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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William Motter Inge (ihng) is one of the most important midwestern playwrights. He was born the youngest of five children, the son of Luther and Maude Inge. Beginning in 1938, William Inge taught English composition and dramatics at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, for five years. In 1943, Inge replaced the drama editor, who had been drafted for military service, at the St. Louis Star-Times. Inge wrote critical reviews of plays, motion pictures, music, art, books, and recordings until 1946, when the regular critic returned from military duty.
During his tenure at the Star-Times, Inge interviewed Tennessee Williams, the youthful author of The Glass Menagerie (pr. 1944), who was visiting his family in St. Louis during November, 1944. Williams encouraged Inge to pursue his own writing ambitions, namely to write his own play. Before the end of 1945, Inge completed his first play, Farther off from Heaven, which he later completely rewrote into The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. Williams read the play and sent it to Margo Jones, a director of a regional theater in Dallas, who produced it in 1947. After he left the Star-Times, Inge was hired as an English instructor at Washington University in St. Louis for the next three years. He disliked the teaching job but continued his writing.
When Inge completed his second play, Come Back, Little Sheba, he sent it to his agent, Audrey Wood, who persuaded the Theater Guild to stage it at the Westport Country Playhouse in 1949, with Shirley Booth in the starring role. The Theater Guild decided to produce the play on Broadway, and it opened on February 15, 1950. This play was the first of four dramas which established Inge as a major American dramatist. The others were Picnic, Bus Stop, and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. All four were subsequently made...
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