Commemorating the Southern playwright whose words spoke to the world on his 110th birthday.
by Cerith Mathias
Considered one of America’s greatest playwrights, Tennessee Williams and his work are being celebrated across the country today in honor of what would have been his 110th birthday.
Williams wrote many masterpieces, including “The Glass Menagerie,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “The Night of the Iguana.”
Born Thomas Lanier Williams on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi, Williams first found success with his 1944 play “The Glass Menagerie,” before going on to create some of the most significant and enduring characters of 20th-century theater. Following his successes during the late 1940s and ’50s—a period in which he won two Pulitzer Prizes—Williams fell out of favor with critics but continued to write and publish until his death in 1983. Much of his later work is now being re-evaluated, with theater producers drawn to Williams’ experimentation with form and theme.
Though his most famous characters are as deeply rooted in Southern soil as he himself was, his presentation of raw, uncut human emotion transcends borders and crosses cultures; it has universality unrivalled by his contemporaries. Without a doubt, his work is as achingly relevant today as it was in his heyday three-quarters of a century ago.
Here is a selection of events honoring Tennessee Williams’ birthday, taking place both in-person and online:
The annual Tennessee Williams/ New Orleans Literary Festival takes place online this year.
The five-day event celebrates all things Williams, with stars of stage and screen taking part in a tribute reading of his work, author interviews, panel discussions, scholars sessions, an abundance of theater and the festival’s famous Stella Yell. For program info, click here.
The Tennessee Williams Tribute of Columbus, Mississippi, celebrates the legacy of the playwright in the town where he was born.
Columbus’s annual Tennessee Williams birthday celebration takes place this year with a weekend of events in partnership with the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau. Events include a performance of “Mr. Williams and Miss Wood,” starring Broadway veteran Joel Vig, a birthday cake and coffee morning at Williams’ former home, and a book signing. For more information on the birthday celebrations, visit the Facebook page, and for theater tickets, go here or the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The island of Key West, where Tennessee Williams called home for more than 30 years is holding a month long birthday celebration in the scribe’s honor.
Comprising film nights, private tours of the Tennessee Williams Museum (advance booking essential) and a special online screening of “Tandy Talks Tennessee” with Broadway and film star Tandy Cronyn, whose mother Jessica Tandy first played Blanche Du Bois in the Broadway production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” For tickets and further information, click here.
La Femme Theatre Productions’ presentation of Tennessee Williams’s “The Night of the Iguana,” directed by Emily Mann and starring five-time Emmy nominee and Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad, was initially streamed this past December to raise money for The Actors Fund.
An encore streaming of the play begins on March 25 and will take place through March 28 to mark the 110th anniversary of Williams’ birth. Encore tickets range from $15-$250. To purchase tickets and for more information visit Stellartickets.com.
Cerith Mathias is a journalist, TV producer and festival director based in Wales, UK. She writes on arts and culture, with a particular interest in Southern literature. She’s a founding director of Cardiff Book Festival in the UK and has produced TV and radio programs for the BBC. Read her blog here and more of her work in Deep South here.