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Natural AffectionNatural Affection

In addition to our regularly scheduled "Talkbacks" with the director and cast following every Sunday matinee, please join us for a series of discussions featuring guest speakers. All events are FREE and follow selected performances with the exception of our Barnes & Noble event.

William Inge


Friday, September 27
immediately following the 8:00 pm performance

In his preface to the published text of Natural Affection, William Inge wrote, “In my play, I wanted to expose some of the atmosphere in our lives that creates violence.” Both chronicler and seer, Inge depicted and foreshadowed the yearning, confusion, anger and brutality that burst forth in the 1960s amidst rapidly shifting societal forces. Some of the battles in Natural Affection are physical, while others are of the heart and psyche. The play, which was met with consternation in its time, stands today as a striking reflection of Inge’s unwavering truthfulness and extraordinary moral and spiritual insight.

Kansas native Gigi Bolt, former Director of Theatre and Musical Theatre at the National Endowment for the Arts and currently Adjunct Professor at Columbia University, and Jackson R. Bryer, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Maryland and Director of the Conference segment of the annual William Inge Theatre Festival, will discuss how Natural Affection reflects its time and place even as it presaged the future.


Friday, October 4
immediately following the 8:00 pm performance

To the outside world, William Inge was one of America’s most popular and celebrated playwrights, with plays such as Come Back Little Sheba, Picnic, Bus Stop and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs. Plagued by inner demons, however, he struggled with alcoholism and homosexuality, weaving many of his emotions and feelings into his work up until his death by suicide in 1973.

Join New York University writing professor and celebrated author Christopher Bram (Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America, as well as Father of Frankenstein, the novel that was made into the Academy-Award winning movie Gods and Monsters) as he discusses Inge’s contributions to the theater, as well as the explicit and implicit themes of many of his works, including Natural Affection.


Friday, October 11
immediately following the 8:00 pm performance

If a play opens on Broadway and nobody knows it, what are its chances of success? That’s the unfortunate situation faced by Natural Affection when it opened in January 1963 in the middle of a four-month-long newspaper strike in New York City that ultimately contributed to the play’s brief run.

Thanks to ongoing advances in communications and technology, no such similar blackout is likely today. Learn about the rapidly changing landscape of entertainment media – and in particular the rise of theater criticism on the Internet – in a wide-ranging conversation with William Wolf, a noted critic, author, journalist and lecturer. Wolf currently publishes the web-based Wolf Entertainment Guide, teaches film courses at New York University and was formerly the film critic for the Gannett newspaper chain, a critic and contributing editor for New York Magazine and a film critic for Cue Magazine.


Thursday, October 24
immediately following the 7:30 pm performance

A Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright whose name is often mentioned alongside other literary giants of the 20th century such as Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, William Inge left behind a substantial body of work that continues to resonate in a powerful and personal way with audiences today.

Learn more about Inge's life and work from two people who are uniquely qualified to talk about his personal and artistic legacy -- Peter Ellenstein, artistic director of the William Inge Center for the Arts in Inge's hometown of Independence, Kansas, which sponsors the annual William Inge Theatre Festival; and Mike Wood, executive director of Wichita State University’s Media Resources Center, who has produced two live multimedia documentaries on William Inge, as well as roughly 25 other documentaries on other playwrights.


Gigi Bolt is a theatre and musical theatre program and philanthropy consultant, and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Theatre Management and Producing Program at Columbia University. She was Director of Theater and Musical Theater at the National Endowment for the Arts from 1995 till 2006. In 2006-2007 she served as Interim Executive Director of Theatre Communications Group. Prior to joining the Endowment she was the Director of the Theater Program at the New York State Council on the Arts. Her tenure at the Council was preceded by work as an actor including five seasons as a member of the company of the Cleveland Play House. She serves on the boards of the SITI Company and the William Inge Festival Foundation, on the Rhinebeck Writers Retreat Sounding Board, the University of Kansas Theatre Professional Advisory Board, and Ford’s Theatre’s Advisory Council.

Jackson R. Bryer is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he taught undergraduate and graduate courses, primarily in American literature and American and modern dramatic literature, for 41 years. He is the co-editor of The Selected Letters of Thornton Wilder (2008) and editor of Conversations with Thornton Wilder (1992). He is also the co-editor of Selected Letters of Eugene O’Neill (1988), of “The Theatre We Worked For”: The Letters of Eugene O’Neill to Kenneth Macgowan (1982), of The Actor’s Art: Conversations with Contemporary American Stage Performers (2001), and of The Art of the American Musical: Conversations with the Creators (2005) and the editor of The Playwright’s Art: Conversations with Contemporary American Dramatists (1995).

