Monday, March 29, 2010

Jill Krementz covers opening of The Glass Menagerie

The idea for 'The Glass Menagerie' came very slowly, much more slowly than 'Streetcar,' for example. I think I worked on 'Menagerie' longer than any other play. I didn't think I'd ever get it produced. I wasn't writing it for that purpose. I wrote it first as a short story called 'Portrait of a Girl in a Glass,' which is, I believe, one of my best stories. I guess 'Menagerie' grew out of the intense emotions I felt seeing my sister's mind begin to go.

Before the success of 'Menagerie' I'd reached the very, very bottom. I would have died without the money. I couldn't have gone any further, baby, without the money, when suddenly, providentially, 'The Glass Menagerie' made it when I was thirty-four. I couldn't have gone on with these hand-to-mouth jobs, these jobs for which I had no aptitude, like waiting on tables, running elevators, and even being a teletype operator.
The Glass Menagerie
The Laura Pels Theater
111 West 46th Street
March 24th-May 30th, 2010

Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams
(1911-1983) was one of our greatest American playwrights. Born in Columbia, Mississippi, he created some of the most memorable characters on the modern stage in plays such as The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and A Streetcar Named Desire.

Williams was born into a genteel Southern family steeped in quiet hypocrisy. He was the son of a womanizing, hard-drinking father and a pampered, self-absorbed, yet domineering mother. His fragile sister, Rose, was his sole playmate and the most important person in his life.

When the Williams family moved to St. Louis it was hard on Tom, and devastating to Rose, who eventually succumbed to a mental breakdown. It is in St. Louis that this play, The Glass Menagerie, takes place.

Directed by the Long Wharf's Gordon Edelstein and produced by the Roundabout Theater Company's Todd Haimes, this revival opened on Wednesday evening to rave reviews.

The four cast members — Patch Darragh, Judith Ivey, Keira Keeley and Michael Mosley — render performances that are pitch perfect
The display poster for the Roundabout production. The Playbill.
Pre-curtain ...
Actor/poet/playwright Dael Orlandersmith was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her play Yellowman, in which she also appeared. Ms. Orlandersmith has an upcoming play which is about men who have been abused. John Mazzola, former President and Chief Executive of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Greg Kachejiian, an actor who appears regularly in the role of Dr. Josh Brewster on ABC's One Life to Live. Mr. Kachejiian, when not wearing his "white coat," is the Manager of the Patients' Library at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Biff Liff, legendary agent for William Morris. Cynthia O'Neill, whose new book, Talk Softly, will be published by Seven Stories Press. Ms. O'Neill is the founder of Friends in Deed.
Victor Garber signing autograph for fan.
Victor Garber and Lily Rabe. Mr. Garber just ended his Broadway run in Present Laughter. Lily Rabe poses for photographers. Ms. Rabe will be appearing as Portia in this summer's Shakepeare in the Park production of The Merchant of Venice. Daniel Sullivan will be directing.
Jerry Patch and Blythe Danner. They are discussing a play reading which took place the previous day at The Manhattan Theater Club, in which Ms. Danner had played a leading role. Mr. Patch is MTC's Director of Artistic Development.
Curtain Call ...
The four actors taking a curtain call to a standing ovation. That's Charlie Nelson and Playbill's Harry Haun in foreground.
Law and Order's Sam Waterston with his wife Lynn.

Mr. Waterston played the role of Tom in David Susskind's 1973 production of The Glass Menagerie.

Katharine Hepburn portrayed the dominating mother, Joanna Miles the sister and Michael Moriarty the gentleman caller.
Frank Dunlop (CBE), who resides in Dublin and New York, was Associate Director of the National Theatre of Great Britain, founded the Young Vic, and directed Scapino, Habeas Corpus, and Richard Burton’s Camelot on Broadway. Last season in New York he directed Oscar and the Pink Lady, a solo show performed by Rosemary Harris. Jane Alexander, who has been in Toronto working on a movie, Dream House, directed by Jim Sheridan. The film also stars Daniel Craig, Naomi Watts and Rachel Weiss.
Three young playwrights described to me as "the future of the theater:" Noah Haidle, Annie Baker, and Beau Willimon. Mr. Haidle's Saturn Returns was at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. Ms. Baker's most recent play, Circle Mirror Transformation, was a sold-out hit this season at Playwright's Horizon. Mr. Willimon's Farragut North was done at the Atlantic Theater Company.
Following the performance guests walked over to nearby Havana Central to celebrate the opening night.
The after party was held at Havana Central, a Cuban Restaurant. A party favor on every table.
Frank Dunlop, Tovah Feldshuh, Ed Sherin, and Jane Alexander. Mr. Sherin worked with Mr. Williams in 1975 directing a Williams play, The Red Devil Battery Sign. Mr. Sherin and Ms. Alexander are married.
Playwrights Noah Haidle and Annie Baker, Corinne Hayoun (Creative Arts Agency), Jerry Patch, and Evan Cabnet. Mr. Cabnet directed Oohrah! for the Atlantic Theater Company. It's a play about the effect of the Iraq war on military families.
Gordon Edelstein who has directed the Roundabout's revival of The Glass Menagerie.

