Playwright Tennessee William – A Legendary as Matchless as His Works

Author: Sherry Helms

“Life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going.” — Tennessee Williams

March, 26 is the great day for everyone concerning theater, especially in America, as this is the birthday of the legendary Playwright Tennessee Williams who influenced productively the American theater as well as theaters worldwide.  He had a reflective effect on American playwrights and actors as well.  Happy Birthday to Tennessee Williams.

Hundred and one years ago right from today, when a newborn arrived in the family of a shoe salesman, Cornelius Williams living in Columbus, Mississippi, no one had the realization that this starlet would become a star playwright of the twentieth century, and rule the world of theater in the United States for coming back-to-back decades.

Considered as the greatest Southern playwright, Tennessee Williams ruled the hearts of theater aficionados in contemporary America by authoring more than 24 full-length plays. The most popular ones of all of them are The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The latter two even won him Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Most of his works were later adapted in films and did as great on screen as on theater.

In the words of theater scholar, Charlotte Canning, of the University of Texas where works of Williams’ are archived, “There is no more influential 20th-century American playwright than Tennessee Williams. He inspired future generations of writers like Suzan-Lori Parks, Tony Kushner, David Mamet and John Waters”. His works, which are among the most popular plays of all time, are continued to confront actors to a rich basin of acting challenges.

The Glass Menagerie, his first success, was his memory play of four characters. Protagonist Amanda Wingfield, faded Southern belle, is the most challenging character of all four of them to act. Abandoned by her husband, she is trying to raise her two children, the son Tom and the daughter Laura, under harsh financial conditions. Amanda is desperate to find her daughter a husband, but when the long-awaited gentleman caller does arrive, Laura’s romantic illusions regarding a husband are crushed. The Glass Menagerie is accounted by many to be an autobiographical play of Williams with Tom as his own character, his mother, Amanda, and his sickly and (supposedly) mentally ill sister Rose would be Laura.

Play in three acts, A Streetcar Named Desire, first published and produced in 1947, was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama for that year. One of the most admired plays of the time; it concerns the mental and moral disintegration and ultimate ruin of Blanche DuBois, a former Southern belle, the protagonist of the whole act. Her neurotic, genteel pretensions are no match for the harsh realities symbolized by her earthy and realistic brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski. With lyrical background, this play reflects haunting loneliness and violence that characters of the play are surrounded with.

Tennessee Williams won another Pulitzer for drama in 1955 for his play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, one of his highly acclaimed works and his personal favorite. The play renders the emotional lies governing relationships in the family of a wealthy Southern cotton tycoon. The patriarch, Big Daddy, is about to celebrate his 65th birthday and his two married sons, Gooper and Brick, have returned for the occasion, the former with his pregnant wife and five children, the latter with his wife Margaret (Maggie). Epitomizing several recurring motifs, such as social mores, greed, superficiality, mendacity, decay, sexual desire, repression, and death, the essence of the play is laid in the interactions between Big Daddy, Brick, and Maggie, the “Cat”.

If you have read any other work of Tennessee Williams, you may share and comment about the same. We will appreciate that. And, if you or your friends or family members want to go through the above mentioned plays, get the copies of the same from

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