William Inge will resonate on stage during the pre-Broadway sneak preview of Inge's "new" domestic drama "Off the Main Road," presented in special arrangement with the Manhattan Theatre Club.

A remarkable professional cast will perform this concert reading of "Off the Main Road," which opens the 31st annual Inge Festival, sponsored by Independence Community College, in Independence, Kansas.

The creative team for "Off the Main Road" befits the stature of Inge, a Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winning writer who enjoyed four consecutive Broadway hits. The director is Michael Wilson, who will travel to rural Kansas to helm the presentation after directing the April 1 Broadway opening of Gore Vidal's "The Best Man". Full casting will be announced shortly.

The William Inge Theatre Festival runs April 18-21; it celebrates great American Playwrights and welcomes David Henry Hwang as the 2012 Honoree.

As if to Make Up For lost time from its dormancy, "Off the Main Road" is quickly generating lots of buzz. The Manhattan Theatre Club-one of the country's most acclaimed theater organizations-has an option to mount a world premiere full Broadway production.

Inge's exciting tale has had a fascinating journey; Inge adapted his play into a screenplay for a 1964 one-time live television broadcast of "Bob Hope's Chrysler Theater." That broadcast was titled "Out on the Outskirts of Town" and starred Anne Bancroft and Jack Warden.

The play itself wasn't produced or published at the time, and as Inge's work fell out of fashion in the mid-1960s, the script was forgotten. After Inge's passing in 1973, "Off the Main Road"-along with two dozen more of Inge's unpublished manuscripts-came to rest at The William Inge Collection at Independence Community College. The manuscripts lied preserved and virtually undisturbed at Inge's alma mater in his hometown in southeast Kansas until 2008.

"We approached the Inge family and literary agency about taking another good look at some of the works here in the Inge Collection that are of tremendous quality," said Inge Center Artistic Director Peter Ellenstein. "The family agreed that it was a great time to revisit these 'lost' works. It is a marvelous opportunity to share these hidden treasures with the public and add to Inge's theatrical canon."

This decision led to the uncovering of a number of Inge's previously unpublished works. In 2009, the Inge Festival produced several short plays by Inge, which ranged from deep psychological drama to laugh-out-loud farce. The plays are published by Independence Community College Press, in association with On Stage Press, a division of Samuel French, Inc., under the title "A Complex Evening: Six Short Plays by William Inge."

In 2010, "The Killing," another one-act from the Inge Collection, was produced Off-Broadway at the Summer Shorts festival in New York City, a performance that receivEd Strong reviews.

And now, several decades since its nationwide broadcast, new audiences can experience this searing domestic drama, "Off the Main Road," come April 18, at the Inge Festival.

Inge is known for his deeply drawn female characters, and "Off the Main Road" is no exception. The setting is the early 1960s in Missouri. The elegant Faye Garrit checks into a run-down resort to hide from her abusive husband Manny, a washed-up former professional baseball player. Faye's mother is among those urging her to sever the marriage; meanwhile, Faye's daughter is exploring her spiritual and emotional needs as well.

"Off the Main Road" is a story about passion, empathy, forgiveness, and how far one pursues their personal liberty at the expense of hurting others.

The William Inge Collection at Independence Community College was established in 1965 with a modest collection of clippings and memorabilia. It grew in stature four years later when Inge donated personal copies of the manuscripts for "Come Back, Little Sheba," "Picnic," "Natural Affection," and "Splendor in the Grass."

After Inge's death in 1973, the playwright's elder sister, Helene Inge Connell, donated Inge's manuscripts, playbills, and correspondence, as well as his book collection and other personal effects.

More than 400 manuscripts, straight from Inge's typewriter, are the heart of the Inge Collection. Various versions of all the Broadway plays are there, along with versions of one-act plays that have either been produced or published, as well as screenplays, versions of Inge's novels, and some unpublished short stories.

These, along with more items from Inge's family, friends, and literary agency, have positioned the William Inge Collection as the most extensive collection on William Inge in existence.

The William Inge Center for the Arts is best known as sponsor of the annual William Inge Theatre Festival, which is the Official Theatre Festival of the State of Kansas. Tony-winning writer David Henry Hwang is in attendance all four days, April 18-21, and will receive the William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award.

After "Off the Main Road" on April 18, the Inge Festival presents a reading of a new play by Catherine Trieschmann, titled "The Most Deserving." Trieschmann is the winner of the Inge Festival's Otis Guernsey New Voices in the American Theatre Award.

The Inge Festival concludes April 21 with a multi-media tribute to the works of David Henry Hwang.

Tickets are available online at www.ingecenter.org, or call (800) 842-6063 ext. 5491.

Major supporters of the William Inge Center for the Arts are Independence Community College, and the William Inge Festival Foundation.

The William Inge Center for the Arts is a participant in the New Generations Program, funded by Doris Duke Charitable Foundation/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the American theatre.

This program is presented in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, which believes a great nation deserves great art, and the Dramatists Guild Fund.

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