The award-winning Beau Jest Moving Theatre returns to the Charlestown Working Theater with their original interpretation of the rarely seen fantasy TEN BLOCKS ON THE CAMINO REAL.
In New Orleans in 1946, fresh from the success of THE GLASS MENAGERIE and while still working on A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, Tennessee Williams wrote a play which few have ever seen: TEN BLOCKS ON THE CAMINO REAL. In this one-act fantasy, Tennessee wrote with lyrical abandon a play he hoped would usher in a new kind of “plastic theater” that blended music, dance, poetry, and visual imagery. By the time it opened on Broadway in 1953, this parable in ten vignettes had become the better?known sixteen?block TEN BLOCKS ON THE CAMINO REAL. It flopped, and Tennessee’s original desires were never fulfilled. Additional characters and convoluted plot lines did nothing to improve the play, and yet that is the only version authorized for performance.
In 2008, New Directions published the original TEN BLOCKS ON THE CAMINO REAL version for the first time, and Beau Jest was immediately struck by the imagery and poetic leaps the script made without compromise or explanation. Permission was given by the estate to Beau Jest to fully stage TEN BLOCKS ON THE CAMINO REAL and restore this missing link in Tennessee’s canon, which many pinpoint as a pivotal event in the playwright’s development.
“The earlier plays were always about sympathetic characters caught in inescapable situations...Up until ‘Camino’, Tennessee’s work (and life) seems to me self- dramatization. From ‘Camino’ on, it seems self-justification. The change occurs between the two versions of ‘Camino’.” Donald Windham, December 1955.
The only other productions of the play are a New York staging in 2009 by Target Margin Theater, and a made for television version in 1966 with Martin Sheen and Lotte Lenya. Beau Jest is using a full design team, an original score by Don Dinicola, a cast of nine actors and three musicians plus masks, puppets, dance, an interactive set, and a range of vocal techniques to fully stage every detail of this remarkable play. While Camino Real continues to fascinate regional theaters like the Goodman, as evidenced by the production directed by Calixto Bieito this spring, Charlestown is the only place in the world you will be able to see the original Ten ??Blocks version that Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams both felt held such great hope and promise for a new direction in American theater.
In Tennessee's own words: "I treated the subject freely. I tried to convey something wild and moving, like clouds changing shape in a gale, or the dissolving images of a dream. This sort of freedom is not chaos. On the contrary, it is the result of painstaking design, and in this play I have given more conscious thought and attention to construction than I have in any work before."
Directed by Davis Robinson. Performed by Beau Jest Moving Theatre, featuring Larry Coen, Robert Deveau, Lauren Hallal, Jordan Harrison, Kathleen Lewis, Ellen Powers, Nick Ronan, Robin Smith, and Lisa Tucker, with live music performed by Tamora Gooding, Santiago Cardenas, and Adam Schutzman. Sets by Judy Gailen, Masks by Libby Marcus, Costumes by Fabian Aguilar, Lights by Karen Perlow, and an original score by Don Dinicola.
May 10-20, Thurs-Sat. at 8pm, Sundays at 3.
For tickets and more information, visit charlestownworkingtheater.org.