Monday, February 12, 2018

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: No Refuge but Writing Review By Polly Guerin

Tennessee Williams with Four Celebrated  Plays
The plays, "A Streetcar Named Desire," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "The Glass Menagerie" and "The Rose Tattoo" may be etched in our collective memories, but least we forget The Morgan Library and Museum's new exhibit on view through May 13, TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: No Refuge but Writing
reminds us that Williams's plays (in in the image right) established the author as one of the greatest American playwrights of the twentieth century and his genre is even more relevant today. 
        Image: The portrait shows a pensive Williams in a dark suit and crisp bow tie, fingers crooked around a holder with an ashy cigarette. Photograph by Irving Penn for Vogue, April 15, 1951 (c) Conde Nast. Used with permission of George Borchardt. Inc. It was taken the year the celebrated movie "Streetcar" opened.  By 1955 he had earned two Pulitzer Prizes, three New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards and a Tony.
      Williams was a master of language and a tireless craftsman and of said  he found, "no refuge but writing and couldn't resist gilding even his paintings with words." Yet, as anyone who's deeply read Williams knows, his plays reflect a great deal of his harrowing family life including Rose, his schizophrenia institutionalized sister, his parents poisonous marriage and later his own private turmoil from alcohol and drug addition to stormy relationships. 
A Streetcar Names Desire 19
The exhibition unites Williams' original drafts, private diaries, photographs and personal letters, and other ephemera that constituted his real and inner world. It reveals how, even as he battled critics and censors, the author found solace in his writing and his ability to weigh in on the theatrical productions of his work. The Morgan's show provides an upfront chance to peer into Williams' creative process and his ongoing struggle for self-expression, and how it forever changed the landscape of American drama. 

      "It is almost impossible to overstate the impact of Tennessee Williams on theater as we know it." said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Morgan Library and Museum. "His plays are so acclaimed and so well-known that one can conjure his unforgettable characters and their immortal lines almost at will." 
      So it is that we, too, remember the unforgettable characters in the film version of, A Streetcar Named Desire: (1951) Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois and Marlon Brando as the brutish brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski.  A stage production rehearsal (1947), however featured Jessica Tandy who portrayed Blanche with Karl Marden, Marlon Brandon, and Kim Hunter.  
TENNESSEE WILLIAMS ON SCREEN: The Rose Tattoo, based on the 1951 Tony Award-Winning play. This classic drama centers on Serafina (Anna Magnani), a widowed Sicilian woman living  the American South who is left devastated by the death of her husband. The arrival of Alvaro (Burt Lancaster) offers new hope for love in her life. Friday, April 20, 7 pm,
        Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, adapted from the 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, stars Paul Newman as Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player who drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife Maggie (Elizabeth Taylor). His reunion with his father Big Daddy (Burl Ives) who is dying of cancer. jogs a host of memories and revelations. Friday, May 4, 7 pm. The exhibition Tennessee Williams, No Refuge but Writing will open at 6 pm for program attendees.  Ticket info: 
READING TENNESSEE WILLIAMS Adult workshop participants will engage in close readings on The Glass Menagerie and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and explore Williams's writing and revision practises. February 28 and
March 7 2-4 pm. Tickets (two sessions) $45, $35 for members.
     Just a reminder:  The Morgan invites LGBTQ friends to attend a special evening celebration feauring the work of two iconic gay artists on view this season; the playwright Tennessee Williams and photographer Peter Hujar with curator talks, live music, after-hours-museum access, and a wine bar. Tickets $25; $20 Morgan Members. Visit the website: to purchase tickets.
     Ta Ta Darlings!!!  It is interesting to note how much of Williams would explore the dysfunction of his  home life in his plays, but after all, were we not advised by our teachers "Write what you know."  Fan mail welcome: I'd like to hear from you from time to time just to know how much a feature resonated with you.
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