Tag Archives: Tennessee Williams

Mr. Williams at the Watermark Theatre

Tennessee Williams wrote “The Glass Menagerie” – on this summer at the Watermark Theatre! Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams III was an American playwright and author of many stage classics. Along with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller he is considered among the three foremost playwrights in 20th-century American drama.

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Tennessee was born on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi, the second of Cornelius and Edwina Williams’ three children. Williams described his childhood in Mississippi as pleasant and happy. But life changed for him when his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. The carefree nature of his boyhood was stripped in his new urban home, and as a result Williams turned inward and started to write.

His parent’s marriage certainly didn’t help. Often strained, the Williams home could be a tense place to live. “It was just a wrong marriage,” Williams later wrote. The family situation, however, did offer fuel for the playwright’s art. His mother became the model for the foolish but strong Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, while his father represented the aggressive, driving Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

When he was 28, Williams moved to New Orleans, where he changed his name (he landed on Tennessee because his father hailed from there) and revamped his lifestyle, soaking up the city life that would inspire his work, most notably the later play, A Streetcar Named Desire.

In 1940 Williams’ play, Battle of Angels, debuted in Boston. It quickly flopped, but the hardworking Williams revised it and brought it back as Orpheus Descending, which later was made into the movie, The Fugitive Kind, starring Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani.
Other work followed, including a gig writing scripts for MGM. But Williams’ mind was never far from the stage. On March 31, 1945, a play he’d been working for some years, The Glass Menagerie, opened on Broadway.

Critics and audiences alike lauded the play, about a declassed Southern family living in a tenement, forever changing Williams’ life and fortunes. Two years later, A Streetcar Named Desire opened, surpassing his previous success and cementing his status as one of the country’s best playwrights. The play also earned Williams a Drama Critics’ Award and his first Pulitzer Prize.

His subsequent work brought more praise. The hits from this period included Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth.

The 1960s were a difficult time for Williams. His work received poor reviews and increasingly the playwright turned to alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. In 1969 his brother hospitalized him. Upon his release, Williams got right back to work. He churned out several new plays as well as Memoirs in 1975, which told the story of his life and his afflictions.

But he never fully escaped his demons. Surrounded by bottles of wine and pills, Williams died in a New York City hotel room on February 25, 1983.

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Gracie Finley Treads the Boards in Spirit and Menagerie

Watermark Theatre is thrilled to announce the first casting news for the 2016 Summer Season. Company member Gracie Finley is to play the pivotal role of Madame Arcati in “Blithe Spirit” and the iconic Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie”.

Raised in Charlottetown with summers spent in Alberton, Ms. Finley is well known to PEI audiences. Her early career was like “A Star is Born” come to life. A local teenager who, the previous summer had been performing for children in the Charlottetown Festival’s “Circus Tent Theatre” is elevated to the role of Anne Shirley in “Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.” Ms. Finley became the musical’s second “Anne”, and had both the longest continuous run in the role – seven seasons ‐ and the longest total run of nine seasons.

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Following her triumph as Anne, Ms. Finley went on to act in “Mary Queen of Scots”, “Jane Eyre”, “Sunshine Town”, “Private Turvey”, “Life Can be Like Wow, Joey…” all with The Charlottetown Festival as well as “Butterflies are Free” with Theatre New Brunswick, and “Rumpelstiltskin” with Neptune Theatre.

Ms. Finley took a break from acting in the mid 1980’s, but made a stellar return to the theatre at North Rustico’s Watermark in 2013, playing Alfie in “The Shore Field” and The Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland.” She followed these roles up with a magnificent characterization of Eleanor of Aquitaine in “The Lion in Winter” (2014), and portrayals of the coarse and earthy Nurse in “Romeo and Juliet,” and the garrulous Lady Markby in “An Ideal Husband” (2015).

The summer of 2016 may well present Ms. Finley with one of the finest challenges of her career. On the one hand, she will play the zany and bizarre Madame Arcati–the medium who manages to summon up the ghost of a dead wife – in Noel Coward’s comedy Blithe Spirit, and on the other hand, in Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie, she will tackle one of the most powerful roles in theatre, Amanda Wingfield, the aging faded southern belle, abandoned by her husband in 1930’s St. Louis, longing for the comforts of her youth, and alienating her son and daughter in the process.

The Watermark is thrilled that, with the return of Gracie Finley, these strong female characters will be in very capable hands. The teenager of “Anne” is now the mature woman of “Eleanor” and she will bring that maturity together with all her other considerable skills to the Watermark stage in this coming summer of 2016.

Watermark Theatre Announces 2016 Season

The Watermark Theatre’s Artistic Director Robert Tsonos, and General Manager Andrea Surich are proud to announce the 2016 Summer Season.

The season will include the American modern classic The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, and the Noel Coward comedy Blithe Spirit. A new initiative, The Watermark Play Reading Series, will be presented throughout the month of August, and our popular music series Classic Music Reignited rounds out the programming for the summer.

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The Glass Menagerie became an instant and enduring hit when it appeared on Broadway in 1945, winning the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play and brought Tennessee Williams, until then an obscure young playwright, to prominence. In a cramped St Louis apartment in 1945 the regrets, hopes and frustrations of an abandoned family are revealed with the truth, humour, and compassion for which Tennessee Williams is renowned. Celebrated as one the greatest plays of the English‐speaking world!

In Blithe Spirit, while researching his new novel, Charles Condomine invites the implausible medium Madame Arcati to his house for a séance. Arcati unwittingly summons the ghost of Charles’ dead wife Elvira who soon makes a play to reclaim her husband, much to the chagrin of Charles’ new wife Ruth. One husband, two feuding wives and a whisper of mischief in the air – Noel Coward at his comedic best!

A Play Reading is as simple as it sounds. Actors, with scripts in hand, using minimal movement on stage, act out plays for an audience. Plays by Arthur Miller, Eugene Ionesco, Lillian Hellman, Eugene O’Neill, Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Dario Fo, Clare Boothe Luce, and Harold Pinter are only a few of the possible playwrights featured in the series. Classic Canadian plays will also be included in this series. Plays by David French, Sharon Pollock, Michel Tremblay, John Murrell, and Judith Thompson.

In addition to the great plays of the English‐speaking world, we will also present play readings in French from the masters of French theatre as well as some French‐Canadian classics. Plays by Moliere, Marivaux, Michel Marc Bouchard, Jean‐Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau, Jean Racine and Gratien Gélinas, to name a few.

Classic Music Reignited is our popular music series curated by Rob Oakie. Island musical artists interpret classic composers in a way that you have never heard before. Last summer we celebrated the music of Edith Piaf, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and The Rat Pack trio of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior and Dean Martin. Our 2016 lineup will be announced soon.

Season Tickets are now on sale at early bird rates of $99 for 4 tickets and $124 for 6 tickets. For more information please contact Andrea Surich at 902‐963‐3963 or generalmanager@watermarktheatre.com

The Watermark Theatre is at 57 Church Hill Ave in North Rustico, across the street from the Church of Stella Maris.