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John Guare to Lead Tennessee Williams Discussion Saturday Afternoon

When I read John Guare’s preface to the modern edition of Tennessee Williams Camino Real, I realized he was a true soul brother.

Too bad I read it an hour we had parted company.

Guare is speaking Saturday afternoon, March 5, on late Williams plays, after the performance of Williams 1982, at Walker Space in Manhattan. 3PM Curtain.

My review of Williams 1982

From BroadwayWorld.com

Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company will host a post-show discussion centered on the later work of Tennessee Williams following the March 5, 3pm performance of Tennessee Williams 1982. The participants include Tony-winning playwright John Guare, scholar and writer David Savran, scholar and current Tennessee Williams‘ editor Thomas Keith, and professor and writer Annette J. Saddik.

Tennessee Williams 1982 is an evening of two, little known, one-act plays by Tennessee Williams, both completed in 1982, the year before the playwright’s death. Directed by Cosmin Chivu (2013 revival of Tennessee Williams‘ The Mutilated), Tennessee Williams 1982 features the world premiere of A Recluse and His Guest and New York Premiere of The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde. These two chamber pieces epitomize the theatrical imagination the playwright employed throughout his long writing career combined with the freedom he found later in life. Crisply written black comedies, these fierce plays center on the demands of unlikely human relationships in exotic locales fraught with tension.

Critic David Clarke in OUT said. “Tennessee Williams 1982 is a far cry from an evening of light theater, but that’s what makes it spectacular. A side of Williams that has rarely been seen, one in which Williams abandons realism to forcefully hold a mirror up to viewers and make them see the abject horrors of humanity.”

“The vital truths Williams’ reveals in these two one-acts are still present in raw and essential ways,” says director Chivu. “In fact, more that 30 years later, the plays feel more potent than ever-the compassion, the poetic fire, and the heartbreaking vision of American’s greatest playwright speak loudly in these compact works.”

Kate Skinner (The Graduate) leads the ensemble cast and is join by Ford Austin, Declan Eells, Anne Wechsler and Jade Ziane. Completing the creative team is Justin West and Brooke Van Hensbergen (set design), Angela Wendt (costume design), and John Eckert (lighting design), who join Joseph W. Rodriguez (Producing Artistic Director, Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company), Thomas Keith (Creative Producer), Olivia D’Ambrosio (Managing Director, Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company), Dana Greenfield (Associate Director) and Scott Davis (Assistant Director).

In the world premiere of A Recluse and His Guest, we meet a tall person of indeterminate gender-who, we later discover, is a woman named Nevrika. She has walked all winter through the Midnight Forest to a fictional town in a mythical, cold, northern country. In this poignant fable, it is her destiny to always move forward, never back. Looking for someone in the town to care for, she finds a miserable little creature named, Ott. He is the Recluse and she is the Guest who transforms him into a more-human human being, at least for a while.

Making its New York premiere, The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde is a black comedy steeped in the brutal and the fantastic. Using acutely direct, comic, and unflinching action, Williams gives us a theatrical preview of the world we live in now. His vision is filled with humility for those who suffer while highlighting the greed of those who withhold sustenance along with our growing fetish for money and violence, both emotional and physical. However, Williams does offer hope: to recognize ourselves in a world where the “have-nots” are unfairly blamed for the inequities of the world because they are “accident prone.”

Performances of Tennessee Williams 1982 will take place February 14-March 13 (see schedule above) at Walkerspace (46 Walker Street, Manhattan). Critics are welcome as of Thursday, February 18 for an official opening of Sunday, February 21 at 7pm. The running time is 90 minutes with one intermission. Tickets, priced at $40 for general admission and $50 for premium seats, can be purchased by visiting playhousecreatures.org or by calling 800.838.3006.

John Guare‘s plays include Lydie Breeze; Bosoms and Neglect; Chaucer in Rome; Four Baboons Adoring the Sun; A Free Man of Color; and The House of Blue Leaves, which won an Obie and NY Drama Critics Circle Award for the Best American Play of 1970- 71 and four Tonys in its 1986 Lincoln Center revival; Six Degrees of Separation, which received the NY Drama Critics Circle Award in 1991 for its Lincoln Center production and the Olivier Best Play Award in 1993. Grove Press publishes Landscape of the Body, A Few Stout Individuals, and A Free Man of Color. Guare wrote the lyrics and coauthored the book for the 1972 Tony-winning Best Musical, Two Gentlemen of Verona and was nominated for a Tony Award for the book of the musical The Sweet Smell of Success in 2002. His screenplay for Louis Malle‘s Atlantic City earned him an Oscar nomination. In 2003 he won the PEN/Laura Pels Master Dramatist Award; in 2004, the Gold Medal in Drama from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; in 2005 the Obie for sustained excellence. He is a council member of the Dramatists Guild and co-editor of The Lincoln Center Theater Review.

