33rd William Inge Theatre Festival

Arthur Kopit Honored with William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award, Joining
Inge Festival's List of Great Dramatists of the Stage

Arthur Kopit, playwright, librettist, screenwriter, adapter and mentor, a multiple Tony and Drama Desk and Pulitzer Prize nominee, added the William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award to his laurels.  The award was presented March 29, 2014, at the 33rd Annual William Inge Theatre Festival in Independence, Kansas, at Independence Community College.

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

Kopit joined the roster of internationally renowned playwrights who have traveled to the Inge Festival to receive the William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award.   This select company includes Arthur Miller, Stephen Sondheim, Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, David Henry Hwang, Tina Howe and Neil Simon, to name only a few.

“Arthur Kopit’s is an inspirational fixture of the American theatre,” said Peter Ellenstein, Inge Center Artistic Director.  “Kopit’s work is impossible to define.  His plays and musicals are, by turns, funny, human, challenging, warm, experimental, political, disturbing, witty, constantly surprising and deeply human.” Ellenstein said, “He has also served as mentor to scores of younger playwrights.  We are thrilled to honor such a versatile, universally respected writer.”  While at the Inge Festival, Kopit also presented a Master Class writing workshop.  The Inge Festival concluded with a multi-media Tribute to Mr. Kopit's past and continuing achievements.

Kopit burst on the scene in 1962, while still a college student, with a series of avant-garde absurdist plays that captured the imagination of America’s greatest theatre artists.  In the subsequent fifty years, Kopit has become one of the most respected and versatile dramatists of our time.  A playwrights’ playwright, he not only continues to add to his own prolific contribution to the American Theatre, but also nurtures and mentors younger generations of playwrights through his long association with The Lark New Play Development Center in New York City.  

Arthur Kopit’s repertoire includes: OH DAD, POOR DAD, MAMMA'S HUNG YOU IN THE CLOSET AND I'M FEELIN' SO SAD (Vernon Rice Award, Outer Circle Award); INDIANS (Tony Nominee);WINGS (Tony Nominee, Prix Italia for radio version of play); END OF THE WORLD WITH SYMPOSIUM TO FOLLOW; a new translation of Ibsen’s GHOSTSROAD TO NIRVANA; the book for the musical NINE (Tony Award for Best Musical, 1982); the book for the musical PHANTOM, based on Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera (music and lyrics by Maury Yeston); and, most recently, the book for HIGH SOCIETY, a musical based on Philip Barry’s The Philadelphia Story, with music by Cole Porter. PHANTOM, written prior to the Lloyd Webber version, is currently playing in theaters around the country, and has had long-running successful tours in Germany and Scandinavia. As a writer for television, Kopit's works include the NBC mini-series Hands of a Stranger, the NBC mini-series of his Phantom of the Opera, the CBS mini- series In a Child’s Name, and Roswell. Also, various one act plays, including CHAMBER MUSICTHE DAY THE WHORES CAME OUT TO PLAY TENNISCONQUEST OF EVERESTTHE QUESTIONING OF NICKTHE HEROSUCCESS, and GOOD HELP IS HARD TO FIND

His current projects include a new play, BecauseHeCan (formerly entitled Y2K), which had its premiere as part of Actors Theatre of Louisville’s annual Humana Festival and was presented in New York by Manhattan Theatre Club and recently at the McCarter Theatre.  BecauseHeCan also had a professional reading at the 2014 Inge Festival.   Additional projects include an original musical, TOM SWIFT AND THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE, for which he is writing the book, and Maury Yeston the music and lyrics; and a new play, DISCOVERY OF AMERICA, based on the journals of the Spanish explorer, Cabeza de Vaca. Mr. Kopit is the recipient of numerous awards.

About the William Inge Theatre Festival

Plunge into four extraordinary days overflowing with live performances, workshops, panels, discussions, tributes, parties and great food.  Sit in on a 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!

Join Us for the 34th Annual William Inge Theatre Festival
April 15-18, 2015, at Independence Community College.
The Honoree to Be Announced; Watch this Site for Updates

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, TN.

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. It was in 1952 that 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. PICNIC 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. DARK, considered to be Inge’s finest play, is 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 the Bob Hope 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).

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