William Inge


William Motter Inge was born at Independence, Kansas, on May 3, 1913. He was the youngest of the five children of a small-town merchant and traveling salesman. As a child, he recited poems in public, kept a scrapbook of movie stars and acted in school plays. At the age of seventeen, in 1930, Inge went to the University of Kansas, Lawrence, where he graduated in 1935. He spent longer than the usual four years there because he took off one year to travel with a tent theater company. From K.U., Inge went to the George Peabody Teacher's College in Nashville, Tennessee, where he had a scholarship. He soon dropped out of Peabody and returned to Kansas, odd-jobbing as a laborer with a highway gang, as an announcer for a Wichita radio station, and as a radio writer. In 1937, he taught high school at Columbus, Kansas, and then returned in 1938 to Peabody to complete his M.A. From his graduation until 1943, Inge taught at Stephens kCollege in Columbia, Missouri. He was becoming more involved with the theatre (he was drama critic for the St. Louis Star-Times from 1943-1946) when he took another teaching post, this time at Washington College in St. Louis. During his stay in St. Louis, he saw Tennessee William's The Glass Menagerie and decided that he should write plays himself. He met Williams and found encouragement.

Inge's first plays, written in the mid-1940s, were performed by a little theater in Dallas, Texas. His The Dark at the Top of the Stairs was originally titled Farther Off from Heaven and is dedicated to Tennessee Williams. His first hit play was Come Back, Little Sheba. Performed on Broadway in 1950, it won the George Nathan Award and the Theater Time Award. It was followed by Picnic (1953), which won the Pulitzer, the Drama Critic's Award and the Outer Circle Award. Bus Stop, in 1955, was another big success, as was The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, which opened on Broadway in 1957.

His 1959 play, A Loss of Roses, was not well received, and it started a downhill slide for Inge that was relieved only by his winning the Academy Award for the original story and screenplay of Splendor in the Grass in 1961. After a series of his plays were panned by the critics, Inge began teaching again. He also explored the novel, writing My Son is a Splendid Driver (1971) and Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff (1970). In 1973, reportedly discouraged and depressed, Inge committed suicide on June 10, at Irvine, California.


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A Life of William Inge: The Strains of Triumph Book
Title Alternate label Class
Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff Author Book
My Son is a Splendid Driver Author Book
Come Back, Little Sheba Author Book
Picnic Author Book
The Dark at the Top of the Stairs Author Book
Four Plays Author Book
Summer Brave & Eleven Short Plays (Random House, 1962) Author Book