Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams

Arguably America’s greatest playwright, Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams in Mississippi on March 26, 1911. The son of a salesman and a Southern belle, Williams spent his much of his early childhood in the parsonage of his beloved grandfather, an Episcopal priest, but moved with his family to St. Louis, where he attended high school and began to write. Forced by his father to leave the University of Missouri and take a 9-to-5 job in a shoe factory, Williams became more and more determined to be a successful writer. He took classes at Washington University in St. Louis, and wrote his first plays. In 1938 he earned a degree from the University of Iowa, where he wrote Spring Storm. Of the theater he remarked: “know it’s the only thing that saved my life.” By 1939, he had adopted the name of Tennessee Williams, written Battle of Angels (for which he received a Rockefeller Foundation grant) and found his loyal and intrepid agent Audrey Wood. His first great success came in 1944 with his “memory play,” The Glass Menagerie, which opened in Chicago to rave reviews and moved to Broadway, where it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for best play of the year. A Streetcar Named Desire, his next play, was a huge success in 1947 and established Williams as the premiere American playwright of his generation. Between 1948 and 1959, he enjoyed a string of Broadway successes, including Summer and Smoke (1948), The Rose Tattoo (1951), Camino Real (1953), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Orpheus Descending (1957) and Sweet Bird of Youth (1959). By 1959 he had won two Pulitzer Prizes, three New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, and a Tony Award. Movies were made of many of his plays and brought him huge success, renown and wealth. He continued to write voraciously, every day, producing novels, stories, and many new, radical and inventive plays, which did not always meet with the public’s approval, but which are now being revived and re-staged to great acclaim. As well as being astonishingly talented and prolific, Tennessee Williams was a man of considerable personal courage, willing to be open about being a gay man at a time when few were. Tennessee Williams is a cornerstone of New Directions, as we publish everything he wrote in his storied career. He is also our single bestselling author.

The Caterpillar Dogs and Other Early Stories

Fiction by Tennessee Williams

With a contribution by Tom Mitchell

These seven previously unpublished tales were penned by Thomas Lanier Williams of Missouri before he became Tennessee. His voice is unmistakable as he captures private moments in the lives of urban and rural Americans surviving the Great Depression, and the reliable idiosyncrasies and quiet dignity of Williams’s eccentrics are already present. Consider the diminutive octogenarian of “The Caterpillar Dogs,” who may have just met her match in a pair of laughing Pekinese that refuse to surrender to her demands; the retired evangelist in “Every Friday Nite Is Kiddies Nite,” who receives a message from God to move to St.…
More Information

The Glass Menagerie: The High School Edition

Theater by Tennessee Williams

With a contribution by Kate Walker Robert Bray

No play in the modern theater has so captured the imagination and heart of the American public as Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. Since its premier in Chicago in 1944, Menagerie has been the bravura piece for great actresses from Laurette Taylor to Jessica Tandy and Joanne Woodward, and it is studied and performed in classrooms and theaters around the world. The Glass Menagerie (in the reading text the author preferred) is now available with an introduction by Robert Bray, which reappraises the play more than half a century after it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award.…
More Information

Moise and the World of Reason

An erotic, sensual, and comic novel that was a generation ahead of its time, Moise and the World of Reason has at its center the need of three people for each other: Lance, the beautiful black figure skater full of love and lust for young men as well as a craving for drugs; the nameless gay young narrator, a runaway writer from Alabama who lives near the piers of New York City’s West Village, c.…
More Information

Now the Cats with Jeweled Claws

Theater by Tennessee Williams

Edited by Thomas Keith

With a contribution by Thomas Keith

This new collection of fantastic, lesser-known one-acts contains some of Williams’s most potent, comical and disturbing short plays―Upper East Side ladies dine out during the apocalypse in Now the Cats With Jeweled Claws, while the poet Hart Crane is confronted by his mother at the bottom of the ocean in Steps Must Be Gentle. Five previously unpublished plays include A Recluse and His Guest, and The Strange Play,in which we witness a woman’s entire life lived within a twenty-four-hour span.…
More Information

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone

The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone is vintage Tennessee Williams. Published in 1950, his first novel was acclaimed by Gore Vidal as “splendidly written, precise, short, complete, and fine.” It is the story of a wealthy, fiftyish American widow recently a famous stage beauty, but now “drifting.” The novel opens soon after her husband’s death and her retirement from the theatre, as Mrs. Stone tries to adjust to her aimless new life in Rome.…
More Information

