March 14, 2018 – (Key West, FL). Key West Art & Historical Society Presents “Life Story: Two One-act Plays by Tennessee Williams” at The Studios of Key West
“Green Eyes” and “The Traveling Companion,” two rarely seen one-act Tennessee Williams plays, will culminate this year’s 6-week Tennessee Williams Birthday Celebration, with performances at 8:00pm Sunday, April 8th and Monday, April 9th in the Helmerich Theater at The Studios of Key West, 533 Eaton Street.
Directed by Key West writer and director Stephen Kitsakos, the plays are framed by a series of early poems penned by the great American playwright who was a resident of Key West from 1941 until his death in 1983. Both plays take place in hotel rooms, a frequent address for the playwright, and were originally drafted on stationery from a series of hotels including London’s Savoy Hotel, The Berkeley in Knightsbridge and the Miami International Airport Hotel. The typewriter said to have been the instrument of this productivity is on display at the Tennessee Williams Museum, located at 513 Truman Avenue.
“Green Eyes,” written in 1970, is a tale of a young couple on their honeymoon. After a drunken, violent night in a tawdry hotel in New Orleans, the wife narrates a tale to her husband, a Vietnam soldier with PTSD on leave for five days, in which she may or may not have experienced a life-altering erotic encounter. A psychosexual struggle ensues with a surprising climax.
The story of an affluent older man and his young, handsome male companion is central to “The Traveling Companion,” written in 1981. It, too, is set in a hotel bedroom — this time the swanky Essex Hotel in New York City. The two men engage in a power struggle that dabbles with lust, eroticism, and dominance. The play flirts with biographical suspicion and the contest between the affirmed older gay man, Vieux, and the younger sexually ambivalent Beau, ensues with an unexpected result.
Both plays are erotically charged and the language and texture quite explicit for Williams, writing in a post-Stonewall period after he “came out” as a gay man on television in 1970. Though the desires and motivations of the characters in his earlier plays are often coded and unspecific, there’s no doubt in these that the playwright was writing in a milieu that allowed him the freedom to be as frank as he need in laying out the themes and subject matter of the plays.
According to Kitsakos, “Both of these plays expand on Williams’s exploration of desire as an exchange of merchandise. They explore the consequences of desire and the struggle for love in a cruel world. In many ways, the characters reflect Williams’s own personal battle with the idea that was both ‘victim’ and ‘victimizer.’”
Performers include Alaina Albertson and Michael Catlege, two New York-based actors with theater, television and film credits, and local actors Arthur Crocker, Elena Devers, and Jeff Johnson. Lighting design is provided by Anthony Palmer, costume and hair design by Drama Desk nominee Andrea Varga, makeup by Fiona Torrese, and scenic elements and set decoration by Tennessee Williams Exhibit founders Dennis Beaver and Bert Whitt.
Following the Sunday, April 8th performance, there will be a short panel discussion about Williams’s later, experimental plays and discoveries Kitsakos made during research in the Houghton Library at Harvard University where these and other Williams’s plays, both published and unpublished, are archived.
The Key West Art & Historical Society recently acquired The Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit, now Tennessee Williams Museum, as part of their mission to preserve the culture of the Florida Keys through exhibiting and displaying regional art, architecture, and history for the purpose of educating the community and visiting public.
Sponsored by a grant from the Community Foundation of the Florida Keys and the Bert Whitt Charitable Fund. Tickets on sale at tskw.org/life-story-two-one-act-plays-by-tennessee-williams/, VIP tickets are $50, general admission $40. For more information, visit kwahs.org/events/tennessee-williams-birthday-celebration or call Society Director of Education Adele Williams at 305.295.6616 x 115.
Photo of Alaina Albertson and Michael Catlege by Mia Aguirre.