WILLIAMSTOWN, MASS.: What do you do when you find a never-produced play by William Inge in a drawer? Call Mandy Greenfield.
Greenfield built a relationship with the Inge Estate when she worked on Come Back, Little Sheba in 2008 at Manhattan Theatre Club, where she was artistic producer. Around that same time, Inge’s early-’60s play Off the Main Road was discovered and the estate sent it to Greenfield.
When she took over the position as artistic director at Williamstown Theatre Festival in 2014, she knew that the play would be a good fit, considering the festival’s history with the playwright as well as her focus on new-play development.
“As a new play specialist, stepping into the lineage and the tradition of the festival with a new Inge is delightful because it speaks to both sides,” explains Greenfield. The show premieres on June 30 and runs through July 19, with Kyra Sedgwick as a woman on the run with her daughter from an abusive husband.
For director Evan Cabnet, whose career has also centered on new plays, the most important part of the process has been reading all of Inge’s other plays and exploring the writer’s biography. “Suicide figures prominently in the play,” Cabnet says. “There is a flirtation with suicide that prefigures the way that Inge would eventually kill himself.”
Greenfield and Cabnet note that Inge wrote the play later in his life. Prior to this production, there was a staged reading at the Inge Theatre Festival in Kansas in 2012. But for Cabnet, the experience of working on a new play without a living writer to consult has been a new one.
“It’s definitely scarier,” he says. “When you’re doing Inge, you can usually look back at all the productions that have happened before. So to not have that is the trickiest part.”