Orpheus Descending & Suddenly Last Summer

Orpheus Descending is a love story and a plea for spiritual and artistic freedom, as well as a portrait of racism and intolerance. When a charismatic drifter, Valentine Xavier, arrives in a Mississippi Delta town with his guitar and snakeskin jacket, he becomes a trigger for hatred and a magnet for three outcast souls: shopkeeper Lady Torrance, “lewd vagrant” Carol Cutrere, and religious visionary Vee Talbot. Suddenly Last Summer_—_described by its author as a “short morality play”—has become one of his most notorious works, due in no small part to the film version starring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Montgomery Clift that shocked audiences in 1959.…
More Information

The Glass Menagerie (Centennial Edition)

Theater by Tennessee Williams

With a contribution by Tony Kushner

The Glass Menagerie marked a crucial turning point in American theater, and forever changed the life of its then unknown author. Williams’s elegiac masterpiece brought a radical new lyricism to Broadway — the tragedy, fragility, and tenderness of this “memory play” have made it one of America’s most powerful, timeless, and compelling plays. The introduction by Tony Kushner sparkles with the kind of rich, unique insight that only a fellow playwright could convery.…
More Information

The Magic Tower And Other One-Act Plays

Theater by Tennessee Williams

Edited by Thomas Keith

With a contribution by Terrence McNally

Here are portraits of American life during the Great Depression and after, populated by a hopelessly hopeful chorus girl, a munitions manufacturer ensnared in a love triangle, a rural family that deals “justice” on its children, an overconfident mob dandy, a poor couple who quarrel to vanquish despair, a young “spinster” enthralled by the impulse of rebellion, and, in “The Magic Tower,” a passionate artist and his wife whose youth and optimism are not enough to protect their “dream marriage.…
More Information

The Rose Tattoo

Theater by Tennessee Williams

With a contribution by John Patrick Shanley

Larger than life―a fable, a Greek tragedy, a comedy, a melodrama―the Tony Award-winning The Rose Tattoo is a valentine from Tennessee Williams to anyone who has ever been in love. In the midst of her anger and grief over the news that her late husband had been unfaithful, Serafina delle Rosa is courted by a Sicilian truck driver who has the virile body of her husband and the face of a clown—his name, Mangiacavallo, means “eat a horse” in Italian.…
More Information

Tales of Desire

“I cannot write any sort of story,” said Tennessee Williams to Gore Vidal, “unless there is at least one character in it for whom I have physical desire.” The five transgressive Tales of Desire—“The Mysteries of the Joy Rio,” “One Arm,” “Desire and the Black Masseur,” “Hard Candy,” and “The Killer Chicken and the Closet Queen”—show the iconic playwright at his outrageous best. One of the world’s greatest playwrights (The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire) Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) was also a master of the short story with “a narrative tone of voice that is totally compelling” (Gore Vidal).…
More Information

The Night of the Iguana

Tennessee Williams wrote: “This is a play about love in its purest terms.” It is also Williams’s robust and persuasive plea for endurance and resistance in the face of human suffering. The earthy widow Maxine Faulk is proprietress of a rundown hotel at the edge of a Mexican cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean where the defrocked Rev. Shannon, his tour group of ladies from a West Texas women’s college, the self-described New England spinster Hannah Jelkes and her ninety-seven-year-old grandfather (“the world’s oldest living and practicing poet”), a family of grotesque Nazi vacationers, and an iguana tied by its throat to the veranda, all find themselves assembled for a rainy and turbulent night.…
More Information

New Selected Essays: Where I Live

Literature by Tennessee Williams

With a contribution by John Lahr

For most of his Broadway plays Tennessee Williams composed an essay, most often for The New York Times, to be published just prior to opening—something to whet the theatergoers’ appetites and to get the critics thinking. Many of these were collected in the 1978 volume Where I Live, which is now expanded by noted Williams scholar John S. Bak to include all of Williams’ theater essays, biographical pieces, introductions and reviews.…
More Information

Sweet Bird Of Youth

Theater by Tennessee Williams

With a contribution by Lanford Wilson

Tennessee Williams knew how to tell a good tale, and this steamy, wrenching play about a faded movie star, Alexandra Del Lago, and about the lost innocence and corruption of Chance Wayne, reveals the dark side of the American dreams of youth and fame. Distinguished American playwright Lanford Wilson has written an insightful Introduction for this edition. Also included are Williams’ original Foreword to the play; the one-act play “The Enemy: Time”—the germ for the full-length version, published here for the first time; an essay by Tennessee Williams scholar, Colby H.…
More Information

Camino Real

Fiction by Tennessee Williams

With a contribution by John Guare

In this phantasmagorical play, the Camino Real is a dead end, a police state in a vaguely Latin American country, and an inescapable condition. Characters from history and literature—Don Quixote, Casanova, Camille, Lord Byron—inhabit a place where corruption and indifference have immobilized and nearly destroyed the human spirit. Then, into this netherworld, the archetypal Kilroy arrives—a sailor and all-American guy with “a heart as big as the head of baby.” Celebrated American playwright John Guare has written an illuminative Introduction for this edition.…
More Information

A House Not Meant To Stand

Theater by Tennessee Williams

Edited by Thomas Keith

With a contribution by Thomas Keith Gregory Mosher

Christmas 1982: Cornelius and Bella McCorkle of Pascagoula, Mississippi, return home one midnight in a thunderstorm from the Memphis funeral of their older son to a house and a life literally falling apart—daughter Joanie is in an insane asylum and their younger son Charlie is upstairs having sex with his pregnant, holy-roller girlfriend as the McCorkles enter. Cornelius, who has political ambitions and a litany of health problems, is trying to find a large amount of moonshine money his gentle wife Bella has hidden somewhere in their collapsing house, but his noisy efforts are disrupted by a stream of remarkable characters, both living and dead.…
More Information

The Traveling Companion & Other Plays

Even with his great commercial success, Tennessee Williams always considered himself an experimental playwright. In the last 25 years of his life his explorations increased—especially in shorter forms and one-act plays—as Williams created performance pieces with elements of theater of the absurd, theater of cruelty, theater of the ridiculous, as well as motifs from Japanese forms such as Noh and Kabuki, high camp and satire, and with innovative visual and verbal styles that were entirely his own.…
More Information


Literature by Tennessee Williams

With a contribution by John Waters

When Memoirs was first published in 1975, it created quite a bit of turbulence in the media—though long self-identified as a gay man, Williams’ candor about his love life, sexual encounters, and drug use was found shocking in and of itself, and such revelations by America’s greatest living playwright were called “a raw display of private life” by The New York Times Book Review. As it turns out, thirty years later, Williams’ look back at his life is not quite so scandalous as it once seemed; he recalls his childhood in Mississippi and St.…
More Information

The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams Vol. II: 1946-1957

Volume I of The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams ends with the unexpected triumph of The Glass Menagerie. Volume II extends the correspondence from 1946 to 1957, a time of intense creativity which saw the production of A Streetcar Named Desire, The Rose Tattoo, Camino Real, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Following the immense success of Streetcar, Williams struggles to retain his prominence with a prodigious outpouring of stories, poetry, and novels as well as plays.…
More Information

The Collected Poems Of Tennessee Williams

Few writers achieve success in more than one genre, and yet if Tennessee Williams had never written a single play he would still be known as a distinguished poet. The excitement, compassion, lyricism, and humor that epitomize his writing for the theater are all present in his poetry. It was as a young poet that Williams first came to the attention of New Directions’ founder James Laughlin, who initially presented some of Williams’ verse in the New Directions anthology Five Young American Poets 1944 (before he had any reputation as a playwright), and later published the individual volumes of Williams’s poetry, In the Winter of Cities (1956, revised in 1964) and Androgyne, Mon Amour (1977).…
More Information

Mister Paradise & Other One Act Plays

This collection of previously unpublished one-acts includes some of Tennessee Williams’s most poignant and hilarious characters: the tough and outrageous drag queens of And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens…; the betrayed wife who refuses to take a lover in The Fat Man’s Wife; and the extravagant mistress who cheats on her married man in The Pink Bedroom. Most of these plays were written in the 1930s and early 1940s, when Williams was already flexing his formindable theatrical imaginations: lovers scramble for quick assignations in the closed movie theater balcony of These Are the Stairs You’ve Got to Watch; Chekovian-style family ennui in Summer at the Lake leads to heartbreak; and in Thank You, Kind Spirit a mulatto spiritualist from New Orleans’ French Quarter is visciously exposed as a fraud – or is she?…
More Information

A Streetcar Named Desire

It is a very short list of 20th-century American plays that continue to have the same power and impact as when they first appeared—A Streetcar Named Desire is one of those plays. The story of the fading and desperate Blanche DuBois and how her sensuous and brutal brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, pushes her over the edge is now classic. Who better than Arthur Miller, America’s elder statesman of the theater (Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, Broken Glass, Resurrection Blues), to write as a witness to the lightning that struck American culture when Williams’s singular style of poetic dialogue, violence, compassion, and dramatic sexuality was first encountered in the form of A Streetcar Named Desire?…
More Information

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

The sensuality and excitement of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof first heated up Broadway in 1955 with its gothic American story of two brothers (and their wives) vying for the inheritance of their dying father, Big Daddy, amid a whirlwind of sexuality untethered (in the person of Maggie the Cat), and the burden of love repressed (in the person of her husband, Brick Pollitt). Williams, as he so often did with his plays, rewrote Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for many years—this version was prepared by Williams for the American Shakespeare Festival production in 1974, with all the changes that satisfied the playwright’s desire for a definitive text.…
More Information

Candles To The Sun

Theater by Tennessee Williams

With a contribution by William Jay Smith

More Information

The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams Vol. I: 1920-1945

When first published in 2000, Volume I of The Selected Letters of Tennessee Williams was hailed as “indispensable” (Choice), a “carefully researched, fully documented study” (Buffalo News), and “a model edition of a significant set of letters by one of America’s leading writers” (MLA citation for the biennial Morton N. Cohen Award). Now available as a paperbook, it is hoped that this volume will help a widening circle of readers appreciate that the great American playwright was also “a prodigy of the letter” (Allan JaIon, San Francisco Chronicle).…
More Information

Fugitive Kind

Fugitive Kind, one of Tennessee Williams’s earliest plays, is one of his richest in dramatic material. Written in 1937 when the playwright was still Thomas Lanier Williams, Fugitive Kind introduces the character who will inhabit most of his later plays: the marginal man or woman who, through no personal fault, is a misfit in society but who demonstrates an admirable will to survive. Signature Tennessee Williams characters, situations and even the title (which was used as The Fugitive Kind for the 1960 film based on Orpheus Descending) have their genesis here.…
More Information

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. VIII

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams presents, in matching format, the plays of one of America’s most consistently influential and innovative dramatists. The first five volumes of this ongoing series contain Williams’s full-length plays through 1975 and, in addition to the texts themselves, include original cast listings and production notes. Volumes 6 and 7 contain Williams’s collected shorter plays. Now available as a paperback, Volume 8 adds to the series four full-length plays written and produced during the last decade of Williams’s life.…
More Information

Eight Mortal Ladies Possessed

In his earlier collections, One Arm (1948) and Hard Candy (1954), Tennessee Williams established himself as a master of short fiction, bringing to the genre the same qualities of compassion and psychological insight that he has shown as a dramatist. His unique vision and technical skill are again evident in the humane portraits of Eight Mortal Ladies Possessed. Treating of loneliness and rejection, of varying degrees of defeat or triumph, the narratives range in tone from “Oriflamme,” whose heroine evokes Alma of Summer and Smoke as a touching study in feminine frailty, to the hilarious and bawdy tale of “Miss Coynte of Greene,” a lady who, refusing to be trapped as a respectable old maid caring for an irascible grandmother, launches herself upon a life of sexual adventure––and thoroughly enjoys it.…
More Information

Small Craft Warnings

Tennessee Williams’s Small Craft Warnings is based on one of the shorter works, “Confessional,” originally published in his collection Dragon Country in 1969. Expanded into a full “evening,” it was produced off-Broadway in the spring of 1972, and audiences and critics alike were moved by one of the playwright’s most searching works. Monk’s Place, a bar somewhere on the Pacific coast of California, provides the setting in which a group of ordinary, sometimes defeated, and often courageous castoffs grapple with existence and survival.…
More Information

Vieux Carre

Tennessee Williams’s Vieux Carré is not emotion recollected in tranquility but emotion re-created with all the pain, compassion, and wry humor of the playwright’s own 1938 sojourn in the New Orleans French Quarter vividly intact. The drama takes its form from the shifting scenes of memory, and Williams’s surrogate self invites us to focus, in turn, on the various inhabitants of his dilapidated rooming house in the Vieux Carré––the comically desperate landlady, Mrs.…
More Information

Stairs To The Roof

Sixty years ago a young Tennessee Williams wrote a play looking toward the year 2001. Stairs to the Roof is a rare and different Williams work: a love story, a comedy, and an experiment in meta-theatre with a touch of early science fiction. Tennessee Williams called Stairs to the Roof “a prayer for the wild of heart who are kept in cages” and dedicated it to “all the little wage earners of the world.…
More Information

Spring Storm

When Tennessee Williams read Spring Storm aloud to his playwriting class at the University of Iowa in 1938, he was met with silent embarrassment. According to the journal he kept at the time, the rejection “badly deflated” the young playwright, so much so that he “felt like going off the deep end." Tom’s earlier journal comment that the play “is well-constructed, no social propaganda, and is suitable for the commercial stage” seems accurate enough in 1999, but was woefully naive deep in the Depression when the play’s sexual explicitness––particularly its matter-of-fact acceptance of a woman’s right to her own sexuality––would have been seen as not only shocking but also politically radical.…
More Information

The Glass Menagerie

No play in the modern theatre has so captured the imagination and heart of the American public as Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie. As Williams’s first popular success, it launched the brilliant, if somewhat controversial, career of our pre-eminent lyric playwright. Since its premiere in Chicago in 1944, with the legendary Laurette Taylor in the role of Amanda, the play has been the bravura piece for great actresses from Jessica Tandy to Joanne Woodward, and is studied and performed in classrooms and theatres around the world.…
More Information

Not About Nightingales

In early 1998, sixty years after it was written, one of Tennessee Williams’ first full-length plays, Not About Nightingales, was premiered by Britain’s Royal National Theatre and was immediately hailed as “one of the most remarkable theatrical discoveries of the last quarter century (London Evening Standard). Brought to the attention of the director Trevor Nunn by the actress Vanessa Redgrave (who has contributed a Foreword to this edition), “this early work…changed our perception of a major writer and still packs a hefty political punch” (London Independent).…
More Information

The Notebook Of Trigorin

At twenty-four, Tennessee Williams discovered Chekhov and felt an immediate affinity with the Russian’s art and life. Both playwrights gravitated to psychologically acute and compassionate explorations of the tortured lives and frustrations of closely bound groups of characters; both mixed the comedy and tragedy of daily life with lyric intensity. Tennessee Williams’ journey from first reading Chekhov’s The Sea Gull to his adaptation of that play as The Notebook of Trigorin mirrored his own creative life.…
More Information

Something Cloudy Something Clear

Something Cloudy, Something Clear is, as Tennessee Williams stated, “one of the most personal plays I’ve ever written.” Set in Provincetown, Cape Cod, in 1940, the play records Williams’ experiences during that “pivotal summer when I took sort of a crash course in growing up.” On the brink of becoming a successful playwright, Williams was also to “come thoroughly out of the closet” and meet Kip, his first great love. Something Cloudy, Something Clear brilliantly reimagines that long ago time, now recollected through the filter of all the playwright’s successes and failures, joys and regrets.…
More Information

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. VII

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in matching format the plays of one of America’s most persistently influential and innovative dramatists. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes for all full-length plays. Now available as a New Directions paperbook, Volume VII: In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel and Other Plays, contains Williams’s shorter plays of the late ’50s and ’60s, many of them published in Dragon Country in 1970.…
More Information

The Collected Stories of Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams’ Collected Stories combines the four short-story volumes published during Williams’ lifetime with previously unpublished or uncollected stories. Arranged chronologically, the forty-nine stories, when taken together with the memoir of his father that serves as a preface, not only establish Williams as a major American fiction writer of the twentieth century, but also, in Gore Vidal’s view, constitute the real autobiography of Williams’ “art and inner life.”
More Information

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. IV

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in matching format the plays of one of America’s most persistently influential and innovative dramatists. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes for all full-length plays. Now available as a New Directions Paperbook, Volume IV contains a wonderfully diverse collection of Williams’s works. Sweet Bird of Youth (1959) is a dramatic study of a fading Hollywood actress, who tries to recapture her youth through a young drifter half her age.…
More Information

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. VI

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in matching format the plays of one of America’s most influential and innovative dramatists. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes for all full-length plays. Now available as a New Directions paperbook, Volume VI: 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and Other Short Plays, contains sixteen one-act plays in Williams’ early, more realistic style––eleven from the original 1953 edition of 27 Wagons, two added to the 1966 paper edition of the same title, and three added to the 1981 cloth edition of Volume VI.…
More Information

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. III

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in a matching format the plays of one of Americas most influential and innovative dramatists. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes. Volume Ill of the series includes Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955), Orpheus Descending (1957), and Suddenly Last Summer (1958). The first, which won both the Pulitzer Prize and Drama Critics Award, has proved every bit as successful as William’s earlier A Streetcar Named Desire.…
More Information

Baby Doll & Tiger Tail

In 1956, Time magazine called Tennessee Williams’ Baby Doll “just possibly the dirtiest American-made motion picture that has ever been legally exhibited.” The taut, vivid drama of a voluptuous child-bridge, who refuses to consummate her marriage to an older, down-on-his-luck cotton-gin owner in Tiger Tail County, Mississippi until she is “ready,” has gained in humor and pathos over the years as society has caught up with the author’s savagely honest view of bigotry and lust in the rural South.…
More Information

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. II

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in a matching format the plays of a genius of the American theatre. Arranged in chronological order this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes. The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, a play in three acts, was intended as an alternate to Summer and Smoke (1948), but was never produced on Broadway. These two versions of the same play introduce Volume 2.…
More Information

