Former Director Carlyle Brown Is Honoree of the 37th Annual William Inge Theatre Festival

Playwright Carlyle Brown is the recipient of the William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award, at the 37th Annual William Inge Theatre Festival at Independence Community College, Kansas.  The Inge Festival, the Official Theatre Festival of the State of Kansas, takes place May 9-12, 2018.

portrait of Carlyle Brown

Carlyle Brown is a playwright, actor, and artistic director of Carlyle Brown & Company, which he founded in Minneapolis in 2002. Known for his historical works about African Americans, his extremely theatrical work occupies a wide range of aesthetic forms.

Described by The New York Times as “one of America’s more significant playwrights” he has a long and rich history of creating plays that dramatize historical events in a way that makes them accessible to present-day audiences.

His best-known play is indicative of this style. “The African Company Presents Richard the Third”, premiered in 1987.  It is about the staging of Shakespeare’s tragedy by a touring African-American troupe in colonial-era New York City.

Additional historic-based plays imagine a meeting between President Lincoln and the literary character of Uncle Tom from the Harriet Beecher Stowe novel (“Abe Lincoln and Uncle Tom in the White House”). The play “Dartmoor Prison” centers on an African- prisoner and his relationship to white United States captives in a British prison during the War of 1812; and “The Negro of Peter the Great” is based on an unfinished story by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, inspired by the tale of a kidnapped African prince and the 18th century Russian Czar.

Carlyle Brown further examines the black experience in plays such as “The Masks of Othello: A Theatrical Essay,” which explores the meaning of race throughout the ages in the production history of “Othello”; and “The Fula From American: an African Journey”, an autobiographical solo show about Carlyle’s adventures in West Africa, as an African-American in search for his African identify.

“Carlyle Brown’s fascinating body of work is highly worthy as one of the outstanding achievements by contemporary American playwrights, which we are excited to recognize and celebrate,” said Eric Rutherford, Artistic Director of the William Inge Center for the Arts.  “Even if theater patrons are not yet introduced to Mr. Brown’s scholarly yet accessible stories, I have no doubt they will become lifelong fans after getting acquainted,” Rutherford said.

Carlyle Brown is currently a writer/performer and artistic director of Carlyle Brown & Company, based in Minneapolis.  Carlyle Brown & Company was formed in 2002 around a constellation of culturally and ethnically diverse artists dedicated to the development and performance of his work in an atmosphere of collaborative co-creation.  The Company is interested in innovations in dramatic form, rich story-telling and shaping ideas into theatrical events. 

Brown has received commissions from major theaters across the nation.  He is also the 2006 recipient of the Black Theatre Network’s Winona Lee Fletcher Award for outstanding achievement and artistic excellence.

A Core Writer of the Playwrights' Center in Minneapolis, and an alumnus of New Dramatists in New York, Brown is also recipient of numerous fellowships.  Brown has served on the board of directors of The Playwrights' Center and Theatre Communications Group and is a member of the board of the Jerome Foundation. He is a member of the Charleston Jazz Initiative Circle at the Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, where his works and papers are archived.

Brown now joins a select roster of world-renowned playwrights who have traveled to the Inge Festival to receive the William Inge Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater Award.   They include Arthur Miller, Stephen Sondheim, Edward Albee, Wendy Wasserstein, David Henry Hwang, Tina Howe, August Wilson, and Neil Simon, to name only a few.

The William Inge Theater Festival is named for the Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winning writer William Inge, a native of Independence, Kansas.  The town is located 90 miles north of Tulsa, Okla.

The Inge Festival was founded in 1981 at Independence Community College, to celebrate the work of living playwrights.  In 2010, the Kansas State Legislature designated it as the Official Theater Festival of the State of Kansas.

Independence Community College also houses the William Inge Collection, It comprises more than 400 original manuscripts by Inge, including some not yet published.  The Collection also has numerous personal and other memorabilia from Inge’s career.


More About Carlyle Brown

Writer/performer and artistic director Carlyle Brown’s first professional theater production was his Little Tommy Parker Celebrated Colored Minstrel Show at Penumbra Theatre Company in 1986.  The next year Penumbra premiered his now famous The African Company Presents Richard III.  With a Penumbra premier of Buffalo Hair in 1994 and a National McKnight Fellowship, Brown moved to the Twin Cities and it has been his artistic home ever since.  Other Twin Cities productions: Beggars’ Strike at the Children’s Theater Company, the Mixed Blood production of Pure Confidence that moved to off-Broadway in New York and American Family at Park Square Theater

His plays include The Negro of Peter the Great, A Big Blue Nail, Dartmoor Prison, The Pool Room, Yellow Moon Rising, Down in Mississippi and others.  He has received commissions from Arena Stage, the Houston Grand Opera, the Children’s Theatre Company, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Goodman Theater, Miami University of Ohio and the University of Louisville.  He is recipient of playwriting fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, Theatre Communications Group and the Pew Charitable Trust.  Mr. Brown has been artist-in-residence at New York University School of the Arts Graduate Acting Program, The James Thurber House in Columbus, and Ohio State University Theater Department.

He has been a teacher of expository writing at New York University; African-American literature at the University of Minnesota; playwriting at Ohio State University and Antioch College; African American theater and dramatic literature at Carlton College as the Benedict Distinguished Visiting Artist, and “Creation and Collaboration” at the University of Minnesota Department of Theater.

He has worked as a museum exhibit writer and story consultant for the Charles Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, and the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage in Louisville, Kentucky.  Mr. Brown is a Core Writer at the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis and he is an alumnus of New Dramatists in New York.  He has served on the board of directors of Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the non-profit professional theater. He is a member of the board of directors for the Playwrights’ Center and the Jerome Foundation and a Trustee of the Camargo Foundation.

He is the 2006 recipient of The Black Theatre Network’s Winona Lee Fletcher Award for outstanding achievement and artistic excellence, a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow, a 2010 recipient of the Otto Rene’ Castillo Award for Political Theatre, and 2010 United States Artists Fellow. 

Published November 6, 2017

by Andrea Brown

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