“Make voyages! — Attempt them! — there’s nothing else …” Happy Birthday, Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams (Thomas Lanier Williams) was born on this day in Columbus, Mississippi in 1911.


I love this early note from Tennessee Williams because it already incorporates his most famous line, from Streetcar Named Desire.

Will you do a total stranger the kindness of reading his verse?

Thank you!

Thomas Lanier Williams

— Tennessee Williams, letter to editor Harriet Monroe, March 11, 1933

In his memoirs, published in 1975, Williams wrote:

Work!! – the loveliest of all four-letter words, surpassing even the importance of love, most times.

Editor John Rood wrote the following advice to Tennessee Williams (then Tom) on March 22, 1935:

Just keep on writing. It is remarkable how one begins to know what is right.

Tennessee Williams and Marlon Brando, 1948

An interviewer asked Williams once: “What is your definition of happiness?”

He replied, “Insensitivity, I guess.”

When I first heard that anecdote, I felt like my entire sense of life was validated.

Tennessee Williams also said:

All cruel people describe themselves as paragons of frankness.

More – a lot more – after the jump.


The spectacular unedited edition of Tennessee Williams’ Notebooks, the journal he kept for his entire life (except for a 20-year gap), is indispensable. His spelling mistakes are not corrected. His underlines are duplicated. When words are struck out that seem important (evidence of his editing thought-process), the struck-out words are duplicated. Margaret Bradham Thornton, who also edited the two volumes (thus far) of Tennessee Williams’ letters, is responsible for the editing of the Notebooks, and she has done a superb job.

Williams grew up in a claustrophobic household in St. Louis, with an overbearing and loving mother, and two siblings, Dakin and Rose. Rose was a bit of a problem. The brutality of psychiatric treatment at the time, and how randomly it was used on this poor girl (insulin treatments, shock treatments, and finally a prefrontal lobotomy) is enough to make even the coldest person tremble. The Williams family did the best they could by Rose, in some lights … they were terrified of what was happening to her and tried to deal with it, and the results were catastrophic. Now? She’d be on meds and she’d be fine. She had a family who loved her and did not abandon their responsibilities to her. Her “debut” into society was a failure, the story still isn’t clear, but she was not a “success” and the tailspin began. Delusions set in. She was obsessed with sex. One of her psychiatrists told her her problem was that she should “try to get married”. Grrrr. She eventually was diagnosed with “dementia praecox”, an early term for schizophrenia.

Meanwhile, Tom (Tennessee) and Dakin tried resist the pull of the tragedy.

Mrs. Edwina Williams reading to her children, Rose and Tom (Tennessee)

Tom went to a local college in St. Louis and lived at home, feeling trapped. In 1937, he was accepted into the University of Iowa. Rose had been institutionalized in January of 1937 (she would never, after that point, live on her own). Tom’s college attendance feels like a getaway. The guilt he experienced at his ability to leave must have been excruciating and factors into The Glass Menagerie, especially Tom’s last monologue in that play:

…It always came upon me unawares, taking me altogether by surprise. Perhaps it was a familiar bit of music. Perhaps it was only a piece of transparent glass. Perhaps I am walking along a street at night, in some strange city, before I have found companions. I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow. Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be! I reach for a cigarette, I cross the street, I run into the movies or a bar, I buy a drink, I speak to the nearest stranger – anything that can blow your candles out! For nowadays the world is lit by lightning! Blow out your candles, Laura – and so goodbye …

Rose Isabel Williams

After he graduated, he went to New Orleans, accepting he was gay (or a “sissy”, as he called himself). I wonder if living at home, and his constant nervous-ness (which plagued him throughout his life, he called his nerves “blue devils”), had to do not only with Rose having a mental breakdown , but also his sexuality. He was destined to be an outlaw his whole life. He was not hostile towards religion. He speaks to God often in his journals. He speaks of needing to receive Communion after going to visit Rose in the sanitarium. His beloved grandfather, who was Tennessee’s traveling companion and sometimes roommate for years, was a minister. I’m sure Grandpa saw some shit.

