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April 02, 2011, 2:30 PM

Realism and Expressionism in the Work of Tennessee Williams

Participants: Enoch Brater, Lee Breuer, Roger Copeland, Joe Jeffreys, Maude Mitchell, Basil Twist

This event is being hosted by New York University, and will be held at the school's Silver Center (100 Washington Square East, between Washington Place and Waverly Place), in room 703. Please enter through the Washington Place entrance and be prepared to show a photo ID. No reservations are necessary. A $20 donation is suggested, but not required.

March 26, 2011, marks the centenary of the birth of Tennessee Williams, America's most imagistic, poetically-inclined playwright. In recent years, theater directors like Ivo Van Hove, Lee Breuer, and Elizabeth LeCompte have taken a much less "realistic" approach to Williams's work than did Elia Kazan in the original New York productions of A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. In fact, many contemporary directors proceed on the assumption that when Blache DuBois declares "I don't want realism. I want magic," she may well be speaking directly for the playwright himself. Lee Breuer, co-founder of the legendary experimental theater company Mabou Mines, and Basil Twist, the celebrated puppeteer, will discuss their collaboration on the production of A Streetcar Named Desire currently playing in Paris at The Comédie-Française. The discussion will also include a staged reading of an excerpt from Breuer’s latest project, Mabou Mines Menagerie (a hybrid of Williams’ Glass Menagerie and Two Character Play), currently in the early stages of development. Participants will examine Williams's oeuvre from a variety of perspectives, including those of psychoanalysis and literary criticism.

Enoch Brater is the Kenneth T. Rowe Collegiate Professor of Dramatic Literature & Professor of English and Theater at the University of Michigan. His recent publications include Arthur Miller: A Playwright’s Life and Works, Arthur Miller’s America: Theater and Culture in a Time of Change, and Arthur Miller’s Global Theater: How an American Playwright Is Performed on Stages around the World. His studies of Beckett and other modern and contemporary playwrights have been translated into Japanese, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Polish, and Italian, and have appeared in book form and in a wide range of journals and periodicals, including The Nation, American Theatre, and The New Republic. He is currently editing the personal diaries and notebooks of Arthur Miller. The Falsetto of Reason: Ten Ways of Thinking about Samuel Beckett will appear in late April.

Lee Breuer is a writer, lyricist, and director, as well as founding co-artistic director of Mabou Mines theatre company. His music-theater work includes The Gospel at Colonus, which premiered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s “Next Wave Festival" in 1983, toured widely, was televised on PBS's Great Performances, and was nominated for a Tony Award when it played on Broadway in 1988. His celebrated adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, titled Mabou Mines DollHouse, has toured internationally and was re-conceived as a film commissioned by ARTE, France. The Comédie Française invited Breuer to direct the first play by an American author in that company's 400 year-old repertoire; the resulting collaboration with Basil Twist on a version of A Street Car Named Desire is now playing. His work in New York has been awarded Village Voice OBIEs on thirteen occasions and has also been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award. Breuer's published work includes Sister Suzie Cinema: The Collected Poems and Performances 1976-1986; The Animations; and La Divina Caricatura. In 2012, TCG will publish his Getting Off: Lee Breuer on Performance. Breuer has been awarded both the MacArthur Fellowship and the the Harvard/Radcliffe Bunting Fellowship.

Roger Copeland is Professor of Theater and Dance at Oberlin College. His books include the widely used anthology What Is Dance? and Merce Cunningham: The Modernizing of Modern Dance. His essays about dance, theater, and film have appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The Drama Review, Partisan Review, American Theatre, and many other publications. In 2000, he was awarded The StageBill Prize for "the best article about American theater published the previous year." His film about the psychological aftermath of 9/11, The Unrecovered, premiered at Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan in 2007 as part of the New Filmmakers Series. Copeland has moderated a number of roundtables at The Philoctetes Center, including Diaghilev/Cunningham: 1909/2009; Susan Sontag: Public Intellectual, Polymath, Provocatrice; and The Critic as Thinker.