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. V

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in a matching format the plays of a genius of the American theatre. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes. Leading off Volume 5 is The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (1964), a play that explores the tenacity of the human body and spirit when confronted with death. The more light-hearted Kingdom of Earth (The Seven Descents of Myrtle) was first produced on Broadway in 1968: the text offered here incorporates changes the author made for its 1975 revival.…
More Information

The Theatre Of Tennessee Williams, Vol. I

The Theatre of Tennessee Williams brings together in a matching format the plays of one of America’s most influential and innovative dramatists. Arranged in chronological order, this ongoing series includes the original cast listings and production notes. Volume 1 leads with Battle of Angels, Williams’ first produced play (1940), an early version of Orpheus Descending. This is followed by the texts of his first great popular successes: The Glass Menagerie (1945) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), which established Williams’s reputation once and for all as a genius of the modern American theatre.…
More Information

The Red Devil Battery Sign

It is not widely enough appreciated that in his late plays Tennessee Williams had become a largely experimental playwright who, in the words of one London critic of The Red Devil Battery Sign, “bursts the seams of the theatre.” Williams is our great poetic visionary and in The Red Devil Battery Sign the vision has become nightmare, the nightmare of a corrupt and decadent civilization on the brink of destruction. The Red Devil Battery Company (which first appeared in the 1966 novella, “The Knightly Quest”) is Williams’ symbol for the military-industrial complex and all the dehumanizing trends it represents from mindless cocktail party chatter to bribery of officials, to assassination plots directed against those who won’t play the game, to attempted coups by right-wing zealots.…
More Information

Stopped Rocking And Other Screenplays

Written at various times over the last twenty-five years but never produced, the four scripts included in Tennessee Williams’s Stopped Rocking and Other Screenplays encompass both the realistic style of “the early Williams” (the author’s quotes) and the more experimental dramatic devices of many of his “later” plays. Two screenplays from the fifties, All Gaul Is Divided and The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, remained in the files of Williams’s New Orleans apartment until a thorough cleaning uncovered them in the mid-seventies.…
More Information

Clothes For A Summer Hotel

The late Tennessee Williams’s Clothes for a Summer Hotel made its New York debut in 1980. Here Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, often seen as symbols of the doomed youth of the jazz age, become two halves of a single creative psyche, each part alternately feeding and then devouring the other. Set in Highland Hospital near Asheville, North Carolina, where Zelda spent her last confinement, this “ghost play” begins several years after Scott’s death of a heart attack in California.…
More Information

Lovely Sunday For Creve Coeur

It is a warm June morning in the West End of St. Louis in the mid-thirties––a lovely Sunday for a picnic at Creve Coeur Lake. But Dorothea, one of Tennessee Williams’s most engaging “marginally youthful,” forever hopeful Southern belles, is home waiting for a phone call from the principal of the high school where she teaches civics––the man she expects to fulfill her deferred dreams of romance and matrimony. Williams’s unerring dialogue reveals each of the four characters of A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur with precision and clarity: Dorothea, who does even her “setting-up exercises” with poignant flutters; Bodey, her German roommate, who wants to pair Dotty with her beer-drinking twin, Buddy, thereby assuring nieces, nephews, and a family for both herself and Dotty; Helena, a fellow teacher, with the “eyes of a predatory bird,” who would like to “rescue” Dotty from her vulgar, common surroundings and substitute an elegant but sterile spinster life; and Miss Gluck, a newly orphaned and distraught neighbor, whom Bodey comforts with coffee and crullers while Helena mocks them both.…
More Information

The Two Character Play

Reality and fantasy are interwoven with terrifying power as two actors on tour––brother and sister––find themselves deserted by the troupe in a decrepit “state theatre in an unknown state.” Faced (perhaps) by an audience expecting a performance, they enact “The Two-Character Play”––an illusion within an illusion, an “out cry” from isolation, panic, and fear. “I think it is my most beautiful play since Streetcar,” Tennessee Williams said, “and I’ve never stopped working on it… It is a cri de coeur, but then all creative work, all life, in a sense is a cri de coeur.…
More Information

Dragon Country

“Dragon country, the country of pain, is an uninhabitable country which is inhabited.” So Tennessee Williams expressed the theme of “endured but unendurable pain” which runs through all of these eight plays. The most recent among them, In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel, shows an artist, worn to a nervous ruin by a breakthrough in his painting technique, abandoned and destroyed by his witch of a wife. From earlier in the Sixties we have the two “Slapstick Tragedies”: The Mutilated––a once-beautiful woman whose breast has been removed is blackmailed by her “friend”––and The Gnädiges Fräulein––a “celebrated soubrette” is reduced to battling “cocaloony birds” for discarded fish on a Florida Key.…
More Information

