News Column

Wichita high school students taking Inge plays to Scotland for festival

July 28, 2014

By Matt Riedl, The Wichita Eagle

July 28--They're putting the Inge in Fringe.

Or at least that's what a group of theater students from the Independent School hope to do when they travel to Scotland this week to perform plays by the Kansas-born playwright.

The students have been preparing for their performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since January, Independent Theatre director Emily Ottoway said. It's the first time a group of students from Wichita will perform at the Edinburgh festival, which bills itself as the "largest arts festival in the world."

"The pressure is definitely on," said Sarah Mayer, 16, who is helping stage manage the plays. "We're wanting to go and show that we're not just little Kansas people."

The students will be performing five one-act plays by William Inge: "To Bobolink, for Her Spirit," "A Social Event," "The Tiny Closet," "The Rainy Afternoon" and "People in the Wind." They are traveling through the auspices of the American High School Theatre Festival, a group that takes about 25 high school theater groups to perform at the festival every year, Ottoway said.

Ottoway said she received a nomination from Wichita State University's director of performing arts, Linda Starkey, and then had to fill out an application. The school found out in May that it had been accepted to perform.

Since then, the group has been preparing to travel abroad, Ottoway said. The group performed the plays in January at an Independent event, but it has had to "relearn" them this summer with a dramatically reduced set.

"Since we lack in props, we tried to make up for it in costumes," 15-year-old Rose Palmer said. "We have to pack props in our suitcases, and that all goes to the 50-pound limit."

The students said learning the Inge plays has been a unique experience. Inge was known for his plays featuring "irregularly regular" characters who frequently struggled with underlying sexual tension -- many of his plays subtly addressed homosexuality, Ottoway said.

Inge found mainstream popularity when his "People in the Wind" and "Bus Stop" plays were adapted into the 1956 movie "Bus Stop," starring Marilyn Monroe.

"One thing I love about William Inge and his characters is that they're real, but he takes the real aspects of them and makes them extreme, so then you'll be able to pinpoint what exactly the characters' flaws are," said Hannah Carlson, 17.

Independent's group will arrive in London, attend a workshop at the Globe Theatre and eventually take a train to Edinburgh, Ottoway said.

Once they are in town, they will mingle with other theater students at the festival and attend shows during the 10-day trip.

"Of course we're hoping that we'll do well enough that we'll get asked back," Ottoway said.

Ottoway said a high school from Topeka will also be performing at the festival, though she relishes the fact the Independent is the first Wichita high school to attend.

"We get to be first in something? In theater, that's hard," Ottoway said.

Stage manager Bryonna Stacey, 17, said she is simply looking forward to a trip overseas with her theater pals.

"I've always invested a lot in theater, so it means a lot to me," Stacey said. "The people really mean a lot to me."

The Independent group will perform the plays four times: on Aug. 4, 6, 7 and 9.

Reach Matt Riedl at 316-269-6791 or Follow him on Twitter: @riedlmatt.


(c)2014 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.)

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Source: Wichita Eagle (KS)

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