Picnic

by William Inge

Performed
July 16-19, 22-26, 2003
at
The Boal Barn Playhouse

Production Staff

DirectorValerie Gehn
Scenic DesignerBrandon Phillips
Costume DesignerEdna M. Immel
Technical DirectorSteve McGuire
Lighting DesignerJason Zanitsch
Stage ManagerErin Albrecht
Apprentice CoordinatorWilliam C. Mulberger

About the Show

William Inge had four successful plays open in New York in the 1950s: Come Back Little Sheba, Picnic, which won a Pulitzer Prize, Bus Stop, and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. After 1957, his plays failed to please either critics or audiences. In 1973, he committed suicide. Today, his plays seldom get major revivals, though here in State College we’ve been having a mini Inge festival (URTC did Bus Stop this spring; SCCT is now  oing Picnic). This is too bad. His plays are well crafted with striking stage effects (the Act II dance in Picnic). Inge treats his characters with honesty and sympathy. His plays present a warm slice-of-life picture of small town America in the 1950’s. But therein lies the problem. The mindset of his plays, so rooted in the values of Kansas or Oklahoma small towns seems by today’s standards dated and even quaint. For example, in an Inge play, young women are either beautiful (Madge, Cherie in Bus Stop) or brainy (Millie or Emma in Bus Stop), but not both. Another example, in an Inge play the sight of a virile young man bare to the waist (Hal, Turk in Sheba) is enough to send women into a tizzy. But there is another problem. After the scene in Sheba when Doc threatens Lola’s life, Inge deliberately played down dramatic intensity. The closest he comes to it in Picnic is with the Rosemary-Howard sub-plot, but they are not the play’s focus; Madge and Hal are. Inge referred to Picnic not as a play, but as entertainment. He even changed the play’s ending to make it more up beat. When Picnic was revived in 1975 as Summer Brave with changes in characterization and with the original ending, it failed, as did an earlier (1969) musical version, Hot September, which folded in Boston, never making it to Broadway. Perhaps New York City is too far away from Inge’s small mid-Western towns. He did have a feel for them and for the ordinary existence of the ordinary people who lived in them.

Richard Gidez for SCCT

(in order of appearance)
Helen PottsPatricia Shoffner
Ham CarterEric Wertz
Millie OwensKelsey Lope
Madge OwensRochelle Louann Smith
Flo OwensBonnie DeChant
RosemarySydney Pat Hazelton
Alan SeymourShaun T. McMurtrie
Irma KronkiteStephanie J. Gates
BomberJason Adams
Christine SchoenwalderKathy Costley-Sakona
Howard BevinsWilliam Daniel Daup