Once Tennessee finally left the family home and started to find his own tribe of like-minded artists, he could accept who he was. He only slept with one woman in his whole life, a girl he met at the University of Iowa (he wrote a lot of love poetry for her), and when she threw him over for another guy, he was very hurt. He considered it a turning point in his life (he mentions it often in later essays, when he was a much older man).

Here is a journal entry from the fall of 1937, as he departed from St. Louis to start college in Iowa. I am struck by it because here he was, in his mid-20s, and you can feel Glass Menagerie in him already. It is already full and complete. It would just take the courage to write it out.

Thurs. Sept. 16 [1937] Tonight is pleasant – A crisp chilly autumn night that elates the spirit and makes life seem a more definite, positive quantity.
…You see, I feel in my heart that I will never really return to this place. Whatever happens good or ill, this next year I think it will surely divorce me at last from the paternal roof – wish-fulfillment! –
…No, I haven’t forgotten poor Rose – I beg whatever power there is to save her and spare her from suffering.
…My play is all but finished and I feel pretty well satisfied with it. Now I yearn for work on a new one – will not be content till I have made a good start on it. The next play is always the important play. The past, however satisfactory, is only a challenge to the future.

Another entry from this time:

My virtues – I am kind, friendly, modest, sympathetic, tolerant and sensitive –
Faults – I am ego-centric, introspective, morbid, sensual, irreligious, lazy, timid, cowardly –
But if I were God I would feel a little bit sorry for Tom Williams once in a while – he doesn’t have a very gay easy time of it and he does have guts of a sort even though he is a stinking sissy!

After winning a play contest sponsored by the famous Group Theatre, Tom wrote in his journal:

My next play will be simple, direct and terrible – a picture of my own heart – there will be no artifice in it – I will speak truth as I see it – distort as I see distortion – be wild as I am wild – tender as I am tender – mad as I am mad – passionate as I am passionate – It will be myself without concealment or evasion and with a fearless unashamed frontal assault upon life that will leave no room for trepidation. I believe that the way to write a good play is to convince yourself that it is easy to do – then go ahead and do it with ease. Don’t maul, don’t suffer, don’t groan – till the first draft is finished. Then Calvary – but not till then. Doubt – and be lost – until the first draft is finished.

Williams wrote in a college paper:

Aristotle says that plot is the most important factor of a play but I’d rather have a bad plot with interesting characters than a good one with a bunch of stooges.

Listen to that.

In a letter to fellow playwright and friend Horton Foote, on April 24, 1943, Tennessee wrote:

We must remember that a new theatre is coming after the war with a completely new criticism, thank God. The singular figures always stand a good chance when there are sweeping changes. Keep your ear to the ground and concentrate on honesty till you know what else is coming!

He sensed his time had come.

His sister Rose was lobotomized in 1943. This was the defining event of Williams’ life, the event from which he (and of course poor Rose) never recovered. It was the wellspring of much of his art. If one is an artist, one must be tough as hell to use such material.

On March 24, 1943, Tom wrote in his journal (“Grand” refers to his Grandmother, who was ill at the time, and also 27 Wagons of Cotton, the famous one-act which would be adapted into the film Baby Doll 13 years later):

I wrote alone at Donnie’s office till two a.m. – from 7 – a 7 hour stretch – longest at one stretch in a long time. On a short play. 27 Wagons. Not worth much – amusing but a little nasty perhaps.
Grand. God be with you.
A cord breaking.
1000 miles away.
Rose. Her head cut open.
A knife thrust in her brain.
Me. Here. Smoking.
My father, mean as a devil, snoring. 1000 miles away.

The guilt of leaving Rose behind never left him. If one was “happy”, if one was able to maneuver through a world that lobotomized its most sensitive members, then “happiness” required a hard outer shell, a shell Tennessee himself lacked, that other “sensitives” (his word) lacked. He did not begrudge people their happiness. He just didn’t understand it.