Thomas Keith has edited Tennessee Williams for New Directions since 2002, over 16 titles including two full-length late plays and four volumes of previously unpublished or uncollected one-acts. He has written on Williams for American Theater Magazine, Tenn at One Hundred, The Later Plays of Tennessee Williams, The Tennessee Williams Encyclopedia, and Tennessee Williams and Europe among others and is the co-editor of The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams and James Laughlin, forthcoming from W.W. Norton in 2017. He serves as Literary Director for the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival and is an advisor to the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival and The Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans. Keith began his career as an actor starring in Sam Shepard‘s Geography of a Horse Dreamer, the plays of Peter Hedges, in many plays at Ellen Stewart‘s La MaMa E.T.C., as well as The Public, Milwaukee Rep., Great Lakes Theater Festival, INTAR, Champlain Shakespeare, P.S. 122, Dixon Place, and Naked Angels, with directors including Tom O’Horgan, Edward Cornell, Terry Gilliam, John Vaccaro, Jeff Weiss, Sharon Ott, and Clifford Williams. The Creative Producer for the Drama League-nominated Off-Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams‘ comedy The Mutilated directed by Cosmin Chivu, Keith has also served as a dramaturg for The Sundance Institute Theater Lab with the Mabou Mines, a judge for The Kennedy Center College Theater Festival, and reader for the Yale Drama Prize. He has taught theater and acting at Ohio University and Lee Strasberg Institute, currently at Pace University and the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School.

David Savran is a specialist in twentieth and twenty-first century U.S. theatre, musical theatre, popular culture, and social theory. He is the author of eight books, whose wide-ranging subjects include The Wooster Group, Tennessee Williams, Paula Vogel, Tony Kushner, white masculinity, music theatre, and middlebrow cultural production. His most recent book is Highbrow/Lowdown: Theater, Jazz, and the Making of the New Middle Class, the winner of the Joe A. Callaway Prize. He has, in addition, published two collections of interviews with playwrights and has served as a judge for the Obie Awards and the Lucille Lortel Awards and was a juror for the 2011 and 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Drama. He is the former editor of the Journal of American Drama and Theatre and is the Vera Mowry Roberts Distinguished Professor of Theatre at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.

Annette J. Saddik is Professor of English and Theatre at the City University of New York, where she specializes in twentieth- and twenty-first century drama and performance, and focuses on the work of Tennessee Williams. Her most recent book, Tennessee Williams and the Theatre of Excess: The Strange, The Crazed, The Queer (Cambridge University Press, 2015) contextualizes Williams’ plays, particularly the late work, through what she terms a “theatre of excess,” which seeks liberation through exaggeration, chaos, and ambivalent laughter. Her other books include Contemporary American Drama (2007), a study of the postmodern performance of American identity on the stage since World War Two; The Politics of Reputation: The Critical Reception of Tennessee Williams‘ Later Plays (1999), which was the first exploration of Williams’ post-1961 reputation; and The Traveling Companion and Other Plays (2008), an edited collection of Williams’ previously unpublished late plays. Dr. Saddik has also published essays on contemporary playwrights in several journals and anthologies, and serves on the boards of The Tennessee Williams Annual Review and the Journal of Contemporary Drama in English. In 2015 she was the recipient of Eastern Michigan University’s McAndless Distinguished Professor Award.

Review: Tennessee Williams 1982 – two-one acts premiere

Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company premiere two one-acts as Tennessee Williams 1982

Kate Skinner is riveting as the female lead in the world premiere of A Recluse and His Guest, and in the New York premiere of The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde

Now through March 13, official opening night is February 21

Walker Space, at 46 Walker Street, is a walker’s a five minute stroll from the Canal St. R and Q stop.

Tennessee Williams 1982 Kate Skinner Patrick Darwin Williams                                            photos: Antonis Achilleos 

The cautionary and relatively gentle folktale of “The Recluse and His Guest” is paired with “The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde,” an absurdist piece that is as kinetic as it is brutally funny, profane, and bordering on the obscene. It is hard to imagine two pieces being more different, coming from the same mind in the same year.

Read the Full Review

Tennessee Williams One Acts Ready for Premiere

Tennesee Williams one acts

TENNESSEE WILLIAMS 1982: The World Premiere of A Recluse and His Guest and The New York Premiere of The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde.

It’s time to get your tickets. Don’t let it pass you by.

Previews are discounted, Feb. 14, 15, 16, & 18, 19, 20.

Opening night is sold out.

The show runs Wed. through Sun. at 7:30, Saturdays at 3:00 through March 13th.

Go to: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2474773

“These are two one-act plays written in 1982, the year before Williams died. He was not writing for the critics or for Broadway at that point, he was writing for an experimental theater that frequently saw him as establishment. While you will recognize his poetry, his vision was reaching much farther into the future.” – Thomas Keith, Williams scholar, editor, author.

