Sunday, April 25, 2010

From The Lobby of The Apple Tree Inn

The 29th Inge Festival wrapped up last night, and I'll have some pictures and notes from the events on Saturday a little later. At this moment, I'm waiting for my ride to the Tulsa airport to catch my flight to Dallas and then on to Miami.

This lobby could tell stories from the Inge Festival of years past. I'm sitting in the exact place where I met Edward Albee in 1991 after he came back from his morning walk. He sat next to me and we introduced ourselves. I also remember sitting here and seeing Jim Lehrer, Frank Rich, Stephen Sondheim, Neil Simon and Arthur Miller check in at the desk; not all at the same time, but spread out over the years.

This is also the place where we spent many a late night/early morning after the events at the college with snacks and drinks -- lots of the latter. I have memories of August Wilson, Gordon Parks, and Pat Hingle swapping stories while sitting on this couch, and singing camp songs with Shirley Knight and her daughter Kaitlin Hopkins. Director Daniel Mann told many stories about the New York theatre history going back to the early part of the 20th century, and he could tell the best jokes: my favorite was the old man going into the rest home.

A lot of the people who were a part of this festival when I started coming 20 years ago are gone now: the playwrights we've honored such as Jerry Lawrence, John Patrick, Wendy Wasserstein, August Wilson, and Arthur Miller; and dear souls such as Jo Anne Kirchmaier, niece of William Inge, dear friend, and keeper of the Inge family flame; and Robert Anderson, playwright and friend. I still see them here on the couch or coming around the corner, dressed for the tribute, or first thing in the morning, padding out in slippers for an eye-opening cup of coffee. The friends I've made here are my inspiration as a writer and scholar, and knowing that this group of dedicated and devoted friends will become even wider is the reason I keep coming back.

It's not goodbye; it's just intermission.



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