Special significance

I was interviewed yesterday by a student at DePaul University, who is preparing a presentation for an Intro to Theatre class and chose to present the history of Eclipse Theatre Company.

Before the interview, she emailed me a quick list of the questions she wanted to focus on. The first question on that list set the tone for a great conversation:

Does the production of Candles to the Sun have any special significance to the history of Eclipse Theatre Company?

I’ve told this story before, but it’s always a fun one to tell – starting with that production of Confessional in 1999, where six of the current ensemble met for the first time, and that whole 1999 season, when we brought Eclipse back from the ashes (literally!) by spending the year exploring Tennessee Williams. When we started talking about the idea of the Celebration Series, I don’t think we could have imagined a better show to kick it off – not only do we get to return to our roots as a company, but also to Tom Williams’ roots as a writer.

Bald Ridge

Bald Ridge is another location referenced in Candles to the Sun as a place where the boys would shoot squirrels. In my research there were several Bald Ridge locations including a Bald Ridge Reservation in northeast Alabama. I found a Bald Ridge in Jefferson County, Alabama, which is not necessarily close to Clay County or in the Red Mountain region. One of these two locations are likely what Williams had in mind when writing Candles.

But more interestingly, there is a Bald Ridge campsite in Georgia that happens to be on Lake Sidney Lanier, from whom Williams’ received his middle name from. Now I doubt that the campsite was there, at least in its current form, in 1937 when Williams wrote Candles. It quite the coincidence.

Living and Writing: Part II

At an Eclipse post show discussion during the Gilman season I recall an audience member asking a question regarding what the actors did outside of performing in that particular play. Every single actor on stage worked a 9-5 job during the week and moonlighted as actors during their evenings and weekends. The audience member seemed surprised that the actors needed to work these day jobs but in the world of non-profit, store front theater that is Chicago the majority of actors, playwrights and other theater employees work jobs outside of theater to make ends meet. Similarly, though his wasn’t exactly a need to make ends meet, Tennessee Williams worked at his father’s shoe company after failing his first year of college. His passion for writing drove him so hard that he would work all day (often writing at work as well) and then come home at night “tank up” on black coffee and stay up all night as his typewriter writing short stories.  All for the love of the art.

Living and Writing

Those that have dedicated their lives to the arts generally live paycheck to paycheck, especially in the beginning. That still rang true when Tennessee Williams started his career in the 1930’s.

Williams states that he wrote through his young adult years “not with any hope of making a living at it, but because I found no other means of expressing things that seemed to demand expression.”

As stated in an introduction to a collection of Williams’ essays Where I Live: “Williams found that the pains and pleasures of humanity create a tension which must be housed in the body and the mind. To him, a person seems to ache continually with the exercise of existence, the effort of trying to resolve this tension. “

Britney Spears to play Blanche DuBois

Part of me hopes this is a terrible April Fool’s Day rumor; part of me is fascinated by the idea of it:

Britney Spears to star in West End show?

A “source” – who I assume is from the London theatre that’s allegedly offering her the role, but I guess it could have been anyone – explained the logic:

“She’s living out the story, so to harness that on stage would be amazing for an audience to see — and cathartic for Britney, too.”

We talk a lot at post-show discussions about the experience of playing characters whose emotional journeys are especially draining, and how much of ourselves we bring to the roles we play. I haven’t followed the Britney drama that closely over the last few years, but from what I know of her life (which comes mostly from standing in line at grocery stores), I get the feeling that the “source” is on to something here …

Tune in to 1530AM this afternoon

I’ll be on “Out N’ About” this afternoon from 2-3pm on WJJG 1530AM, talking with host Ronnie Kelpsas about Candles to the Sun, Williams, Eclipse, and whatever else people want to talk about – I’m told it’s a call-in show, and I’m excited to hear what people have to say. Tune in, call in, tell the Tennessee Williams fan in the cubicle next to yours …

Friday photo rescue

Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams

Suddenly, Last Summer, from the 1999 Tennessee Williams season.