About the Artists

“Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company is dedicated to strengthening the legacy of the American Theatre with dynamic, affordable, programming that examines the influences of the past on the present and future of our art form.”

Cosmin Chivu (director) is a Romanian-born theater artist, currently based in New York City, with an international career of award-winning productions. He has directed over 50 professional and university productions in America, Austria, England, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania and Thailand, most recently Beautiful Province by Clarence Coo (LCT3), winner of the 2012 Yale New Drama Series, Something Cloudy Something Clear by Tennessee Williams at The Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, a staged reading of Our Class by Tadeusz Slobodzianek at The Temple Emanu-El, Skirball Center, and the Off Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams‘ The Mutilated starring Mink Stole and Penny Arcade, which was nominated for a Drama League Award for Best Revival in 2013. Chivu is a lifetime member of the Actors Studio, a member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab, an alumnus of the Old Globe’s Jack O’Brien fellowship and the founder of InterArt Theatre Group. Chivu is currently the Head of B.A. Acting/Directing Program, International Performance Ensemble at Pace University Performing Arts in New York City. He holds a Masters in Directing from the Actors Studio Drama School, New School University, NYC and a B.A. in Acting from the G. Enescu Art Academy, Romania. Visit cosminchivu.com to learn more.

“The vital truths Williams’ reveals in these two one-acts are still present in raw and essential ways.”  “In fact, more that 30 years later, the plays feel more potent than ever-the compassion, the poetic fire, and the heartbreaking vision of American’s greatest playwright speak loudly in these compact works.”

Kate Skinner (Mme. Le Monde / Nevrika) has starred on Broadway in The Graduate and Uncle Vanya (with Tom Courtenay). Off-Broadway credits include Honey Brown Eyes, The Mapmaker’s Sorrow, Ashes to Ashes, and Marvin’s Room. National Tours include Lend Me A Tenor and The Graduate. Most recent regional credits include All My Sons (Swine Palace), Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 with Stacy Keach (Shakespeare Theatre), Other Dessert Cities (Pioneer Theatre), Boeing Boeing (Engeman Theatre), Doubt & Agnes of God (ATC/Chicago), The Alchemist (Shakespeare Theatre), Noises Off (Denver Center Theatre), Uncle Vanya with Peter Dinklage (Bard SummerScape), Rabbit Hole (Cleveland Playhouse), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Shakespeare Santa Cruz/Syracuse Stage) and Ah, Wilderness! (Guthrie Theatre). Her TV & film credits include The Affair, Unforgettable, Blue Bloods, all versions of Law & Order numerous times, several soap operas, Mona Lisa Smile, The Rage: Carrie II and Down The Shore (opposite James Gandolfini). She is married to author/actor Ron McLarty.

Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company Website: http://playhousecreatures.org/

Tennesee Williams 1982 in 2016, at NYC Theater

A pair of 1982 one-act plays by the legendary Tennessee Williams to be produced by Playhouse Creatures Theatre Company.

World premiere of A Recluse and His Guest and the New York Premiere of The Remarkable Rooming-House of Mme. Le Monde presented in a single evening, directed by Cosmin Chivu.

The Romanian-born Chivu received acclaim by critics and Willams scholars alike for his 2013 revival of  The Mutilated. Performances for the uppcoming works begin February 14, running at Walkerspace, 46 Walker St., Manhattan, and running through March 13, with the official opening set for February 21st.

Completed the year before Tennessee Williams died, “…these two chamber pieces epitomize the theatrical imagination the playwright employed throughout his long writing career combined with the freedom he found later in life. Crisply written black comedies, these fierce plays center on the demands of unlikely human relationships in exotic locales fraught with tension.”

“The vital truths Williams’ reveals in these two one-acts are still present in raw and essential ways,” says director Chivu. “In fact, more that 30 years later, the plays feel more potent than ever-the compassion, the poetic fire, and the heartbreaking vision of American’s greatest playwright speak loudly in these compact works.”

Kate Skinner (The Graduate, Uncle Vanya) will portray the leading roles in each play, with an ensemble cast and full design team TBA.

Full Press Release HERE

Playhouse Creature’s Official Site HERE

My in-depth analysis and review of Playhouse Creature’s Evening of Tennessee Williams Directors, featuring Austin Pendleton and Emily Mann HERE

Eli Wallach Remembered

Here follows my personal reminiscence of Eli Wallach, who died on Tuesday at the age of 98.

When I met him almost five years ago, Eli Wallach was being held up by two persons who were preparing to usher him toward the exit at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where the elderly actor had read with his daughter from Tennessee Williams’ Mister Paradise as part of the ceremonies inducting the dramatist into the cathedral’s Poet’s Corner.

Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, Thomas Keith

Anne Jackson, Thomas Keith, Eli Wallach

For many years, the bulletin board over my desk had a brown and faded copy of a New York Times editorial published just after I arrived in New York City from graduate school. Written by Eli Wallach and his wife Anne Jackson, it concerned their crushed dream of opening a rep company at the South Street Seaport that would offer tickets at affordable prices. It stated that the theatrical establishment would not permit this, since Broadway relied on the half-price booth for its true income, and therefore ticket face value had to remain high, so as to help insure profitable productions. The editorial was basically an apology to New York City for the Wallachs being unable to do what they still felt would have been the right thing.

But I had admired Eli Wallach long before I became aware that his heart was in the right place.

As a child, my favorite movie was The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, followed closely by the Magnificent Seven, which I could practically recite from memory, and often did when acting out Wallach’s death scene. It was years later that I recognized the profoundly excellent craft and true artistry that earned him an Honorary Oscar in 2011, and which was demonstrated in films like The Misfits, and Baby Doll.

But he was admired even more for his work on the stage, at least by those fortunate enough to have seen him. I never did so, and wasn’t even born when he originated the role I most wished I could have experienced in person.

And so, that evening in the cathedral, I strode past the likes of Vanessa Redgrave and Marian Seldes, Olympia Dukakas and Gregory Mosher, to interrupt the progress of the little old man being shuffled out of the way. I apologized for my intrusion, and then asked if he would sign the paperback book I had placed before him. I was unaware he would be there, and just happened to have a copy with me. Wallach looked down with a furrowed brow, which then leapt upwards as he read the title, Camino Real.

Produced between The Rose Tattoo and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Camino Real was developed at the Actor’s Studio and featured Wallach in the lead role of Kilroy, the all-American boy who does not survive a visit to a corrupt banana republic right out of the Twilight Zone. A surreal dream pageant where the romantic spirit struggles for survival in the age of cold-hearted capitalism, the play was written and premiered on Broadway in the heart of the conventional, conservative 1950s. And being even more ahead of its time than many Williams’ plays, it promptly flopped.

And yet, the script contains such poetic beauty, and the ideals of compassion, justice and brotherhood espoused by characters no less than Lord Byron and Don Quixote, and the all-American boy, that I once carried it around for scraps of inspiration in the same way the narrator in Zorba the Greek totes his Dante. And it was directing Camino Real that became my Masters thesis in graduate school.

Eli Wallach looked up at me with his lips parted in surprise. He then returned to the book I was holding, putting his hand flat upon it, like a courtroom bible, before looking back at me to say, in that uniquely gathered voice of his, “This is a wonderful play!”

He began to stir, and suddenly aware of his bonds, looked at each of his handlers to repeat the urgent sentiment, “This is a wwwwWONderful play!!”

After scribbling his name on a leaf inside, he handed me the script, looked out at the small crowd gathering around him to proclaim, “I got to be Kilroy!”

“You got to create Kilroy.” I responded out of reflex.

Eli Wallach snapped his head toward me, peered into my eyes with a puzzling look that said, “Who ARE you, and how did you come by all this?” And then a change came over the old actor, as the crow’s feet melted away and he stood more erect with an expression of distinct pride.

A gleam came into his eye, and his lips twitched as his mouth searched for words around a flickering tongue, as if he was savoring the tasty memory of being 38 again and starring in his second major Tennessee Williams play on Broadway.

“Kazan would Wwwwork it up. And then we would shhhow it to Tennessee…” he said like a master storyteller, to the arc of listeners gathered before him. But just then, two more people pushed through the crowd to put a stop it and take him away.

He looked at me with the regret of a child whose play date has been cut short. “I’m sorry. I have to go.” He said to me, as if we were the only two people in the room. And I could tell, he truly wished we could go off together and continue our conversation.

“It’s OK.” I said. “We can talk more about it next time.” And his eyes replied, ‘Really? I hope so!’

I thought about that night, this past Monday, when I was attending a wonderful panel discussion on directing Tennessee Williams, featuring Emily Mann, Austin Pendleton and others, and moderated by Thomas Keith, the Williams scholar and editor, and my friend for nearly 40 decades, who also organized the evening in the cathedral.

I had sort of hoped that Eli Wallach would have been in attendance, among those others in the audience who had known the playwright well. I then got word that he had passed away the very next day.

“I worked with Eli and his wife Anne Jackson when they wrote a forward to the volume Mister Paradise and Other One-Act Plays. I’ve had the chance to meet many artists of stature, but few have had the natural electricity that Eli Wallach did.” That is how Thomas Keith put it, as we emailed each other with the sad news at just about the same time.

Now there will never be a next time for me and Eli. And I shall never walk under the stained glass of St. John the Divine again without saying to myself, “Kilroy Was Here.”

And that is one man’s word on…

The passing of Eli Wallach, actor, age 98