Hard Candy

Hard Candy contains Tennessee Williams’s short stories written after the publication of his first collection of short fiction, One Arm, and before the stories appearing in The Knightly Quest. These volumes have established him as an original, compelling, and honest master of the short story. The stories in Hard Candy display Mr. Williams’s mastery of several very different styles. “Three Players of a Summer Game,” for instance, is as powerful and moving a study of the disintegration of an individual as A Streetcar Named Desire.…
More Information

27 Wagons Full of Cotton

The thirteen one-act plays collected in this volume include some of Tennessee Williams’s finest and most powerful work. They are full of the perception of life as it is, and the passion for life as it ought to be, which have made The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire classics of the American theater. Only one of these plays (The Purification) is written in verse, but in all of them the approach to character is by way of poetic revelation.…
More Information

In The Winter Of Cities

Tennessee Williams’s fame as a playwright has unjustly overshadowed his accomplishment in poetry. This paperback edition of In The Winter of Cities––his collected poems to 1962––permits a wider audience to know Williams the poet. The poems in this volume range from songs and short lyrics to personal statements of the greatest intensity and power. They are rich in imagery and illuminated by the psychological intuition which we know so well from Williams’s plays.…
More Information
Williams was always confronting the future; a shaman with a typewriter, he dug into the darkest depths of the American psyche in search of dramatic truths.
—Randy Gener, American Theater Magazine
In his stories Williams has something rather more rare than mere genius. He has a narrative tone of voice that is totally compelling.
—Gore Vidal
Williams’s ear for dialogue, his eye for character, and his dramatic gifts are as powerful in his stories as they are in his plays.
—John Berendt, The New York Times
Actors and audiences alike remain drawn, more 70 years later, to the dark corners and sticky places that Williams so fearlessly plundered, both as a playwright and as a person.
The 11th Hour
In A Recluse and His Guest, America’s most poetic playwright brings to life an entire relationship of depth and intimacy, from the first meeting to the last, in an astonishingly short amount of time.
—Todd Stuart Phillips, One Man’s World
The Demolition Downtown wrings laughter from the plight of a couple whose lives have been ruined by a new political order bent upon demolishing, literally and otherwise, the lives of its citizens.
—Eric Marchese, Backstage, Los Angeles
Williams was always confronting the future; a shaman with a typewriter, he dug into the darkest depths of the American psyche in search of dramatic truths.
—Randy Gener, American Theatre
I do not want to reveal too many of The Strange Play’s secrets—its embrace of a whimsical, ethereal, and, yes, strange, world is most pleasing when it is a surprise to the audience.
—Bess Rowen, The Huffington Post
The fact that This Is the Peaceable Kingdom takes place in New York puts a whole different spin on the play and gives the poetry a different kind of starkness.
—Mallery Avidon, Brooklyn Rail
The Strange Play and Ivan’s Widow make for intriguing theater, both in their own right and as a part of the legacy of Tennessee Williams—a playwright who prowled the world’s dark corners long before, and long after, he shone under the bright lights of Broadway.
—Brad Rhines, The New Orleans Advocate
Steps Must Be Gentle provides a tantalizing peek into Williams’s preoccupation with death, suicide, and creativity.
—Tom Valeo, Chicago Reader
This absurdist satire introduces us to New York ladies who lunch. And yet theatergoers will still warmly recognize the unmistakable literary voice in Now the Cats with Jeweled Claws.
—Jason Zinnoman, The New York Times
From Williams, it seems, there are treasures to be plundered still.
—Laura Collins-Hughes, The New York Times
You won’t forget Now The Cats with Jeweled Claws—I’ve seen quite a few late-period Williams curios but this mesmerizing 1981 piece may be the most demented of them all.
—Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post
In A Recluse and His Guest, Williams skillfully breaks our hearts.
—David Clark, OUT Magazine
A Recluse and His Guest has remarkable language; indeed one listens for how the Master keeps showing up in late-career scripts.
—Hilton Als, The New Yorker
There are people who think that Camino Real was Tennessee Williams’ best play and I believe that they are right. It is a play torn out of a human soul.
—Clive Barnes, The New York Times
Mr. Williams is a master of the short play
—Clive Barnes, The New York Times
Now the Cats With Jeweled Claws is a loopy send-up of New York society, written in a gleefully absurdist mode.
—Bruce Weber, The New York Times
The novel bears the playwright’s familiar stamp on almost every page. And underlying the novel is Mr. Williams’s message that if people can only find a little love in the dark night—a little warmth, a little kindness, a hand extended across the chasm—they will be saved from the icy world of reason that so oppresses them
