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Tennessee Williams: No Refuge but Writing

John Lahr, Margaret Bradham Thornton, Carolyn Vega
95 pages

Tennessee Williams dominated Broadway in the 1940s and 1950s with masterpieces such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. His plays sent audiences "zowing to mad heights," and they brought him a "catastrophe of success." Published to accompany the exhibition Tennessee Williams: No Refuge but Writing at the Morgan Library & Museum, this publication illuminates the playwright’s battle to find his voice. Williams's plays—intimate, confessional, and autobiographical—emerged slowly from stories, poems, one-act plays, and journal fragments. For Williams, writing was an indomitable need. He found inspiration in his family and lovers, and mined his own life deeply—sometimes self-destructively—for his work, often identifying strongly with his heroines through whom he could explore a refracted and heterosexualized portrait of his own life: "I was and still am Blanche . . . [although] God knows I have a Stanley in me, too," he wrote. Williams, a lyric perfectionist, wrote every day and revised his work incessantly, changing lines even after a play had opened and returning to scripts long after a play had closed. Writing was always his savior, his tormentor, his refuge.

This publication accompanies the exhibition Tennessee Williams: No Refuge but Writing on view February 2 through May 13, 2018.