I have found it easier to identify with the characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, who were desperate to reach out to another person. But these seemingly fragile people are the strong people really.


He WAS Blanche. He WAS Miss Alma. He WAS Flora Goforth.

Oh, you weak, beautiful people who give up with such grace. What you need is someone to take hold of you – gently, with love, and hand your life back to you.


Dakin Williams (Williams’ brother) said:

Blanche is Tennessee. If he would tell you something it wouldn’t be necessarily true. And Blanche says in Streetcar, ‘I don’t tell what’s true, I tell what ought to be true.’ And so everything in Blanche was really like Tennessee.


In his journal in 1941, he describes a violent sexual encounter with a sailor.

Tuesday – Jan 5, 1943

This is the first time that anybody ever knocked me down and so I suppose it ought to be recorded. Unhappily I can’t go into details. It was a case of guilt and shame in which I was relatively the innocent party, since I merely offered entertainment which was accepted with apparent gratitude until the untimely entrance of other parties. Feel a little sorrowful about it. So unnecessary. The sort of behavior pattern imposed by the conventional falsehoods.

Donnie comforted me when he arrived on the scene. Now he is upstairs with another party procured in the bar. Why do they strike us? What is our offense? We offer them a truth which they cannot bear to confess except in privacy and the dark – a truth which is inherently as bright as the morning sun. He struck me because he did what I did and his friends discovered it. Yes, it hurt – inside. I do not know if I will be able to sleep. But tomorrow I suppose the swollen face will be normal again and I will pick up the usual thread of life.

Laurette Taylor as Amanda Wingfield in “Glass Menagerie”

Laurette Taylor’s performance as the faded Southern-belle Amanda Winfield in the Broadway production of The Glass Menagerie launched Williams into stardom, and launched the play itself into the firmament of our culture. Amanda revitalized Taylor’s career (thought long over) just before she died. And now, her performance in Glass Menagerie is legendary. But the play didn’t depend on Laurette Taylor’s genius, although thank God she found the vehicle. The star of the play was the writing. Taylor knew that, and constantly shifted the focus of the spotlight back onto the young writer beside her.

Williams wrote in his memoirs about Taylor:

In Chicago the first night, no one knew how to take [Glass] Menagerie, it was something of an innovation in the theatre and even though Laurette [Taylor] gave an incredibly luminous, electrifying performance [as Amanda Wingfield], and people observed it. But people are people, and most of them went home afterward to take at least equal pleasure in their usual entertainments. It took that lovely lady, Claudia Cassidy, the drama critic of the Chicago Tribune, a lot of time to sell it to them to tell them it was special.

She said Laurette ranked with [Eleonora] Duse.

Eventually, though, Menagerie was a startling success, which success I attribute in large part to Laurette. She was, as I have said many times, a gallant performer; I still consider her the greatest artist of her profession that I have known. I wrote a tribute to her, on her death, in which I said that it is our immeasurable loss that Laurette’s performances were not preserved on the modern screen. The same is true of Duse and [Sarah] Bernhardt, with whom Laurette’s name belongs.

I also wrote that there are sometimes hints, during our lives, of something that lies outside the flesh and its mortality. I suppose these intuitions come to many people in their religious vocations, but I have sensed them equally clearly in the work of artists and most clearly of all in the art of Laurette. There was a radiance about her art which I can compare only to the greatest lines of poetry, and which gave me the same shock of revelation as if the air about us had been momentarily broken through by light from some clear space beyond us.

Again, from his Memoirs:


Williams balked when reviewers characterized his female characters as “frustrated” (see excerpt below). He said he had never written a victim.

Cousin Kerry and I saw a phenomenal production of Streetcar at Williamstown, with Sam Rockwell as Stanley and Jessica Hecht as Blanche. I am proud of this review: it was an excellent production, one I still think about.

