As one of the most notable figures in American literature and playwrighting, there is so much information out there about Tennesee Williams. On the flip side, although many of us are familiar with his work, most don’t know about his personal background and from where he drew his inspiration.
As Lyric presents Williams’ classic tale THE GLASS MENAGERIE, opening March 27 at the Plaza Theatre, we took some time to do a little research on this literary genius..
Born Thomas Lanier Williams in Columbus, Mississippi on March 26, 1911 (you’re right–the show opens the day after his birthday), he changed his first name to Tennessee shortlly after graduating from the University of Iowa. Like many artists, his early years were filled with struggles to “make it.” It wasn’t until THE GLASS MENAGERIE was produced in 1944 that his work saw critical acclaim. The play won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play of the Season that very year.
The huge success of his next play, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, in 1947 secured his name among the great playwrights of his time. Between 1948 and 1959, seven more of his plays appeared on Broadway including SUMMER AND SMOKE, THE ROSE TATTOO, CAMINO REAL, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, ORPHEUS, DESCENDING, GARDEN DISTRICT and SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH. By 1959 he had won two Pulitzer Prizes, three New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards, three Donaldson Awards and a Tony Award.
As far as his personal life was concerned, Williams remained close to his sister Rose, whose life inspired the character “Laura” in THE GLASS MENAGERIE. She was diagnosed as schizophrenic as a young adult. During his rise to fame, Williams ran in a gay, New York City social circle that included fellow writer and close friend Donald Windham. The most notable relationship of his life was that with Frank Merlo, an occasional actor, which lasted 14 years.
At the time of his death on February 25, 1983, Williams’ works were not seeing the success of his previous plays. Despite this, the power of his ideas and words continue to inspire, uplift and entertain audiences around the world.
Don’t miss Williams’ autobiographical play, THE GLASS MENAGERIE, at the Plaza Theatre, March 27 through April 13.