The William Inge Theater Festival will celebrate its 39th anniversary April 21-23, 2022 by honoring Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage with the Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award.
Nottage is the only woman to date to have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama two times. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning plays are Ruined and Sweat and they are two among scores of award-winning stories written for theatre, film, and television. Her work has been produced around the world; notable productions have taken place on Broadway, at Lincoln Center Theatre, at the Public Theater, for Oregon Shakespeare Festival, for Sundance Film Festival, and both HBO and Netflix. In addition to being honored by the Pulitzer Committee, Nottage’s recognitions include honors from the OBIE Awards, the Drama Desk Awards, the Lucille Lortel Awards, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle, the American Theatre Critics, and the Outer Critics Circle. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Genius Grant, the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Award for Creativity, the Dramatists Guild Hull-Warriner Award, the inaugural Horton Foote Prize, a Helen Hayes Award, the Doris Duke Artist Award, and a Joyce Foundation Commission grant, among many other esteemed awards. She is also an Associate Professor in the Theatre Department at Columbia School of the Arts. For a more detailed biography, please visit http://www.lynnnottage.com/about.html.
Says William Inge Center for the Arts Producing Artistic Director, Hannah Joyce, “I believe audiences will be deeply moved by Nottage’s work which champions the everyman, the working class, and those whose voices have been systemically dismissed. She writes the struggle and humanity of her characters with enormous compassion and respect. There’s no finer playwright in our country than Lynn Nottage to represent true excellence in the American theatre. Lynn Nottage is the first black woman to receive the Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award; the William Inge Center for the Arts is long overdue in the presentation of this recognition. We are honored by her acceptance of the Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award.”
Nottage will attend the Festival and accept the Award in person; she will join writers such as Wendy Wasserstein, August Wilson, Neil Simon, Paula Vogel, Stephen Sondheim, David Henry Hwang, and Arthur Miller—among many other theatre luminaries—who have traveled to Independence to accept the Festival’s Distinguished Achievement in the American Theatre Award.
The William Inge Theater Festival was founded by Independence’s own Margaret Goheen in 1981 in honor and celebration of Pulitzer Prize and Academy Award-winning playwright and Independence native son, William Inge. The Festival has expanded its programming over the past two decades, cultivating year-round programming, and the organization’s name was changed to the William Inge Center for the Arts in 2004. The original Festival was a simple one-day event; in recent years, the Inge Center’s season has grown to feature the multiple-day and internationally-recognized William Inge Theatre Festival each spring. Over almost 40 years, the Festival has honored some of the nation’s most renowned and celebrated playwrights.
In 2022, the three-day Festival honoring Nottage will consist of a daily slate of participatory theater workshops, a series of panel conversations, the 5th Annual New Play Lab reading series of new American short plays, and performance events for attendees of all ages and experience levels. Festival registrants include theatre artists, regional high school and college students, community members, and theatre enthusiasts who visit the Festival from many regions of the United States.
At the 2022 Inge Festival, attendees will have the opportunity to see a full production of Ms Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Sweat, created and produced by the award-winning St Louis Black Repertory Company. Directed by Founding Artistic Director Ron Himes, the production will be performed Friday, April 22nd as an esteemed event in the Inge Festival’s offerings. The production opened St Louis Black Repertory Company’s 45th anniversary season, and travels to Independence after a successful run in fall 2021 at the Edison Theatre on Washington University’s campus. Says Mr Himes, “Playwright Nottage tensely captures the root of our current political and racial tension in society today. Are we only looking out for ourselves or are we responsible for each other? We are so very excited to partner with the Inge Festival to celebrate this prolific American playwright.” The cast will feature Velma Austin, A.C. Smith, Amy Loui, Don McClendon, Brian McKinley, Franklin Killian, Blake Anthony Edwards, Gregory Almanza, and Kelly Howe. The production will feature Scenic Design by Tim Jones, Lighting Design by Jonathan Alexander, Costume Design by Hali Liles, Sound Design by Kareem Deanes, Properties Design by Meg Brinkley, and Fight Choreography by Paul Steger.
The final event of each year’s Festival is a multimedia Tribute to the playwright honoree, who is in attendance to receive the award. The 39th William Inge Theater Festival will culminate in a tribute to Lynn Nottage written by playwright Stacey Rose, directed by Nicole A Watson, and starring performers from across the nation.
In addition to the Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award, the Festival awards the Otis Guernsey New Voice in the American Theater Award to a playwright in an earlier stage of their career who is making a mark on the American theatre. At the 2022 Festival, the Otis Guernsey New Voice in the American Theater Award will be presented to playwright Gina Femia. Femia’s work has been seen/developed at MCC Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Page 73, and Center Theatre Group, among others. Femia is also a 2019-2022 Core Writer with Playwrights’ Center, an alum of EST Youngblood, and a member of Page73’s Interstate 73, Pipeline Theatre’s PlayLab, and New Georges’ Audrey Residency. More can be found at http://www.femiagina.com/bio.
The New Play Lab, a core program in the William Inge Theater Festival, will showcase the unpublished short plays of 26 playwrights from the US who have submitted their work and been selected for the program by a jury of theatre artists. These writers will have their plays performed in public staged readings by professional actors from Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Minnesota. The New Play Lab provides facilitated developmental feedback after each play reading from playwrights and Artistic Directors throughout the Midwest. The New Play Lab connects writers to other theater artists, deepening the connections between artists from around the country to artists in the Inge Center’s region, and introducing new work to Festival artists and attendees.
The 39th William Inge Theater Festival is brought to life by the countless volunteers and local businesses in Independence, Kansas who give their time and their resources to bring each of these events to life. Independence Community College and the William Inge Festival Foundation are both major sponsors and partners in the year-round work of the William Inge Center for the Arts, and the faculty, administration, and Trustees of both organizations represent a significant percentage of those who make the William Inge Theater Festival possible each year.
Says Independence Community College President, Dr. Vincent Bowhay, “ICC is proud to partner with the William Inge Festival Foundation and the Independence community to continually offer such a distinguished and reputable event to our region. The William Inge Festival enriches our community and honors the illustrious legacy of Inge as a playwright and Independence native.”
For more information on the William Inge Center for the Arts’ programming, history, and upcoming events, please visit the Center’s website at www.ingecenter.org, or email email@example.com.