Tenn Years : Tennessee Williams Onstage

The essays in this volume were all written by David Kaplan in conjunction with the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, of which he is the curator and a co-founder. They are organized in two sections. The first section consists of ten essays written for each year of the Provincetown Festival, most included in the Festival catalogue for the year indicated. Those essays focus on each year’s thematic selection of Williams plays—and other dance, music, and theater events—as well as some aspect of Williams’ plays not always obvious in the text but essential to understanding the plays in production. The second section includes seven occasional essays, written for productions of Williams plays associated with the Festival. All the essays relate, in one way or another, to the story of what happened to the playwright during the last twenty years of his life and how his reputation is evolving since his death.

“David Kaplan will take you deeper into how the plays of Tennessee Williams work—some you already know and some that will be new to you—and how they found their way off the page and on to the many stages of the Tennessee Williams Provincetown Theater Festival.”

Thomas Keith, Tennessee Williams editor and Literary Director for the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival




Tenn at One Hundred

american_typewriterTenn at One Hundred, edited by David Kaplan, is a comprehensive look at the reputation of America’s greatest playwright Tennessee Williams. Published on the occasion of Tennessee Williams’ centennial, Tenn at One Hundredcontains eighteen essays by authors including John Lahr, William Jay Smith, Sam Staggs, Amiri Baraka, John Patrick Shanley, Kenneth Holditch, Allean Hale and others. Collectively the essays explore Tennessee Williams and his legacy: the plays, the films, reviews, talent, tenacity, good forturne, bad timing, friends, addictions, critics, producers, publishers, directors, actors and biographers that helped to shape Tennessee Williams’ critical reputation and iconic status over the past seventy years.

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Playing Episodes

Playing EpisodesPart Two, Five Approaches to Acting SeriesPlaying Episodes, Part Two in the Five Approaches to Acting Series by David Kaplan is the second part in the series.

An episode is something that happens onstage that the audience understands separately from the whole of the play: Romeo reveals himself to Juliet, the Gentleman Caller breaks Laura’s heart, Didi and Gogo wait for Godot.

Using an episodic approach a performer works to make each episode clear to the audience. All elements of a performance: actors, text, music, props, costumes, lights, décor, contribute to an episode as would the parts of a machine. Using an episodic approach, actors in rehearsals and performances create roles in a working ensemble, rather than emphasizing the illusion of a “realistic” character. Working to polish episodes, actors assign headlines that answer the questions What happens? To whom? — while questions of What do I want? and How do I feel? are left deliberately unanswered so as to involve the audience. Contradictions in motivation and action are kept in a dynamic opposition, unresolved by any simple-minded “super-objective.” The effect on stage is simple, direct, moving, and engaging.

Episodic techniques developed in early twentieth century Russia and Germany, based on the study of Shakespeare’s texts and other non-realistic plays. Playing episodes became the international silent film technique and is still the basis of most film work. Onstage today an episodic approach is especially useful for Shakespeare, Brecht and Sam Shepard, but essential for any actor working on realistic plays — Chekhov, Ibsen, and Williams, for example — in which a mass of individual “objectives” can obscure the events and significance of the play.

Playing Episodes, Part Two in the Five Approaches to Acting Series includes a useful explanation of terms, instruction in applying techniques in rehearsal and performance, practical classroom exercises, detailed script analysis, the history and theory behind the approach, as well as inspiring examples to be seen on film.

All five of David Kaplan’s approaches to acting are available together with an additional part that deals with comparing, choosing and combing the different approaches in his The Collected Series: Five Approaches to Acting. This is an excellent acting textbook that deals with theory and practice for both beginning and seasoned actors.  More information →

Tennessee Williams in Provincetown

9781601824219aTennessee Williams in Provincetown is the story of Tennessee Williams’ four summer seasons in Provincetown, Massachusetts: 1940, ’41, ’44 and ’47. During that time he wrote plays, short stories, and jewel-like poems. In Provincetown Williams fell in love unguardedly for perhaps the only time in his life. He had his heart broken there, perhaps irreparably. The man he thought might replace his first lover tried to kill him there, or at least Williams thought so. Williams drank in Provincetown, he swam there, and he took conga lessons there. He was poor and then rich there; he was photographed naked and clothed there. He was unknown and then famous–and throughout it all Williams wrote every morning. The list of plays Williams worked on in Provincetown include The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Summer and Smoke, the beginnings of The Night of the Iguana and Suddenly Last Summer, and an abandoned autobiographical play set in Provincetown, The Parade. Tennessee Williams in Provincetown collects original interviews, journals, letters, photographs, accounts from previous biographies, newspapers from the period, and Williams’ own writing to establish how the time Williams spent in Provincetown shaped him for the rest of his life. The book identifies major themes in Williams’ work that derive from his experience in Provincetown, in particular the necessity of recollection given the short season of love. The book also connects Williams mature theatrical experiments to his early friendships with Jackson Pollack, Lee Krasner and the German performance artist Valeska Gert. Tennessee Williams in Provincetown, based on several years of extensive research and interviews, includes previously unpublished photographs, previously unpublished poetry, and anecdotes by those who were there.