By Amy Dalness
Courtship is very much like a fine piece of theater. It requires poise and wit, well-defined roles and a healthy dose of poetic inspiration. Tennessee Williams knew how to woo lovers of language and drama. And no group of performers has fallen deeper under his spell than our very own Fusion Theatre Company.
This week, Fusion unveils its Tennessee Williams festival, Williams' World, but the great American playwright has been a mainstay since the professional company started up operations five years ago. Fusion regularly produces plays by Williams. They've done A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Glass Menagerie. According to Fusion's Executive Director Dennis Gromelski, it's an unofficial goal of the company to stage every Tennessee Williams play.
“There is something about the quality of his writing,” Gromelski says, “and the response we as a company bring to that writing, that has artistically made incredible pieces evolve.”
Gromelski adds that with every Williams play they've produced, there's never been a neutral response from the audience. “Since I'm also the lobby guy, I'm very fortunate to be able to meet and greet and talk to people on the way out [of the theater],” he says. “People are often truly, truly affected. That's the essence of what we want to achieve.”
The company's Tennessee Williams festival features Suddenly Last Summer, a one-act, full-length play that tells the story of a young girl driven nearly mad by the events surrounding her cousin's death. “One of the best things about this piece is that it's storytelling of the greatest kind,” says Fusion board member Jacqueline Reid, who will also perform in the play. “The grander themes channel through the vehicles of an overbearing mother, homosexuality and love of money.” The play was made into a movie in 1962 staring Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift, but the original script was modified to reduce references to homosexuality.
Three of Williams' one-acts, which were only recently published, will also be staged during the festival. These will include “Adam and Eve on a Ferry,” “Mister Paradise” and “The Fat Man's Wife” in their Southwest premiere.
Gromelski says the festival will appeal to Williams' fans because of the wonderful writing, the one-act premieres and the opportunity to learn more about the playwright as a man. “People know the writing but don't know the man,” Reid says.
The festival won't be an annual affair, Gromelski says, even with Fusion's goal to stage all of Williams' works. He says they may do a festival with another playwright next year. For now, though, it's all about Tennessee. “We're just tickled to be in this position,” Gromelski says. “Williams really is the greatest American playwright of all time.”
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