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They are full of the perception of life as it is, and the passion for life as it ought to be, which have made The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire classics of the American theater. Only one of these plays (The Purification) is written in verse, but in all of them the approach to character is by way of poetic revelation. Whether Williams is writing of derelict roomers in a New Orleans boarding house (The Lady of Larkspur Lotion) or the memories of a venerable traveling salesman (The Last of My Solid Gold Watches) or of delinquent children (This Property is Condemned), his insight into human nature is that of the poet. He can compress the basic meaning of life—its pathos or its tragedy, its bravery or the quality of its love—into one small scene or a few moments of dialogue. Mr. Williams's views on the role of the little theater in American culture are contained in a stimulating essay, "Something wild...," which serves as an introduction to this collection.
In this phantasmagorical play, the Camino Real is a dead end, a police state in a vaguely Latin American country, and an inescapable condition. Characters from history and literature--Don Quixote, Casanova, Camille, Lord Byron--inhabit a place where corruption and indifference have immobilized and nearly destroyed the human spirit. Then, into this netherworld, the archetypal Kilroy arrives--a sailor and all-American guy with "a heart as big as the head of baby." Celebrated American playwright John Guare has written an illuminative Introduction for this edition. Also included are Williams' original Foreword and Afterword to the play, the one-act play "Ten Blocks on the Camino Real," plus an essay by noted Tennessee Williams scholar Michael Paller.
Williams's Pulitzer Prize-winning play has captured both stage and film audiences since its debut in 1954. One of his best-loved and most famous plays, it exposes the lies plaguing the family of a wealthy Southern planter of humble origins.
Includes In the bar of a Tokyo hotel.--I rise in flame, cried the phoenix.--The mutilated.--I can't imagine tomorrow.--Confessional.--The frosted glass coffin.--The Gnädiges Fräulein.--A perfect analysis given by a parrot.
Tennessee Williams was born in 1911 in Columbus, Mississippi, where his grandfather was the episcopal clergyman. When his father, a travelling salesman, moved with his family to St Louis some years later, both he and his sister found it impossible to settle down to city life. He entered college during the Depression and left after a couple of years to take a clerical job in a shoe company. He stayed there for two years, spending the evening writing. He entered the University of Iowa in 1938 and completed his course, at the same time holding a large number of part-time jobs of great diversity. He received a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1940 for his play Battle of Angels, and he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948 and 1955. Among his many other plays Penguin have published Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Camino Real (1953), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Baby Doll (1957), Orpheus Descending (1957), Something Unspoken (1958), Suddenly Last Summer (1958), Period of Adjustment (1960), The Night of the Iguana (1961), The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963), and Small Craft Warnings (1972). Tennessee Williams died in 1983.
Menagerie was Williams's first popular success and launched the brilliant, if somewhat controversial, career of our pre-eminent lyric playwright. Since its premiere in Chicago in 1944, with the legendary Laurette Taylor in the role of Amanda, the play has been the bravura piece for great actresses from Jessica Tandy to Joanne Woodward, and is studied and performed in classrooms and theatres around the world. The Glass Menagerie (in the reading text the author preferred) is now available only in its New Directions Paperbook edition. A new introduction by prominent Williams scholar Robert Bray, editor of The Tennessee Williams Annual Review, reappraises the play more than half a century after it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award: "More than fifty years after telling his story of a family whose lives form a triangle of quiet desperation, Williams's mellifluous voice still resonates deeply and universally." This edition of The Glass Menagerie also includes Williams's essay on the impact of sudden fame on a struggling writer, "The Catastrophe of Success," as well as a short section of Williams's own "Production Notes." The cover features the classic line drawing by Alvin Lustig, originally done for the 1949 New Directions edition.
In early 1998, sixty years after it was written, one of Tennessee Williams' first full-length plays, Not About Nightingales, was premiered by Britain's Royal National Theatre and was immediately hailed as "one of the most remarkable theatrical discoveries of the last quarter century (London Evening Standard). Brought to the attention of the director Trevor Nunn by the actress Vanessa Redgrave (who has contributed a Foreword to this edition), "this early work...changed our perception of a major writer and still packs a hefty political punch" (London Independent). Written in 1938 and based on an actual newspaper story, the play follows the events of a prison atrocity which shocked the nation: convicts leading a hunger strike in a Pennsylvania prison were locked in a steam-heated cell and roasted to death. Williams later said: "I have never written anything since that could compete with it in violence and horror." Its sympathetic treatment of black and homosexual characters may have kept the play unproduced in its own time. But its flashes of lyricism and compelling dialogue presage the great plays Williams has yet to write. Not About Nightingales shows us the young playwright (for the first time using his signature "Tennessee") as a political writer, passionate about social injustice, and reflecting the plight of outcasts in Depression America. The stylistic influences of European Expressionism, radical American theatre of the 1930s, and popular film make it unique among the group of four early plays. Not About Nightingales has been edited by eminent Williams scholar Allean Hale, who has also provided an illuminating historical introduction.
It is a very short list of 20th-century American plays that continue to have the same power and impact as when they first appeared—57 years after its Broadway premiere, Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those plays. The story famously recounts how the faded and promiscuous Blanche DuBois is pushed over the edge by her sexy and brutal brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. Streetcar launched the careers of Marlon Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, and solidified the position of Tennessee Williams as one of the most important young playwrights of his generation, as well as that of Elia Kazan as the greatest American stage director of the '40s and '50s. Who better than America's elder statesman of the theater, Williams' contemporary Arthur Miller, to write as a witness to the lightning that struck American culture in the form of A Streetcar Named Desire? Miller's rich perspective on Williams' singular style of poetic dialogue, sensitive characters, and dramatic violence makes this a unique and valuable new edition of A Streetcar Named Desire. This definitive new edition will also include Williams' essay "The World I Live In," and a brief chronology of the author's life.
"Summer and Smoke" is a two-part, thirteen-scene play by Tennessee Williams, originally titled Chart of Anatomy when Williams began work on it in 1945. In 1964, Williams revised the play as "The Eccentricities of a Nightingale." "Summer and Smoke" is set in Glorious Hill, Mississippi from the "turn of the century through 1916," and centers on a high-strung, unmarried minister's daughter, Alma Winemiller, and the spiritual/sexual romance that nearly blossoms between her and the wild, undisciplined young doctor who grew up next door, John Buchanan, Jr. She, ineffably refined, identifies with the gothic cathedral, "reaching up to something beyond attainment"; her name, as Williams makes clear during the play, means "soul" in Spanish; whereas Buchanan, doctor and sensualist, defies her with the soulless anatomy chart. By play's end, however, Buchanan and Alma have traded places philosophically.
A young man as ambitious as he is charming, returns to his home town after a prolonged stay in Hollywood. He brings with him a once beautiful but now faded movie queen with the intention of capitalizing upon her fame for his own ends. But when he rekindles an affair with a former flame, he brings down the wrath of her father, a local polital boss who swears revenge.