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Revisiting a classic, Americana play

Monday, September 26, 2016

LAWRENCE—William Inge’s legacy with Kansas and the University of Kansas Department of Theatre is long, from student to alumnus and from award-winning playwright to guest artist. Inge’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning play, “Picnic,” will be brought to life this season by Professor Emeritus Jack Wright, one of Inge's former students.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30, Oct. 1, 5, 6 and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 2 in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre at Murphy Hall.

“The dialogue and the characters of 'Picnic' are so interesting, and they reflect so much of us in them,” Wright said. “These are normal people that suffer extraordinary circumstances. Audiences find that really interesting, entertaining and relatable.”

Wright’s first interaction with Inge was in a playwriting course at KU – Inge as a guest artist and Wright as a graduate student. Wright didn’t become a playwright, but he realized what he learned in Inge’s class affected him most in directing.

“He talked a lot about relationships and how important they were,” Wright said. “I realized much later how much that impressed me and how much I spent my time looking at how people relate and what the playwright has in mind with the relationships.”

“Picnic” follows the attraction of Madge, a practical and nearly engaged woman in a small town, and Hal, a drifter looking for work. It’s a story of true love in the American heartland.

The company includes Melissa Berger, Leawood senior, as Millie Owens; Elissa Bowen, Kansas City senior, as Rosemary Sidney; Rendi Renee Doran, Stilwell junior, as Flo Owens; Stephen Elberg, Weston, Florida, sophomore, as Bomber; Brandon Hedger, Mansfield, Texas, sophomore, as Howard Bevans; Cedric Houle, Overland Park senior, as Alan Seymour; James Kern, Kirkwood, Missouri, junior, as Hal Carter; Martha Keslar, Lawrence junior, as Christine Schoenwalder; Abby Sharp, Rossville senior, as Madge Owens; Abbey Lynn Smith, Altamont junior, as Helen Potts; Savannah Smith, Manhattan freshman, as Irma Kronkite; Bronwen Capshaw, Burbank, California, senior, assistant director; Jake Dutton, Wichita senior, stage manager; Iman Glaine Hinton, Atlanta M.F.A. student, assistant costume designer; and Taylor Zimmerman, Gardner M.F.A. student, assistant scenic designer.

The production also features Mark Reaney, theatre professor, scenic designer; Ann Sitzman, University Theatre technical coordinator, lighting designer; and Kelly Vogel, visiting assistant theatre professor, costume designer.

Tickets for “Picnic” are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, (785) 864-3982, and the Lied Center, (785) 864-ARTS. Tickets are $20 for adults, $19 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 for children. KU student tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door.