Here’s part of an essay Williams wrote for The New York Times in 1948 where he addresses the misunderstanding of his female characters:

Don’t misunderstand me. I am thankful for these highly condensed and stimulating analyses, but it would never have occurred to me that that was the story I was trying to tell. Usually when asked about a theme I look vague and say, “It is a play about life.” What could be simpler, and yet more pretentious? You can easily extend that a little and say it is a tragedy of incomprehension. That also means life. Or you can say it is a tragedy of Puritanism. That is life in America. Or you can say that it is a play that considers the “problem of evil”. But why not just say “life”?

To return to the women in the alcove. On this particular occasion the question that floored me was, “Why do you always write about frustrated women?”

To say that floored me is to put it mildly, because I would say that frustrated is almost exactly what the women I write about are not. What was frustrated about Amanda Wingfield? Circumstances, yes! But spirit? See Helen Hayes in London’s “Glass Menagerie” if you still think Amanda was a frustrated spirit! No, there is nothing interesting about frustration, per se. I could not write a line about it for the simple reason that I can’t write a line about anything that bores me.

Was Blanche of “A Streetcar Named Desire” frustrated? About as frustrated as a beast of the jungle! And Alma Winemiller? What is frustrated about loving with such white hot intensity that it alters the whole direction of your life, and removes you from the parlor of the Episcopal rectory to a secret room above Moon Lake Casino?

For actresses taking on these roles: Do not play the frustration. Play the objective, play the character’s desire, play what the character wants, NOT the character’s sadness at NOT getting what they want. The tragedies of these plays lie in the characters’ hopes for themselves and how strongly they believe in love and mercy and compassion, despite the evidence around them. Despite the fact that the world will not, refuses, to play along, with the delusion that people are actually kind.

“Nothing’s more determined than a cat on a tin roof – is there? Is there, baby?”

— from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

When Camino Real (one of my favorite Willimas plays) opened, directed by Kazan, starring Eli Wallach, it was not embraced by the critics. In that radical play, Williams prophesied where theatre was going to go in the following decade. The experimental theatre of the 1960s, of which people like Lanford Wilson and John Guare were at the vanguard, is all there in Camino Real. No one congratulates you for being right about things 10 years before everyone else gets the memo. People were baffled by Camino. And because they were baffled, they rejected it, as opposed to trying to examine what this important playwright was attempting to do. Williams always had an open relationship with certain critics, and here, he writes a letter to Walter Kerr.

Dear Mr. Kerr,
I’m feeling a little punch drunk from the feared, but not fully anticipated attack at your hands and a quorum of your colleagues. But I would like to attempt to get a few things off my chest in reply. What I would like to know is, don’t you see that “Camino” is a concentrate, a distillation of the world and the time we live in?

Mr. Kerr, I believe in your honesty. I believe you said what you honestly think and feel about this play. And I wouldn’t have the nerve to question your verdict. But silence is only golden when you have nothing to say. And I still think I have a great deal to say.
Tennessee Williams

Eli Wallach wrote in his autobiography:

I don’t believe Kerr ever answered Tennessee’s letter. But there’s one line in the play that affected Anne and myself so greatly that we decided to adopt it as our motto. “Lately,” Lord Byron says, “I’ve been listening to hired musicians behind a row of artificial palm trees instead of the single pure stringed instrument of my heart. For what is the heart, but a sort of instrument that translates noise into music, chaos into order. Make voyages, attempt them, there’s nothing else.” Anne and I decided that we would always make voyages and attempt them.

Williams was disheartened by the slacking off of his critical acclaim. But he kept writing. Read his plays in chronological order. Watch how he constantly challenges himself.

Williams said in an interview:

You’re always having to compete with yourself. They always say, ‘It’s not as good as Streetcar or Cat‘. Of course it’s not. At 69, you don’t write the kind of play you write at 30. You haven’t got the kind of energy you used to have.


Some mystery should be left in the revelation of character in a play, just as a great deal of mystery is always left in the revelation of character in life, even in one’s own character to himself.

Tennessee Williams

Irene Selznick, Tennessee Williams, Elia Kazan, consulting backstage at Streetcar


Here’s what Kazan wrote about the Streetcar process in his marvelous completely unreliable autobiography.

