University Theatre to close summer season with 'Picnic'

KU's University Theatre is having a very special picnic. But instead of checkered blankets and home-cooked foods, there will be lovers' quarrels and scandals.

University Theatre is celebrating the 50th anniversary of William Inge's play "Picnic" by closing its summer season and opening the fall season with the popular show by the Kansas born playwright.

Inge graduated from KU and in 1953 his play "Picnic" was successfully produced on Broadway. In 1955, the same year a film version of "Picnic" was made starring William Holden and Kim Novak, Inge returned to KU to help stage "Picnic" with theater director Dr. Lewin Goff.

"William Inge is a big connection," says Jack Wright, director of the show and KU professor of theater and film. "His plays are a part of Americana and they invoke a lot of good feeling about the Midwest and small-town America."

"Picnic" is the story of two couples creating a scandal around a Labor Day picnic. The play, which ran for 61 weeks on Broadway, won major theatrical awards before being turned into an Oscar-winning movie. Wright says Inge was uncomfortable with the success.

Inge and filmmaker Joshua Logan both wanted different endings for "Picnic." Inge rewrote the ending for Logan, and the play went on to great success. However, the author also kept the original ending for himself, rewriting the play under the title "Summer Brave."

Much of the reason for doing "Picnic" now is because of Inge's KU connection -- Murphy Hall has a theater named after the playwright -- but also because of the play's 50th anniversary.

"It celebrates the simple values of life, but it also raises issues," Wright says. "Inge once said that it's a play about love and romance, but love and romance can't always be dictated by love's ideals ... The play raises issues that are still in the paper today, and all this stuff from the play still permeates our activities 50 years later."

Wright, directing "Picnic" for the first time, says University Theatre loves to do Inge pieces whenever possible.

"It's really been fun to work on the play," he says. "It seems like it's just such a simple story, but Inge is a master at creating depth of character, and we get to work on these for a long time."

The play, which runs July 11-12 and July 18-19, also will open University Theatre's fall season Sept. 5-7.

The show also features scenic and light design by Delbert Unruh, KU professor of theater and film, and authentic '50s costumes from graduate student Beth Collins.

"It's a play about characters and people, and I hope the audience will enjoy these people and the conflicts they get themselves into," Wright says.

What: KU's University Theatre's "Picnic."When: 7:30 p.m. July 11-12 and 7:30 p.m. July 18-19.Where: Crafton-Preyer Theatre at KU's Murphy Hall.Tickets: $12 for adults, $11 for seniors; $10 for students, $6 for children.

"Picnic" will play at 7:30 p.m. July 11-12 and July 18-19 at Crafton-Preyer Theatre at KU's Murphy Hall. For more information, call 864-3982.


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