Mike Wood has been the Executive Director of Wichita State University’s Media Resources Center since 1990. He has led the Center in programming a cable television station and a public radio station, designing multimedia classrooms, providing distance education via interactive television and the web, and producing digital promotional materials. Mike has an MS in instructional design from Kansas State University and an MFA in cinema/television from the University of Southern California. He was a directing intern with the American Film Institute. Mike has written and directed a number of award-winning films and videos.

Peter Ellenstein came to the Inge Center in 2001. For over thirty years, Peter has worked extensively in professional theatre, film and television as a director, producer, stage manager and actor. For seven years he was Producing Director of the Los Angeles Repertory Company, where he directed the acclaimed Los Angeles Premiere of Sondheim and Weidman’s “Assassins.” Peter’s has worked in theatre across the country, receiving numerous awards and nominations. At the Inge Center, he has aided the development of more than 40 full-length plays and hundreds of short plays. In his tenure, earned and unearned income has increased roughly five-fold. He spearheaded promotional ventures and programs by partnering with the American Theatre in Higher Education, Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, the Educational Theatre Association and the Kansas Thespians Society. The Inge Center has organized and led five theater tours to New York City, turning a profit on each occasion. Peter has taught theatre arts at the professional, collegiate and high school levels. He was a founding member of the Southern California Arts Coalition, a cooperative fundraising venture for non-profit arts group, and served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kansas Arts Commission, and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. Peter attended American Conservatory Theatre and received his MFA from Minnesota State University, Mankato. He is a member of Actors Equity Association, the Screen Actors Guild and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

William Wolf is a critic, author, journalist and lecturer who writes extensively on film and stage and teaches film courses at New York University. He was formerly film critic for the Gannett newspaper chain, a critic and contributing editor for New York Magazine and the film critic of Cue Magazine. His articles have appeared in newspapers throughout the country, national magazines and prestigious annuals. His reviews can currently be read on his internet site, wolfentertainmentguide.com. The William Wolf Film and Theater Interview Collection (1972-1998) is part of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound at the New York Library for the Performing Arts. Mr. Wolf served two terms as chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics, the New York Critics Online, and the Online Film Critics Society. He formerly served four years as President of the Drama Desk, a society of writers on the Broadway and off-Broadway theater, and is a member of The American Theatre Critics Association, The International Association of Theatre Critics, P.E.N., and the American Association of University Professors. He has covered film festivals throughout the world, including those in Cannes, Moscow, Budapest, Berlin, Toronto and New York, and has served on the juries of the Chicago and Miami film festivals. During his career he has interviewed many luminaries of film, theater and the world of entertainment.

At New York University, he is known for his courses on Film as Literature in the English Department and Cinema and Literature in the French Department. He also teaches independently The William Wolf Movie Preview Course at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater. Mr. Wolf is the author of two books, Landmark Films: The Cinema and Our Century, written in collaboration with Lillian Kramer Wolf, and The Marx Brothers.

Christopher Bram grew up in Kempsville, Virginia (outside Norfolk), where he was a paperboy and an Eagle Scout. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1974 (B.A. in English). He moved to New York City in 1978.

His nine novels range in subject matter from gay life in the 1970s to the career of a Victorian musical clairvoyant to the frantic world of theater people in contemporary New York. Fellow novelist Philip Gambone wrote of his work, "What is most impressive in Bram's fiction is the psychological and emotional accuracy with which he portrays his characters. . . His novels are about ordinary gay people trying to be decent and good in a morally compromised world. He focuses on the often conflicting claims of friendship, family, love and desire; the ways good intentions can become confused and thwarted; and the ways we learn to be vulnerable and human." Bram has written numerous articles and essays (a selection is included in Mapping the Territory). He has also written or co-written several screenplays, including two shorts directed by his partner, Draper Shreeve.

His novel Father of Frankenstein, about film director James Whale, was made into the movie Gods and Monsters starring Ian McKellen, Lynn Redgrave, and Brendan Fraser. Bill Condon adapted the screenplay and directed. (Condon won an Academy Award for his adaptation.)

Bram was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2001. In May 2003, he received the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement. He lives in Greenwich Village and teaches at New York University.