It is Tennessee Williams’ “advice” to Kazan at the end that reveals who Williams was, not just as an artist, but as a human:

But what had been intimated in our final rehearsals in New York was happening. The audiences adored Brando. When he derided Blanche, they responded with approving laughter. Was the play becoming the Marlon Brando Show? I didn’t bring up the problem, because I didn’t know the solution. I especially didn’t want the actors to know that I was concerned. What could I say to Brando? Be less good? Or to Jessie? Get better? …

Louis B. Mayer sought me out to congratulate me and assure me that we’d all make a fortune … He urged me to make the author do one critically important bit of rewriting to make sure that once that “awful woman” who’d come to break up that “fine young couple’s happy home” was packed off to an institution, the audience would believe that the young couple would live happily ever after. It never occurred to him that Tennessee’s primary sympathy was with Blanche, nor did I enlighten him …

His misguided reaction added to my concern. I had to ask myself: Was I satisfied to have the performance belong to Marlon Brando? Was that what I’d intended? What did I intend? I looked to the author. He seemed satisfied. Only I — and perhaps Hume [Cronyn, Tandy’s husband] — knew that something was going wrong …

What astonished me was that the author wasn’t concerned about the audience’s favoring Marlon. That puzzled me because Tennessee was my final authority, the person I had to please. I still hadn’t brought up the problem, I was waiting for him to do it. I got my answer … because of something that happened in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, across the hall from my suite, where Tennessee and Pancho were staying. [Pancho was Tennessee’s boyfriend. They had a volatile relationship.] One night I heard a fearsome commotion from across the hall, curses in Spanish, threats to kill, the sound of breaking china … and a crash … As I rushed out into the corridor, Tennessee burst through his door, looking terrified, and dashed into my room. Pancho followed, but when I blocked my door, he turned to the elevator still cursing, and was gone. Tennessee slept on the twin bed in my room that night. The next morning, Pancho had not returned.

I noticed that Wiilliams wasn’t angry at Pancho, not even disapproving — in fact, when he spoke about the incident, he admired Pancho for his outburst. At breakfast, I brought up my worry about Jessie and Marlon. “She’ll get better,” Tennessee said, and then we had our only discussion about the direction of his play. “Blanche is not an angel without a flaw,” he said, “and Stanley’s not evil. I know you’re used to clearly stated themes, but this play should not be loaded one way or the other. Don’t try to simplify things.” Then he added, “I was making fun of Pancho, and he blew up.” He laughed. I remembered the letter he’d written me before we started rehearsals, remembered how, in that letter, he’d cautioned me against tipping the moral scales against Stanley, that in the interests of fidelity I must not present Stanley as a “black-dyed villain”. “What should I do?” I asked. “Nothing,” he said. “Don’t take sides or try to present a moral. When you begin to arrange the action to make a thematic point, the fidelity to life will suffer. Go on working as you are. Marlon is a genius, but she’s a worker and she will get better. And better.”

Tennessee Williams on the set of the Broadway production of Streetcar Named Desire

Tennessee Williams 14D

A humorous anecdote from Tennessee Williams from the New Haven opening of Streetcar:

Streetcar opened in New Haven in early November of 1947, and nobody seemed to know what the notices were or to be greatly concerned. After the New Haven opening night we were invited to the quarters of Mr. Thornton Wilder, who was in residence there. It was like having a papal audience. We all sat about this academic gentleman while he put the play down as if delivering a papal bull. He said that it was based upon a fatally mistaken premise. No female who had ever been a lady (he was referring to Stella) could possibly marry a vulgarian such as Stanley.

We sat there and listened to him politely. I thought, privately, This character has never had a good lay.

Tennessee Williams is one of my own personal artistic heroes, for more reasons than one, and I am aware (on practically a daily basis) of how grateful I am for his plays, in the same way I am nearly always conscious of being grateful that there was a Shakespeare, and that we have his works with us today.

We are lucky in this country to have produced such a playwright. We should be very very proud of that.


Tennessee Williams said the following, in a 1981 interview, only a couple of years before he died:

“I’m very conscious of my decline in popularity, but I don’t permit it to stop me because I have the example of so many playwrights before me. I know the dreadful notices Ibsen got. And O’Neill — he had to die to make ‘Moon’ successful. And to me it has been providential to be an artist, a great act of providence that I was able to turn my borderline psychosis into creativity — my sister Rose did not manage this. So I keep writing. I am sometimes pleased with what I do — for me, that’s enough.”


This entry was posted in Books, On This Day, Theatre, writers and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to “Make voyages! — Attempt them! — there’s nothing else …” Happy Birthday, Tennessee Williams

  1. Regina Bartkoff says:

    Fantastic!! (a word T.W. loved) and thank you! I knew I would find something here on T.W. on his birthday yesterday. And fitting since I found your blog while doing research on The Two Character Play now years ago. I was so stupid (and am) about the internet I didn’t realize it was a whole blog for over a year and just wondered and wondered about the girl who wrote it with such passion and knowledge and whose feelings echoed my own about this play and throwing in things like, “Somebody help me!!!! I have to do this play!!!” (or something like that) also making me laugh. I would return to it again and again and when I finally saw it and it opened up into what it is I was floored. (also another great entry about when you did do it) P.S. They were holding the rights now for years for this play and I still can’t do it, (In my tiny 20 seat, who is coming anyway but friends and family space) but now finally doing it, I heard with Amanda Plummer (an actress I love, but I think it is the same director in a production I saw in PT which I distinctly did not love. Maybe she will bring the needed passion to it.) I went down to audition for an understudy, but I am non-equity and couldn’t get in front of them, after waiting two different days. (they finally tell you no) Oh well, (they also tell non-equity you can’t use the bathroom) I was going to crack, “So Equity also thinks their shit don’t stink?” But thought better of it. Anyway, maybe I can do it finally after this! Thanks again for all your work and this great tribute to the very great Tennessee Williams

    • sheila says:

      hahaha I think you and I (and my friend Ted) are the only people obsessed with Two Character Play.

      Amanda Plummer? Hmmm. Not sure about that. But I am open to persuasion. No matter what – I can’t imagine that it will live up to the play that exists in my mind!!

      Thanks, Regina!!

      • Regina Bartkoff says:

        ok, I gotta admit, I’m not too sure about A.P. either! haha! I was just trying to be generous and keep an open mind. I will check it out if this production does happen…….

        • sheila says:

          hahaha Yes, I don’t want to judge before I see it. I think someone like Ellen Burstyn would be … well, she’s a bit old for it – but she has that real mad-ness to her. As well as the instincts of a diva.

          But alas, I am not in charge of the universe.

          I will also check it out if the production happens!

      • ted says:

        Oh, that play. I can’t stand that we haven’t made THAT voyage!

  2. Lyrie says:

    Sheila, I’d like to share the quote about Aristotle’s Poetics — because I SO Agree with it–, but I couldn’t find the source. Would you mind telling me where you read that college paper of his?
    Once again, thanks for being an inexhaustible source of reflection, research, knowledge and passion.

    • sheila says:

      Lyrie – thanks!

      I’ll have to track down the college paper. It would be either in the Notebooks or in Lyle Leverich’s biography. I’ll get back to you.

      • Lyrie says:

        Oh, thanks so much! Tennessee Williams will be one of my main reading thing this summer, if everything goes according to plan (meaning, if I don’t just spend the summer waiting for it to be over, unable to do anything else but binge-watch tv shows).:)

        • sheila says:

          // Tennessee Williams will be one of my main reading thing this summer //

          Nice!! What’s your plan of attack?

          • Lyrie says:

            I don’t have a plan yet. I bought Streetcar yesterday because I’ve never read (or seen) it. I want to re-read Glass Menagerie because I have no memory of it, and I’ve been meaning to since the SPN recap with blue roses.:) Then, I don’t know. I was thinking I would read everything I find on shelia’s site, and that plus some research would probably tell me where to go next.