The New York Times
Lovely writing. Some of his descriptive passages unfold like dark flowers. There’s charm, grace, beauty here. Moise has the sound and feel of art.
The Washington Post
There is no such thing as ‘bad’ Tennessee Williams; only wounded, subtle, sad little songs of defeat like Moise that should jolt adventurous readers everywhere. You might laugh out loud in pleasure at this radical little novel. I sure did
—John Waters
Tennessee Williams’ best play.
The Guardian
Tennessee Williams saved my life.
—John Waters
I yearned for a bad influence and boy, was Tennessee one in the best sense of the word.
—John Waters
A raw display of private life.
The New York Times
You cannot read these letters without hearing Tennessee speaking them.
—Edward Albee
There may never be a better biography of Tennessee Williams than the one he inadvertently wrote in his letters.
—David Cuthbert, The Times-Picayune
These letters present a self-portrait of a brave man, harassed by his demons, yet always – in those days, with riveting power – trying to bend them to his artistic will.
—Richard Schickel, The New York Times Book Review
Tennessee Williams made much of the atmosphere of family violence that shaped his personality; he said less about the family eloquence that shaped his prose. The Dakins, Ottes, and Williamses who made up his family tree were well-educated and well-spoken. They were talkers. Williams grew up in an environment of fluency, in which Biblical imperative, Puritan platitude, classical allusion, patrician punctilio, and Negro homily were tumbled together in a rich linguistic brew.
—John Lahr
A compact and wry political gem, The Municipal Abattoir proves (as he said himself) that Williams was not asleep in the ’60s.
—Michael Kahn
Adam and Eve on a Ferry is delightfully absurd.
—John Simon, New York Magazine
Summer at the Lake bears the unmistakable hallmarks of Williams’s style: it is compassionate, vivid, lyrical and true.
The New York Times
And Tell Sad Stories of the Deaths of Queens… is nothing less than a lost miniature masterpiece.
—Jonathan Warman, HX Magazine
Mister Paradise is an x-ray look into Williams’ soul – it is acidic, sad, and most moving.
—Eli Wallach
Hilarious, horrible madness, A House Not Meant to Stand is ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ on the Gulf Coast.
The Chicago Tribune
A House Not Meant to Stand is a ferocious scalding comedy. Tennessee Williams pushed the boundaries right up to the very end.
—John Guare
Williams’ late experiments in ordered anarchy and avant-garde European aesthetics were … very much earned, very much his distinctive own. Williams’ dramaturgy is still ahead of our time.
—Randy Gener, American Theatre Magazine
Just when I thought I was familiar with Tennessee’s stage work, here comes an entire volume of plays that’s completely new to me. What a windfall!
—Landford Wilson
I yearned for a bad influence as a boy, was Tennessee one in the best sense of the word: joyous, alarming, sexually confusing and dangerously funny.
—John Waters
Tennessee Williams was the only great playwright America ever produced. I do not think we will ever again have the sort of theater that produced dramatists like Tennessee. I doubt that we will see anything like him again.
—Gore Vidal
Williams is a writer of enormous compassion… a compassion that opens up doors into bleak and empty hearts.
—Clive Barnes, The New York Times
Williams’ writing has the complexity––the dual sexuality––Shakespeare shows so often, in his characters. His plays are poetic, with a strong beauty––I like that.
—Joseph Papp
…Mr. Williams peels off layer after layer of the skin, body and spirit of his characters and leaves their nature exposed in the hideous humor and pathos of the truth.
New York Times
Mr. Williams is a master of [the short play and these] show his skills at their languid best, as well as those qualities of compassion, sentiment and wry humor that run through all his works like the dominant themes in a symphony.
—Clive Barnes, The New York Times
…the language in his plays is as inventive and evocative as any we’ve had.
—Richard Gilman, New York Times
Tennessee Williams’ forgotten play turns out to be an absolute corker… Haunting, searing, unforgettable.
London Herald
Seeing The Glass Menagerie was like stumbling on a flower in a junkyard – Williams had pushed language and character to the front of the stage as never before.
—Arthur Miller
Vieux Carré: Mr. Williams is completely in control here…
London Times
I did not think it possible to love or respect Tennessee Williams more than I already did, but his collected poems have proved me wrong. The dramatist would not have existed without the poet; they are both separate and indivisible. His ability to channel pain into beauty and his unflinching (and, for its time, remarkably courageous) honesty are revealed in a new light.
—Martin Sherman
Joyous, alarming, sexually confusing and dangerously funny.
—John Waters
< Tomas Tranströmer Rosmarie Waldrop >