Terry Teachout in The Wall Street Journal has this to say: "Gordon Edelstein, whose past productions at New Haven's Long Wharf Theater include the best Uncle Vanya I've ever seen, has brought his version of Tennessee Williams's masterpiece from Connecticut to the Laura Pels Theater, the Roundabout Theater Company's Off-Broadway house. It should have gone to Broadway instead .... This is the kind of revival that, once seen, becomes a golden yardstick by which all future productions of the same play are measured."
Marlena Edelstein, proud daughter, with her father. Ms. Edelstein, who is 20 years old, is a student at Carleton College where she is majoring in religious studies. Michael Mosley, who plays the role of Jim O'Connor, the gentleman caller. Keep your eye on him.
Kyle Stewart, a dresser in wardrobe for Menagerie, and his friend Carrie Kamerer, who is working as a dresser on A View from the Bridge.
Actor Ronald Gutman, who is working on a remake of Mildred Pierce with Kate Winslet. Evan Cabnet, a 32-year-old theater director from Philadelphia. "I will be doing Oliver by Liz Meriwether at the Cherry Lane. It's not Oliver, the musical; it's a very dark comedy about a young boy and an older man who are best friends."
Frank Dunlop, Tovah Feldshuh, and Todd Haimes. Mr. Haimes is the Artistic Director of the Roundabout Theater Company.
Judith Ivey with Tom Braine, her 16-year-old son who is a student at Fieldston. Asked if her son wanted to follow in her footsteps, Ms. Ivey replied, "He's a science and math guy."
Over the years I photographed Tennessee Williams on many occasions, which included the opening night of Eugene O'Neill's More Stately Mansions (1967), his appearance at the 92nd Street Y (1972) followed by a party at Ruth Ford's apartment, where he met Edward Albee for the first time; a bookseller's convention in Washington D.C.; and various celebratory events where he was presented with medals of one kind or another. There was also a rehearsal of a Williams play, The Red Devil Battery Sign (1975), starring Anthony Quinn and directed by Ed Sherin.
Edward Albee and Tennessee Williams at Ruth Ford's apartment following an appearance by Mr. Williams at the 92nd Street Y.
Tennessee Williams with his sister, Rose Williams, at the National Arts Club, 1975. Mr. Williams was awarded the club's eighth annual Gold Medal for Literature.
Tennessee Williams with Edwin Sherin, Bill Barnes, and Anthony Quinn, during rehearsals for The Red Devil Battery Sign, 1975.
But my favorite photographic session was when Williams invited me to Key West for a two-day visit in March of 1972.
In Key West I get up just before daybreak, as a rule. I like being completely alone in the house in the kitchen when I have my coffee and ruminate on what I'm going to work on. I usually have two or three pieces of work going on at the same time, and then I decide which to work on that day.

I go to my studio. I usually have some wine there. And then I carefully go over what I wrote the day before. You see, baby, after a glass or two of wine I'm inclined to extravagance. I'm inclined to excesses because I drink while I'm writing, so I'll blue pencil a lot the next day. Then I sit down, and I begin to write.
Outside by the pool which is a sanctuary of tropical plants.
Tennessee Williams with his black cat Sabbath at pool's edge. Sabbath is taking a break from chasing and mauling lizards.
Every morning, a regular swim in his pool.
A trip to the local supermarket.

"His favorite cookbooks," wrote Rex Reed in Gourmet Magazine, "were those compiled by Junior Chambers of Commerce in every southern town from Baton Rouge to Boca, along with a treasured dog-eared thing called White Trash Cooking. He once prepared for me a memorable dinner of smothered roast beef and a Girl Scout recipe for lemon icebox pie with a vanilla wafer crust."
Lunch.
After lunch.
Tennessee Williams hanging out with his friend, author and playwright, James Kirkwood.
Watching the early evening news. You can see open dictionary on wooden stand in front of window.
Preparing gumbo ... ... with a dash of seasoning.
America's celebrated playwright was an accomplished cook with a penchant for anything "fattening, Illegal or on fire."

According to Rex Reed: "Tennessee Williams' favorite memory was of the summer he and Carson McCullers rented a shack on Nantucket, where they survived on Jack Daniel's, canned green pea soup with wienies in it, and an innovation dubbed 'spuds Carson' (mashed potatoes with olives)."
Off for an evening bike ride ... ... and, succumbing to vanity, removing his eyeglasses for the photographer.
When I write I don't aim to shock people, and I'm surprised when I do. But I don't think that anything that occurs in life should be omitted from art, though the artist should present it in a fashion that is artistic and not ugly.

I set out to tell the truth. And sometimes the truth is shocking.
My favorite biography of Tennessee Williams,
The Kindness of Strangers, by Donald Spoto, published in 1985 by Little, Brown, and Company. Cover photograph by Jill Krementz.
A collection of Tennessee Williams plays, published by Library of America. Mel Gussow and Kenneth Holdich selected the contents and wrote the notes for this splendid volume which opens with the stunning, rediscovered plays: Spring Storm and Not About Nightingales. Also included: The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and Smoke, The Rose Tattoo, Camino Real, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
1431 Duncan Street in Key West. Tennessee Williams owned this half-acre compound on Duncan street. Behind the white picket fence is a white clapboard house, a studio, and a pool surrounded by tropical plants. Photograph by Jill Krementz.
Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz
all rights reserved.
Italicized quotes are from an
interview for The Paris Review
conducted by Dotson Rader.