How is it that one of America’s greatest playwrights of the 20th century has a play out there that’s never before been staged? That’s what I was wondering when I called Peter Hansen at Gremlin Theatre, with a more than slightly skeptical tone in my voice.
It turns out there are a lot of works by Tennessee Williams that have never been performed, and many of them never will. Williams wrote the way some artists sketch – profusely, with many rough drafts. A lot of what remains (he gave his collected writings to Sewanee, University of the South) is either plain bad or unfinished.
But there was at least one little gem among them. It’s a short (35 minutes!) play, which is one of the main reasons it never got staged. According to Hansen it’s believed to be an early version of “Sweet Bird of Youth,” but a lot changed between the two versions.
So how do you get people to come see a 35 minute show? Hansen says Gremlin Theatre is treating the June run as a sort of “summer social.” People can come and play croquet or toss bean bags in the theater before the show while enjoying a drink and some food, and then they’re invited to hang out with the actors and crew afterward at a restaurant around the corner.
Photo by Carl Schoenborn