It is almost 30 years since America's great playwright Tennessee Williams died. After great critical and popular acclaim, many awards for productions on Broadway, famous films based on Williams plays such as A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and countless productions of his work, Williams' work in his later years were largely dismissed as the work of a drug-impaired artist who had nothing to teach us.
During the last decade there has been a dramatic reassessment of Williams by scholars, critics and artists with new attitudes toward art, women, and sexual identity. In celebration of his centennial last year, groundbreaking productions of Williams' plays around the world, including the later work, accelerated the momentum of a new appreciation of this great playwright.
Since its inception in 2006, the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival has been in the forefront of this movement to reassess Williams' stature. The Festival has presented nine world premieres of plays by Tennessee Williams.
Now in its seventh year, the Festival is expanding its efforts to enrich the experience of Williams' work onstage through two initiatives: the TW Institute and Williams 101.
TW Institute and Williams 101 are designed for two different audiences. Both will mix seminars, scholars. festival artists, film clips, and live performances by international production companies at this year's Festival in Provincetown, September 20 – 23, 2012.
TW Institute – For Theater Students
Jef Hall-Flavin, executive director of the TW Festival explains, "The Festival presents performances that include Williams' classics, his experimental work, and work that he has inspired in contemporary artists from around the world. Combined with scholarly seminars, we present an in-depth approach to understanding the artist, his creative process and his role in the culture."
Geared toward PhD candidates and students pursuing Masters degrees, the program offers an immersion experience in Williams over four days and five nights during the Festival. Students will be attending performances of his classics and lesser-known work and holding conversations with festival artists who are Williams' virtuosos along with lectures by prominent Williams' scholars.
Professor Mark Charney, the new Chair of the Theatre and Dance Department at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, is bringing eight students to this program.
Gabrielle Glaze, a student in the PhD program at Texas Tech, says, "The focus on Williams' works after 1962 just makes this a particularly awesome festival to attend. This will provide me with the tools to be able to present to my classes a full picture of the man, the writer, the playwright, and promote interest in his works to the upcoming generation."
Participating scholars are:
David Kaplan, Curator of the TW Festival, editor of Tenn at One Hundred and author of Tennessee Williams in Provincetown.
Thomas Keith, Editor of numerous volumes of Williams' plays for New Directions Publishing and adjunct professor of Theater at Pace University.
Davis Robinson, Professor of Theater, Bowdoin College and founder and artistic director of Beau Jest Moving Theatre, who has staged two Williams' world premieres at the TW Festival.
Annette Saddik, Professor of Theater and English, CUNY, expert in 20th Century drama, specializing in Williams' late plays and reputation, and editor of The Traveling Companion and Other Plays by Tennessee Williams (2008).
For more information and enrollment in TW Institute, email Education@twptown.org.
Williams 101: Everything You Wanted to Know – For the Audience
"In 60 minutes, we'll bring you up to speed on what Williams wrote and why, from smash hits on Broadway to outrages for the stage that were way ahead of their time. We'll tell you everything you ever wanted to know - but were afraid to ask - about his life and legacy." – from the Festival website.
In the mornings during the week of the Festival, audiences will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of Williams through an entertaining presentation from the curatorial staff that includes film clips, music, and special guests, along with an unexpurgated/uncensored/free-wheeling Q and A.