William Inge

Brian Paulette / Kansas City Actors Theatre

Playwright William Inge, the Independence, Kan. native who went on to win a Pulitzer and an Oscar, would have turned 100 this year. To honor that birthday, Kansas City Actors Theatre is staging Picnic, set in the 1950s in small town Kansas. The rehearsal process has revealed that it's a play much deeper and darker than the company originally believed.  

Julie Denesha / KCUR

In this scene from Picnic, 18-year-old Madge Owens (Emily Peterson), universally acclaimed as the "prettiest girl in town," and her 16-year-old sister, Millie (Alisa Lynn), discuss the upcoming Labor Day picnic.

Millie, a tomboy, is uncharacteristically wearing a dress. As Madge paints her toenails, Millie interrogates her sister about how to handle boys.

Joseph Keehn

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of playwright William Inge, whose classic plays like Bus Stop and Picnic drew on his formative years in Independence, Kansas. Though never openly gay, he did write a series of short plays featuring gay characters and stories that have seldom been seen.

Lia Chang

 The four-day William Inge Theatre Festival in Independence, Kansas includes dozens of plays, readings and workshops, and concludes with a salute to a particular playwright or composer.  

Steve Walker / KCUR

It's been a decade since the Lee's Summit area has had its own community theater. A new company, called Summit Theatre Group, marks its debut with Bus Stop, the William Inge play set in a snowed-in roadhouse diner.