Monday, July 11, 2016

Words of Wisdom from Tennessee Williams

I was reading Cat On A Hot Tin Roof last night, and toward the end of act II, when Brick and Big Daddy are discussing why Brick is an alcoholic and the possibility of his being gay, the author put in some personal notes as guidance for the actors. I found it memorable:

The thing they’re discussing, timidly and painfully on the side of Big Daddy, fiercely, violently on Brick’s side, is the inadmissible thing that Skipper died to disavow between them. The fact that if it existed it had to be disavowed to “keep face” in the world they lived in may be at the heart of the “mendacity” that Brick drinks to kill his disgust with. It may be the root of his collapse. Or maybe it is only a single manifestation of it, not even the most important.

The bird that I hope to catch in the net of this play is not the solution of one man’s psychological problem. I’m trying to catch the true quality of experience in a group of people, that cloudy, flickering evanescent—fiercely charged!—interplay of live human beings in the thundercloud of a common crisis.

Some mystery should be left in the revelation of character in a play, just as a great deal of mystery is always left in the revelation of character in life, even in one’s own character to himself. This does not absolve the playwright of his duty to observe and probe as clearly and deeply as he legitimately can; but it should steer him away from pat conclusions, facile definitions which make a play just a play, not a snare for the truth of human experience.

The following scene should be played with great concentration, with most of the power leashed but palpable in what is left unspoken.

To me this is powerful advice to any writer.

No comments: