Monday, March 28, 2011

Season of Tennessee

Maybe you realize that Saturday was Tennessee Williams' 100 Birthday. Maybe you don't. The fact that it's an open question is something of a problem, in my view. This is one of those things that should be cause for a year-long celebration of National Pride, festivals on the White House lawn, parades in Memphis and New Orleans and New York, marathon readings and TV specials and Oscar-worthy biopics devoted to the life of this man, the Great American Dramatic Poet.

What we do have is a few more productions of Tennessee's shows. So that's, well, something.

Scott Brown wrote an article for New York Magazine a few weeks ago discussing Williams and the neglect his centenary is suffering. He does a pretty good job of opening up some of the issues that may have stood in the way of the celebration Tenn deserves, most especially this maddening sense that he stopped being good somewhere around 1961 and that the last 20 years of his life were just wasted, which pushes me around the bend a little bit. What do you people want? Even if it were true (which it is not) that everything after Night of the Iguana sucks, what would you have preferred? That Tenn had died in a James Dean-esque car crash so we could cast him in the Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die role? That perversion aside, I think that 'bad' Tennessee Williams is a little like the 'bad' Shakespeare plays and the 'bad' Dylan records - you may have to dig a little deeper and open up a little more, but I still don't want to live in a world without Titus Andronicus, or Saved. And in terms of history, the night is pretty young for Signore Williams. Just as people have come around on The Tempest (and, it's worth mentioning, have turned away from the Henry VI plays to a certain extent) I wouldn't be surprised if people learn how to see and hear Small Craft Warnings over time .

By the way, I didn't catch Vieux Carré (quelle domage! For reals. I'm borderline despondent to have missed that, but the tix were elusive.) but I did see the Michael Wilson-directed The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore at the Roundabout, and I may see it again. And so should you. 'Twas most worthy.

I have to include this last one, from the 1959 film of Suddenly Last Summer, for Elizabeth Taylor. We'll miss you, Liz.

1 comment:

sherinyb said...

I seem to remember there being a lot of Williams stuff last year for his 99th -- not sure why it didn't all happen this year, and you are of course correct to say that there should be More.

I'm really happy I got to do a night of Williams one-acts in the Armory in college - my only "professional" exposure to his stuff (except as reader and theatre-goer), and there is something for hearing his words over and over.