Inge was born in Independence, Kansas, attended the University of Kansas and Peabody College in Nashville, Tennessee, and studied theater with Maude Adams at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri. He taught drama for some years and then served as drama critic for the St. Louis Star Times before becoming a playwright. Come Back, Little Sheba (1950), his first success on Broadway, is about an aging couple, the wife clinging to the past, the husband an alcoholic. His next play was Picnic (1953, later revised as Summer Brave), about a virile young drifter and his effect on women in a small town. Bus Stop (1955) involves stranded people---each reveals his or her loneliness, and in the end an aspiring singer accepts the attention of a naive but rough cowboy. The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (1958) portrays a frustrated family in which a stranger's suicide inspires a new understanding between the mother and father and more confidence on the part of the son and daughter. Inge was immensely popular in the 1950s. In most of his plays, the characters live a humdrum existence, usually in the Kansas-Oklahoma region of 50 years ago. Behind the naturalistic dialogue is an inner softness, and the main figures are prone to confession. His works have been called "psycho-dramas involving the solution of personal and social problems by introspection and togetherness" (Eric Mottram). Inge won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Picnic. The later part of Inge's career as a dramatist was not successful. He took his own life in 1973.