William Inge’s understanding of the female personality is not surprising in view of the fact that he came from an emphatically female-dominated home. As the youngest of Luther Clayton and Maude Sarah Gibson Inge’s five children, Inge identified more closely with his mother and sisters than he did with males. His father was a traveling salesman who spent little time at home during Inge’s formative years. The young Inge, much dominated by his mother, early developed an interest in acting, largely through his initial school experiences with recitation.
Popular as a teenager, Inge was a cheerleader and was active in his high school’s dramatic programs. He enjoyed acting and continued his studies after high school at the University of Kansas, where he majored in drama and frequently acted in university productions. Still provincially midwestern at the time of his college graduation, Inge feared going to New York to pursue his first love, acting, and went instead to George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville to prepare for teacher certification and to take a master’s degree in education. Inge taught high school for one year in Columbus, Kansas, where he surely met numerous teachers such as those he depicts with such accuracy in Picnic and students such as those in Splendor in the Grass. For the next ten years, except for a crucial three years as art, music, book, and drama critic for the St. Louis Star-Times, Inge...
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