THIS SHOW RUNS APPROX. 1 HOUR, 30 MINUTES and will be performed without an intermission.
PLEASE NOTE: This production includes smoking on stage.
THE HOUSE OPENS 45 MINUTES BEFORE CURTAIN. You may want to arrive early to enjoy the exhibit in our art gallery with refreshments ranging from coffee and cookies to beer and wine.
POST-SHOW DISCUSSION: Join the company of Suddenly Last Summer for a post-show discussion following the Sunday matinee on October 22nd.
AUDIO-DESCRIPTION: The Sunday, November 5th performance will be audio-described, based on reservations. Click here for a description of this and other access services at TRP
About the Show
(company members are listed at the bottom, following the interview with the director)
In 1943, the puritanical Edwina Williams made a drastic decision that would forever alter her family, and the canon of American theater. Fed up with the outspoken, sexually-charged behavior of her daughter Rose, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Edwina arranged for an extreme, experimental treatment for the young woman: a bilateral prefrontal lobotomy. Performed with a thin blade inserted through the eye socket into the brain and swept across the forehead, the brutal procedure effectively silenced the once-vivacious Rose, at the price of her independence. Profoundly altered, Rose would remain institutionalized for the rest of her long life, her care eventually covered by the substantial earnings of her brother, Pulitzer-Prize-winning Playwright Tennessee Williams, who poured his grief and guilt over his sister into box office smash plays and film adaptations about fragile young women, subsumed passions and genteel southern hypocrisy.
Rose and Edwina’s lives inform and inhabit the jungle landscape of Williams’ 1958 play Suddenly Last Summer, even as Williams himself shadows the enigmatic character of Sebastian, whom we never meet except in our mind’s eye. The story plays out on the veranda of wealthy matriarch Violet Venable, who has enshrined the memory of her late poet son Sebastian in the vast, tangled, exotic foliage of his garden. Yet Violet’s disturbed niece, Catharine, knew another side to Sebastian that is decidedly darker and earthier than Violet’s pristine memories, and Violet is convinced that a lobotomy is what the poor girl needs to quiet her demons. Catharine’s family, the sisters of the institution where she resides, and even a well-meaning doctor all must weigh Catharine’s wellbeing against Violet’s demands, and their own consciences.
Richly lyrical, violently metaphorical, and ultimately devastating in its revelations, Suddenly Last Summer stands as Williams’ statement of humankind’s inescapably savage and devouring nature.
Director Allen Hamilton returns to direct Williams after his deft handling last season of another 20th century giant, Arthur Miller, in his acclaimed TRP production of A View from the Bridge.
Interview with the Director
Q: In directing Miller you have great perspective in having worked directly with the playwright on a Broadway revival and tour of Death of a Salesman. What’s your background with Williams?
HAMILTON: A lot more limited. I actually saw him once, in Coral Gables Florida in the Coconut Grove playhouse… whenever I go into a theater I want to take a peek and see what’s inside and I did, and inside was TW directing Period of Adjustment and instructing Barbra Baxley the actress not to laugh too much and obscure the line he’d written. The other time I crossed paths with him was when I went to a play and he was sitting across the aisle from me with a large woman dressed in black and he was cackling which he would express at even the most serious moments in a play (demonstrating TW’s cackle)… I have directed three TW plays in Memphis, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof here at TRP, and I played Tom twice in Glass Menagerie and Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire twice professionally, and Summer and Smoke, so I have a lot of connection. And I saw the original production 60 years ago with Anne Meacham who played Catherine in an Off Broadway production.
Q: What can you tell us about the relationship between Tennessee Williams and his sister?
HAMILTON: When he was a boy he contracted diphtheria, his mother discouraged him from too much activity and during that period he became very close to his sister Rose. He was a genius, a great theater poet, and yet she was quicker than him, she knew her multiplication tables when she was five years old, she was very smart, very vivacious, very expressive, and like him very sexual, they had very sexual natures… Having sexual natures and having a mother for whom pleasures of the flesh were repellent set up a tension in the house which was debilitating and in the case of Rose critical, she suffered a nervous breakdown, she began to accuse her mother of outrageous acts, saying she was a prostitute, told salacious tales of nuns misbehaving, all the time desiring and achieving turmoil in Edwina’s head. She would say Stop! Stop! Stop!, close her ears, and finally when TW was away and his brother was in the army she unilaterally decided that an operation should be performed to silence Rose at last and so on Jan. 13, 1943 an operation was performed, a lobotomy. And this vivacious expressive, lively bright woman became a kind of zombie who spent the rest of her life in comfortable institutions watching soap operas. Her favorite expression was, “ I would desire not to,” — in other words, a denial of desire.
Q: There are some interesting differences between the play and the film version, which has an all-star cast with Katherine Hepburn, Liz Taylor and Montgomery Clift. Comment on the film version?
HAMILTON: The flaw, among others in the movie is it shows in the climax, as Catharine remembers the running in the streets with Sebastian in his white suit. In the theater it isn’t shown, but when it is done correctly then we see all of this in our minds, which is more satisfying.
Q: There’s a lot of nature imagery in the play – mostly savage nature. Talk about that.
HAMILTON: It is a place of carnivorous and insectivorous plants and the play is about cannibalism and menace. There is this image of swarms of birds who come down after the turtles have laid their eggs they swoop down and eat them. And when Sebastian sees this, according to Mrs. Venable, he saw God. That’s what poets look for, is some idea of God. Even though TW became a catholic in later years, hedging his bet, to him God was oblivious majesty; God doesn’t give a fig what happens to us. He doesn’t want to get involved and so nature is oblivious, the stars are oblivious the plants are oblivious, so menace comes from the obliviousness of nature and doesn’t care. You know. Hurricanes.
Q: What do you see as your challenges in staging this in the round?
HAMILTON: We have a lot of challenging words and long speeches. Long and challenging both for the performer and the audience, it requires listening and concentration and I think that what I have to be careful of is in trying to distribute the play in the round that I don’t move people too much so that we can hear these words and see these images, the carnivorous birds eating the turtles, the carnivorous children eating the man, all of these poetic images which make this play.
Catharine: Anni Amberg
Mrs. Holly: Muriel J. Bonertz
Mrs. Venable: Annette Kurek
Sister Felicity: Nancy Lipinski
Dr. Cukrowicz: Ryan D. Maddux
Miss Foxhill: Julia Steincross
George Holly: Bill Williamson
ARTISTIC & PRODUCTION STAFF
Director: Allen Hamilton
Set Designer: Corinna Knepper Troth
Costume Designer: Carolann Winther
Lighting Designer: Mark Kieffer
Prop Designer: Sharon Selberg
Sound Designer: Lynn Musgrave
Stage Manager: Mady Davis