This past summer the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts presented a landmark festival honoring composer Stephen Sondheim. Appropriately titled the Sondheim Celebration, the much-in-the-news Sondheimfest featured six of the composer's classic musicals: Company, Merrily We Roll Along, Sunday in the Park with George, Passion, Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music.
Now, it looks as though the summer of 2004 will bring another marathon tribute at the Kennedy Center, one celebrating the works of American playwright Tennessee Williams. The Kennedy Center had no comment, but Thomas Erhardt, a spokesman for the Tennessee Williams Estate, said from London, "[We are] talking about [a Williams celebration]. The Kennedy Center said they would like to have one, and we said we would like it to happen. They won't make any decision until the spring for the following summer.
"There have been discussions," Erhardt continued, "but nothing is finalized, and no plays have been licensed yet, and I think they're scouting around seeing which directors are available and which actresses or actors are available."
The New York Post reported that the festival will include such Williams works as Sweet Bird of Youth, Suddenly, Last Summer, The Glass Menagerie and Summer and Smoke. One of Williams' most acclaimed pieces, A Streetcar Named Desire, will not be among the entries, since the estate of the late playwright hopes the Glenn Close Streetcar — currently on the boards in London — will make its way to Broadway.
When asked about the list of Williams plays mentioned in the Post, Erhardt commented, "I don't know where they got those plays because they certainly didn't get them from me. They did get the comment about Streetcar Named Desire being unlikely to be one of them because we are hoping that the National Theatre production will go to Broadway, but nothing has even been decided about that." No casting has been announced, although the New York daily does speculate that directors on the Kennedy Center "wish list" include Joe Mantello, Daniel Sullivan, Howard Davies and Robert Falls. Born Thomas Lanier Williams on March 26, 1911, Tennessee Williams became one of the most respected playwrights in American theatre history. His first bona fide Broadway success was the 1945 premiere of The Glass Menagerie. Two years later his production of A Streetcar Named Desire earned the young playwright both the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. Among his many other works are The Rose Tattoo, Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Sweet Bird of Youth, Night of the Iguana, Orpheus Descending, Not About Nightingales and Suddenly, Last Summer. Williams died August 13, 1983.
—By Andrew Gans