Synopsis and Character Breakdown for Picnic
SYNOPSIS: A On a sweltering Labor Day morning in 1950 in a small town In Kansas, the women of a quiet neighborhood on the wrong side of the tracks are preparing for the annual picnic. Watchful mother Flo Owens has hopes that her beautiful daughter Madge will get a proposal from Alan, the local millionaire’s son. Younger sister Millie, the “smart one”, yearns to grow up and leave her small town behind. Good-natured Mrs. Potts is happy to get a break from taking care of her aged mother. And spinster schoolteacher Rosemary Sydney cheerfully keeps her boyfriend Howard at arms’ length. This seemingly placid feminine environment is disrupted when Hal Carter, a muscular and charming young drifter who happens to be a former fraternity brother of Alan’s, hops off the freight train, and straight into Mrs. Potts’ hospitable home. Hearts are broken and lives are changed in the following twenty-four hours, as Hal’s lively, dangerous, masculine energy wakes up the sleepy community. William Inge’s bittersweet melodrama PICNIC, explores themes of sexuality, repression, rites of passage, and disappointment.
BREAKDOWN: 4M 8F
- HAL CARTER: Male
The latest in a series of handsome young men Mrs. Potts has taken in to work odd jobs, Hal spends the day cleaning her garden in exchange for home-cooked meals. He was a football star in high school and college, yet remains poorly educated. He projects a roughness developed by having a father with a drinking problem who died in jail and a mother who wants nothing to do with him. Inside he’s lonely and unsure of himself, ashamed of the unsophisticated upbringing that will always tag him as an outsider. His many wild stories involving women don’t help his longing for true love and normalcy. LEAD.
- MADGE OWENS: Female
The older of Flo’s two daughters, Madge is considered by everyone to be the prettiest girl in town and is a model of politeness and class. She works at the local “dime store” and is the sweetheart of Alan Seymour, the most successful and promising young man in town. Yet deep down she wonders whether her supposedly perfect life is what she actually wants and yearns for an identity beyond the beauty for which she is known. LEAD.
- ROSEMARY SYDNEY: Female
A school teacher who is defiantly independent and unmarried, Rosemary rents a room in Flo’s house. She proudly calls herself an “old maid” and maintains a casual dating relationship with Howard Bevans. LEAD.
- FLO OWENS: Female
The single mother of Madge and Millie, Flo wants her daughters to enjoy a happiness and success in love and marriage that she herself never had, yet she has very traditional and conservative views about what and who will be able to provide that happiness. SUPPORTING
- MILLIE OWENS: Female
Madge’s younger sister and, on the surface, at least, her polar opposite. Millie is bookish, a bit crass, and a tomboy, and she distinguishes herself from her older sister by consciously eschewing what she perceives as superficial prettiness. But will Hal’s arrival inspire Millie to think differently about love and beauty? SUPPORTING
- MRS. HELEN POTTS: Female
Eloped with her young flame, only to have her mother annul her marriage the very next day. She now takes care of her mom, who has grown elderly and dominates her life. To cope with her loneliness, she often takes in boarders, especially wandering, virile, young men, like Hal. SUPPORTING
- ALAN SEYMOUR: Male
Gentle and polite, Alan is Madge Owens’ boyfriend and comes from the richest and most prestigious family in town. He is about to go away for his final year in college, where he was a fraternity brother of Hal. SUPPORTING
- HOWARD BEVANS: Male
A businessman from a nearby town who stops in to see Rosemary, whom he dates casually. Mr. Bevans enjoys relaxing with some nice whisky and fun company. SUPPORTING
- IRMA KRONKITE: Female
A local school teacher and friend of Rosemary. FEATURED
- CHRISTINE SCHOENWALDER: Female
The high school’s new “feminine hygiene” teacher. FEATURED
- BOMBER: Male
The paperboy, constantly making fun of Millie and asking Madge for a date
- MRS. POTTS’ MOTHER: Female
We never see the older Mrs. Potts, but hear her from off stage, constantly interrupting her daughter’s conversation, suggests her crotchety nature—which means that no nursing home will take her in, leaving the task of caring for her to her daughter. VOICE