“If the writing is honest it cannot be separated from the man who wrote it.”
We’ve had lecturers, musical guests, comedians and speakers thus far during the season. Now, how about some acting? In the coming weeks, Emmy-winning actor Richard Thomas will be bringing to life some of the literary work of the legendary writer, Tennessee Williams.
As I’m sure you may know, Williams was one of the most highly acclaimed American playwrights in the 20th century. Widely acclaimed during the heyday of his career, he was a two-time Pulitzer prize winner for A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on A Hot Tin Roof, and also won a Tony award for The Rose Tattoo. Tennessee personally adapted many of his works into screenplays, but also penned essays, poetry, novels, prose and other short stories.
So, which of these selections is Thomas portraying? Well, Richard is not going to merely be interpreting selections from Williams’ classics. Instead, Richard Thomas will be performing what is arguably Williams’ most interesting and flawed role… which happens to be the author himself.
How is that, you ask?
You see, when Tennessee Williams passed away three decades ago, he left behind a treasure trove of personal letters. This, combined with a lifetime of memoirs helped paint a picture of the man behind the pen. Steve Lawson adapted these writings into a one-man play, a showcase that paints Tennessee with his own words. Not only is that a daunting task for an author, but for the thespian as well. After all, think about this for a moment. How much of you is embedded in your day to day writing? Decades from now, will someone be able to portray you based on your journal, your blogs, your emails, Facebook posts and Tweets?
It truly is a dream and a challenge to play such a distinguished yet complex and tortured persona, but Richard Thomas has a charm and sense of nuance to be able and pull it off.
Thomas is one of those actors you may recognize from his work, even if you may not remember his name. A veteran of stage and screen, chances are very good that you’ve seen him in several things over the years. To many, he will always be known as the aspiring writer John-Boy from the 1970s television show, “The Waltons.” Richard won an Emmy for the role, and has received additional nominations over the years for Golden Globes and more Emmys.
It will definitely be interesting to see the portrayal of Williams as a young growing writer. Tennessee descended into an abyss of alcohol and drugs in later years, which likely effect his outlook on life and the human condition. Although I’m sure the portrayal will be subtle, I look forward to seeing this pay where we can see a transformation of the one man onstage from Richard Thomas to Tennessee Williams without any other actors to play off of. That, my friends, has the potential to be fascinating in this show that will be poignant and personal.
Tennessee Williams knew that the craft of writing was a never ending pursuit. Like life itself, it is where passions and emotions can intertwine with narrative to conjure weather that can effect even the sunniest disposition. At times a flamboyant and twisted genius, he embraced the darkness of the human condition, reflecting an inner turmoil that decades of self-abuse could not subside. I can’t wait to see this evolution of the man and the artist in front of our eyes on the stage.
In the intimate quarters of the Stateside theater, it will be appropriate to see such a personal portrayal. This unique presentation is straight from the heart of Tennessee.
For one night, Richard Thomas brings Tennessee Williams back to life at Stateside. Wednesday, November 14th at 8:00 p.m.