Author Tags: Famous Visitor, Theatre
One of the most important playwrights of the 20th century, Tennessee Williams, attempted to rekindle his flagging career by accepting an invitation to come to Vancouver and workshop the The Red Devil Battery Sign. The production was ostensibly given its world premiere at the Vancouver Playhouse in October of 1980, directed by Roger Hodgman. In fact, The Red Devil Battery Sign had already flopped once before when it was first produced in Boston on June 18, 1975. The rehash of Williams' mostly forgotten play garnered a great deal of local attention for the Vancouver Playhouse prior to its opening but the production didn't exactly compare with A Streetcar Named Desire starring a young Marlon Brando. Reviews were, at best, mixed. Nonetheless, the city was sufficiently flattered by Williams' gushy praise for its hospitality (in public, at least) that America's most influential playwright was accorded additional refuge. He was invited to return as a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, in 1981. Upon his return, the UBC Theatre Department mounted his rewritten version of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull. It was staged as The Notebook of Trigorin with much less fanfare. The revised script for The Red Devil Battery Sign was first published in the UBC-based literary periodical PRISM international. It was later made available in book format by New Directions Publishing in 1988.
Born Thomas Lanier Williams in 1911 in Columbus, Missouri, he changed his first name to Tennessee in 1939, having graduated from the University of Iowa in 1938. He began to write film scripts for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the early 1940s, attaining his first major success on the stage with The Glass Menagerie in 1944. He achieved a remarkable string of successful new plays for the theatre into the 1950s. A Streetcar Named Desire won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1947. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof won the Pulitzer Prize in 1955. A drug addict, he choked to death on a pill bottle cap in 1983.
SEE PRISM INTERVIEW:
BOOKS BASED ON VANCOUVER PRODUCTIONS
The Red Devil Battery Sign. New Directions, 1988.
The Notebook of Trigorin: A Free Adaptation of Anton Chekhov's The Sea Gull. New Directions, 1997.
[BCBW 2003] "Famous Visitor" "Theatre"