William Inge (1913 – 1973) was born in Independence, KS as the second son of a travel-ling salesman and the youngest of five children. Inge’s passion for the performing arts start-ed at a young age. Although his family wasn’t wealthy, his Boy Scout troop was often invited to sit in the balcony of the Civic Center to attend shows by many of the top artists stopping over between gigs in Kansas City and Tulsa. In 1935, Inge graduated from the University of Kan-sas at Lawrence with a B.A. in Speech and Drama. In interviews, Inge often said that at this point in his life he wanted to go straight to work on Broadway, but felt that he didn’t have enough money. He accepted a scholarship to the George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville to work on his master’s degree, but later became disillusioned and dropped out. “I sort of based my life on the theatre,” said Inge. “Having given up the theatre I had given up the basis that I’d set my life upon. I was terribly confused. I went home to Kansas and began to flounder.” Back in Kansas, Inge drifted from job to job: state highway laborer to news an-nouncer to high school English teacher. He eventually returned to Peabody to complete his master’s degree and taught for a few years at Stephens College in Columbia, MO.
It was in 1943 when Inge took a position as the drama and music critic for the St. Louis Times that his life changed dramatically. He travelled with a then-struggling playwright, Tennessee Williams, to review the first production of The Glass Menagerie in Chicago. “l was terrifically moved by the play,’ said Inge. “l thought it was the finest (play) I had seen in many years. I went back to St. Louis and felt, ‘Well, I’ve got to write a play.”‘ Within three months he had completed Farther Off From Heaven. This was followed by a series of critical and popular Broadway successes: Come Back, Little Sheba (1 950), Picnic (1 953), Bus stop (1955), and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1957).
In 1958, Inge’s mother passed away. Devastated by this loss and having struggled with depression and alcoholism his entire life, Inge never fully recovered personally or professionally. His last success was his first screenplay, Splendor in the Grass (1960). Inge moved to the West Coast and started teaching at the University of California at Irvine, but became increasingly de-pressed and left in 1970. On June 10, 1973 Inge committed suicide at his home in Hollywood, where he lived with his sister, Helene. Buried in his hometown of Independence, his headstone reads simply, “Playwright. “