Joe Jeffreys teaches theatre studies at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts Drama Department. He was dramaturg this past January for the NYC premiere of Williams's Green Eyes and organized its companion humanities program, The Kindness of Strangeness: Reframing Tennessee @ 100 at the Museum of Arts and Design. He is dramaturg for Williams's last full-length play, unpublished and unproduced, In Masks Outrageous and Austere, and recently presented on it at the Tennessee Williams Scholars Conference in New Orleans. Jeffreys also produces Drag Show Video Verité. His video work has screened worldwide.

Maude Mitchell is an actor and dramaturg who specializes in fresh interpretations of the classics and the development of new work. She created the role of Nora in Mabou Mines DollHouse, for which she was honored with a Village Voice OBIE, a Drama League Nomination in New York City, and a Backstage West Garland award in Los Angeles. She also starred in the ARTE commissioned film version of Mabou Mines DollHouse, and is working with Ibsen scholar Susan Mason on a book, Playing Nora: Slam the Door, 30 interviews with artists who have performed the role of Nora around the world. Her dramaturgical work includes Un Tramway Nommé Désir at the Comédie-Française and The Laramie Project. Mitchell recently began work on Mabou Mines' Menagerie, in which she portrays Clare/Laura/Amanda.

Basil Twist is a third-generation puppeteer who currently lives in New York City. He was the first American to graduate from the the École Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette, one of the world’s premiere puppetry training programs. His celebrated production of Symphonie Fantastique was awarded an Obie, a Henry Hewes Design Award, and a 1999 Drama Desk Nomination. His Lincoln Center-commissioned production of Petrushka was awarded a UNIMA Citation of Excellence in 2000. With support from the Asian Cultural Council and Creative Capital, he spent four months in Japan studying the 16th-century art form of Doguageshi (sliding screens), which is central to his design concept for Breuer’s production of Streetcar. Twist designed and directed a production of Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel for The Houston Grand Opera and The Atlanta Opera. He also designed the puppets for two recent Broadway productions, The Pee-Wee Herman Show and The Addams Family. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.


Discussion Board

This forum allows for an ongoing discussion of the above Philoctetes event. You may use this space to share your thoughts or to pose questions for panelists. An attempt will be made to address questions during the live event or as part of a continued online dialogue.
Philoctetes says:
Here's a reading of Williams's "Outcry" from Charles Ruas's audio archive at ArtonAir.org: http://artonair.org/show/tennessee-williams-outcry-1975
Philoctetes says:
Please join Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library in celebrating the centennial of Tennessee Williams with an exhibition and two related events.

Now on display in RBML, Butler Library, 6th Floor, East, “This Is: Tennessee Williams & Friends,” an extensive exhibition drawn from the RBML’s Williams collection, much of it coming from Columbia’s 1994 purchase of the contents of his Key West House. On display are such personal items as his only Tony Award (for “The Rose Tattoo”), four of his typewriters, and six of his own paintings, on view during all of RBML’s opening hours through July 1, 2011.

Panel discussion on “The Late Plays of Tennessee Williams,” Monday, April 18, 6:00 p.m., Butler, Room 523, with a reception to follow in RBML to view the exhibition. With Annette Saddik (New York City College of Technology), David Savran (the Graduate Center, CUNY), and director David Kaplan (Curator of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival), moderated by Thomas Keith, Tennessee Williams editor.

John Lahr talk, on Monday, May 2, 6:00 p.m., in the Lecture Hall of the Journalism Building. John Lahr, Senior Drama Critic of the “New Yorker,” will speak on “Tennessee Williams and the Out-Crying Heart,” a discussion of the origins of Williams’ dramatic voice and how it changed over the decades based on his forthcoming biography of Williams.

All events are free, open to the public, and handicapped accessible. For more information:
Or contact:
Jenny Lee
Curator, Performing Arts Collections
Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Butler Library, 6th Floor, East
(212) 854-4048

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