You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Williams’ ‘Storm’ brewing controversy

Director, publisher at odds over nude scene

Even in death, Tennessee Williams continues to provoke controversy.

His recently discovered play “Spring Storm,” written in 1939, received its world premiere Wednesday in Austin, Texas, and the director of that production, Michael Bloom, accused the playwright’s estate and publisher, New Directions, of censoring one of two endings Williams wrote for the work.

“New Directions and the (Williams) estate don’t want to see anyone naked in a Tennessee Williams play,” Bloom said. “It is sheer prudery. This is pure censorship.”

Bloom, a three-time Obie winner and professor at the University of Texas at Austin, directed the first-ever staging of Williams’ “Spring Storm,” at the Actors Repertory of Texas, a new not-for-profit theater company. Bloom said he found the play at the university’s Harry Ransom Center “at about the time Vanessa Redgrave was poking around the library” to find “Not About Nightingales.”

Unlike the prison drama “Not About Nightingales,” “Spring Storm” explores Williams’ oft-repeated theme of sexual repression. “It is about the unconscious savage cruelty of the sexual struggle in youth,” the playwright wrote of the latter work.

As for Bloom’s charge that New Directions is being as repressive as the small-town people in “Spring Storm,” the publishing company’s managing director, Peggy Fox, disagreed.

Two endings

“That’s a crock,” said Fox, who is also adviser to the Williams estate, the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn. “It is the wrong ending for the play,” she explained of the first version, in which a character named Heavenly disrobes in order to seduce Arthur, a rich man. “Heavenly has just learned that (a third character) Hertha has thrown herself under a train after being rebuffed by Arthur. That makes Heavenly manipulative and a real slut.”

Fox insisted that the nude ending was written for a Williams play of the same period called “April Is the Cruelest Month.”

Bloom said the ending belongs to “Spring Storm” and was rewritten by Williams only after the young playwright’s professor at the University of Iowa expressed his strong disapproval. According to Bloom, Williams then wrote a less controversial ending, wherein the Heavenly character remains on the front porch waiting for Arthur or another character, Dick, to return.

‘Powerful scene’

“He wrote the new ending under duress,” Bloom said. “The first ending is the most powerful scene in the play. It is very similar to the ending in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’ It’s a shame it will never see the light.”

“We can’t tack on an ending from this other play,” Fox said. “Heavenly has always feared being a front-porch girl. It is much more complex to have her end up (on the porch). It’s more sophisticated than just dropping your drawers.”

Bloom believes that New Dimensions should publish both endings. “Since there is no final draft of the play, all editing is an act of reconstruction. It makes perfect sense that the estate needs to allow productions to choose which ending they want to do.”

Fox said that won’t happen, and has no intention of publishing “April Is the Cruelest Month.” “I don’t think it coheres as an independent play. It is so unfinished. It is the same material (as “Spring Storm”) but in a lesser kind of form.”

“Spring Storm” receives its second production, at the Martin Theater Co. in Mill Valley, Calif., opening Nov. 16. The play will be published by New Dimensions next week.

More Legit

  • 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: 'Black Super Hero Magic Mama'

    What function do superhero stories play in American society? Are they merely escapist distractions for head-in-the-clouds teens, or could those same formats actually serve a practical function, providing useful tools for everyday life? Recognizing these comic book fantasies as by far the dominant form of contemporary mythmaking for a generation of young people, emerging playwright [...]

  • Danielle Brooks'Ain't Too Proud - The

    How 'Orange Is the New Black' Star Danielle Brooks Became a Broadway Producer

    Danielle Brooks earned a Tony nomination when she made her Broadway debut as Sofia in the 2015 revival of “The Color Purple,” but now the “Orange Is the New Black” star is working behind the scenes as a producer on the new jukebox musical “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations.” “I [...]

  • Ain't Too Proud review

    Broadway Review: 'Ain't Too Proud'

    In the wake of the long-running “Jersey Boys” and the short-lived “Summer,” director Des McAnuff is back on Broadway with another show built around the song catalog of a music act — and although “Ain’t Too Proud” has all the right sounds and slick moves, this bio-musical of the R&B vocal group the Temptations is [...]

  • 'White Noise' Theater Review: Suzan-Lori Parks

    Off Broadway Review: Daveed Diggs in 'White Noise'

    Any new play by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (“Topdog / Underdog”) demands — and deserves — attention. And in its premiere production at the Public Theater, her latest, “White Noise,” opens with a burst of brainy energy that lasts through the first act. But it takes a nosedive in the sloppy second half, [...]

  • Alexander Dinelaris

    'Jekyll and Hyde' Movie in the Works Based on Broadway Musical

    The Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde” is getting the movie treatment from Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris. Dinelaris, who is writing and producing the adaptation, won an Oscar for the “Birdman” script and was a co-producer on “The Revenant.” He is producing “Jekyll and Hyde” as the first project under his New York-based development company, [...]

  • Sam Mendes

    Listen: The 'Balls-Out Theatricality' of Sam Mendes

    If you find yourself directing a Broadway play with a cast so big it includes a goose, two rabbits, more kids than you can count and an actual infant, what do you do? If you’re Sam Mendes, you embrace the “balls-out theatricality” of it all. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “There is a kind [...]

  • James Corden Tony Awards

    James Corden to Host 2019 Tony Awards (EXCLUSIVE)

    James Corden has been tapped to once again host the Tony Awards, Variety has learned exclusively. “The Late Late Show” host previously emceed the annual theater awards show in 2016, and won the Tony for best actor in a play for his performance in “One Man, Two Guvnors” in 2012. “I’m thrilled to be returning to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content