            What do you think, Captain? I’m very open to your suggestions.

            Also, one of my teachers teaches/has worked a lot on Irish theatre, so I thought I’d seize the occasion to go in that direction — there seems to be a lot of very poignant/hilarious stuff, and that’s a mix I love. I love what I’m working on now (Sarah Kane, this week), but I can’t wait to read just for my pleasure again. Ah, school! #toooldforthisshit

          • sheila says:

            How fun!!

            I’d go in chronological order. Start with Glass Menagerie. And then Streetcar.

            Back to back masterpieces. Still unbelievable to me.

            If you want some real fun, track down a copy of the compilation of his short plays, the one-acts – there’s a great compilation called “27 Wagons Full of Cotton”. I LOVE his one-acts, they’re often much weirder and even more surreal than the full-lengths.

            “27 Wagons Full of Cotton” was turned into a movie that I absolutely love – called “Baby Doll” – and it was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency and everybody else. But it’s really just a raucous Southern comedy. Yes, the lead character gets raped, but … she likes it. So it’s all good.

            His other full-lengths are also extraordinary works – The Rose Tattoo, Night of the Iguana, Orpheus Descending (that’s the one he rewrote from an earlier play with Elvis in mind – !!!!), Camino Real (one of my favorites of his plays – not a commercial success at all, but one of his best), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Jim Beaver is playing ” Big Daddy” in a production of “Cat” in the Berkshires this summer – I’m gonna try to go. It’s such a great part for him!

            And Irish playwrights. Yeah! Eugene O’Neill is American, but his Long Days Journey Into Night could be considered a great Irish play. It’s a masterpiece, whatever way you slice it.

            Have fun!! I’m envious!

          • Lyrie says:

            Thanks so much! Can’t wait!

            I’m starting The Lieutenant of Inishmore and I think it’s going to be a good one. Do you know (of) it?

          • sheila says:

            Yes! Martin McDonagh is incredible! Beauty Queen of Leenane is amazing too – I saw it on Broadway (it was one of those “event’ productions where you HAD to see it just to participate in conversations at that time) – and then my brother had one of the four roles (there are only 4 characters in it) in a regional production in North Carolina and went down and saw it there.

            The play plays like a bat out of hell.

            Conor McPherson is another wonderful contemporary playwright. I saw an off-Broadway production of The Good Thief here in New York, which is one long monologue. Brian d’Arcy James did it (he was just so excellent in Spotlight!!)

            And then of course there’s the giant – who just died – Brian Friel.

            His Translations is probably his masterpiece – it’s about the potato famine and the stomping-out-wholesale-destruction of the Irish language. Devastating.

        • sheila says:

          and then of course there’s Beckett. The Giant who Looms Over Them All.

  3. melissa says:

    so, what do you think of the current NY staging that has a woman in a wheelchair playing Amanda? From what I’ve read, its pushing the edges of what the play calls for, but still is legitimate?

    (Also, strangely, I hate Hate HATE Waiting for Godot in English – but find it amazing in French. Go figure.)

  4. Thank you for this inspiring piece. Really, thank you.

  5. Ted says:

    Happy birthday, great rhapsodist of the beleaguered and the magnetic. I’m struck, given what an anomaly he was – mourning brother, southern gentleman, sissyboy, drunk – by his self possession. To have persisted in writing so many plays, that were so unlike anyoe elses plays, and for so many of them to have been so good.

    • sheila says:

      Ted – His persistence – in the face of so many obstacles – many of them in his own brain/psychology – but of course many of them out in the world too – is what most moves me about him (besides his briliant writing).

      // what an anomaly he was – mourning brother, southern gentleman, sissyboy, drunk – by his self possession. //

      He’s just dazzling. I wish he had been a happier person – but I guess that’s the price he had to pay for being him. Being happy to him means being insensitive. I can’t get over that reply – I think about it all the time.

      Hope you are well – miss you – can’t wait to see you in person again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.