No Stellas, Stanleys or Blanches here: Festival showcases Tennessee Williams’ lesser-known works


Courtesy AstonRep Theatre Company

No Stellas, Stanleys or Blanches here: Festival showcases Tennessee Williams’ lesser-known works

By Miranda Manier

AstonRep Theatre Company is celebrating playwright Tennessee Williams’ 106th birthday with Four By Tenn, a one-act festival featuring four of Williams’ lesser-known works. 

One-acts including “Fat Man’s Wife” and “I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow” will be featured at Strawdog Theatre Company, 1802 W. Berenice Ave., until April 4. According to Derek Bertelsen, Four By Tenn’s producer, the festival is meant to expose audiences to Williams’ more obscure plays. 

“He is such an important playwright,” Bertelsen said. “[This] gives audiences a chance to experience his lesser-known plays and gives actors an opportunity to work on plays that they might not have a chance to do otherwise.”

Dana Anderson, director of “Fat Man’s Wife,” said she is drawn to Williams’ language, while Bertelsen said he enjoys the playwright’s strong characters. Amy Kasper, director of “I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow,” said she is excited by Williams’ sense of drama. 

Although much of Williams’ work is more than 50 years old, his writings still resonate with audiences today, Bertelsen said. Kasper added that themes Williams explores are universal. 

The four one-acts are from different periods of Williams’ life, which Kasper said she appreciates.

The plays’ varied perspectives shine a light on Williams’ process as a playwright whose worked declined as his career progressed, according to Bertelsen. 

“I Can’t Imagine Tomorrow,” written in 1970 when Williams was 58, may be a good show, but it does have flaws, Bertelsen said. Audiences might find it intriguing to see that brilliant people can produce imperfect work, he added. 

“It’s a good learning opportunity for anyone to see that we don’t always create something perfect, but that doesn’t mean we’re not talented,” Kasper said. “It’s beneficial [for] people to know, ‘Hey, you do your work, you put your all into it, and you move on.’” 

Bertelsen said he thought this might add to the relatability for audiences.

 “Toward the end of [Williams’] career, he wasn’t the hit that he once was, and that’s something anyone can relate to,” he said. “You’ve always got these ups and downs, and toward the end of his career, he had some downs.” 

Several of the one-acts bear traces of elements that would later dominate his more famous plays, Bertelsen said. For instance, the 1941 one-act “At Liberty,” which is included in the festival, focuses on a mother-daughter relationship that is a precursor to the one that appears in “The Glass Menagerie,” which premiered in 1944, he added. 

Bertelsen said he hopes that exposure to these plays gives people a better understanding and respect for Williams as a writer. 

 “I’m hoping that’s something the audience can walk away finding ways his work is relevant [to them],” Bertelsen said. “He’s written some great characters, some great scripts that we’re showcasing. There are nuances in the scripts that highlight the world today.”