Tennessee Williams wrote over 30 full-length plays and more than 35 one-act plays that were published or performed by the time of his death in 1983. Since then, 36 of his plays have received posthumous premieres, 12 of them at the Tennessee Williams Theater Festival in Provincetown. This year is no exception. Produced by Spooky Action Theater and directed by Natsu Onoda Power, Williams' short play The Lady from the Village from Falling Flowers has its World Premiere at the festival between September 26-29. Beforehand, this one-act play, never been staged or even published before, will have three preview performances at Spooky Action on September 21.
"The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers shares with an audience that an illusion becomes real whenever and wherever a story is convincingly told, says David Kaplan, Curator, and co-founder of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival. "How such illusions work preoccupied Williams for the next forty-five years. It’s helpful to see the magic (and charm) of story-telling set out so clearly, without the obscuring bravura of a sophisticated writer’s craft."
It seems that the play was written in the spring of 1935 when Williams was a student a the University of Missouri, but there is no record of The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers being submitted for class. The manuscript cover page states, “The title is suggested by the name of a character in Lad Murasaki’s ‘Tale of Genji.’” The source material, written by Murasaki around 1020 in archaic Japanese and popularized in the 1930s by Arthur Waley’s English version, prompted Williams’ imagination to soar. The story of the Lady is Williams' own, graced with quick-witted humor and a true flirt’s love for a dramatic reversal.
"When I read it for the first time, I tried to imagine what would frame the text as a folk play, thinking this would set off its silliness enough that a performance could pass on a serious idea: the illusion of beauty becomes a transient reality when a good story is told," remembers Kaplan. "The Japanese kamishibai, storytellers with pictures, seemed a good match for the material. When I mentioned this to our publicist, Hunter Styles, who had worked in Washington theater, he said 'I know THE person who can make this happen'. And he did: Natsu."
On Natsu's hands, The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers becomes an innovative event that mixes Japanese kamishibai style street theater with storytelling performers.
"This play is a playful study of, or homage to, Japanese Heian-era literature with William’s own added flavor," describes Natsu, who is working with Spooky Action after receiving two Helen Hayes Awards for The Lathe of Heaven. "We have created an intimate spectacle (designed for small audiences) borrowing vocabularies and conventions from kamishibai (Japanese street storytelling performance with illustrated placards), puppetry, and comics/graphic novels."
Definitely, an event not to be missed!
Reality is something we make up as we go along, and this season laughter lights the way.
"Our modern American plays show characters unmoored from the habits of convention -- characters whose simple acts of daily life become deft improvisations," says Artistic Director Richard Henrich. "We follow their daring exploration, guided by humor and by heart. And at the end of the day, we realize now is always the right moment to reinvent the world."
Spooky Action opens its season with two preview performances of The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers, a recently discovered and never before produced or published play by Tennessee Williams. We present this one-act before it travels to Provincetown for a world premiere at this year's Tennessee Williams Theater Festival (September 26-29). Falling Flowers is directed by Natsu Onoda Power, winner of two Helen Hayes Awards for The Lathe of Heaven at Spooky Action last year. This innovative event mixes Japanese kami-shibai style street theater with storytelling performers. Subtitled “A Japanese fantasy,” The Lady from the Village of Falling Flowers has its head in the stars and both feet on the ground. It’s a punchy send-up of love, the perils of first impressions, and our earthly attempts to touch something eternal.
In November, we proudly host the DC premiere of Life and Death with Washington Improv Theater. The show stages a fully improvised funeral based on the final wishes of a member of the audience. Life and Death with Washington Improv Theater uses comedy and drama to explore the human experience of death and our desire to see how others will remember us after we shuffle off this mortal coil.
"Plays as funny and moving, as wonderful and weird as The Realistic Joneses, by Will Eno, do not appear often on Broadway. Or ever, really."
The New York Times
2020 begins with the Washington premiere of The Realistic Joneses, by critically acclaimed playwright Will Eno, directed by Gillian Drake, Spooky Action Theater’s New Works in Action Program Director. In this "humane, literate and slyly hilarious" play (New York Times), two couples find they share a lot more than their last names. Ever stumbling towards meaningful relationships, humor caps their encounter with an unsettling truth that lies just below the surface
"I have wanted for a long time to write a play about mortality and how we grapple with that. What I hope is that through these four characters, who have very different responses to the big, big things in life, people will find something recognizable as they go through their days," says Will Eno.
"Maple and Vine is piquantly funny, cleverly executed
and darkly playful."
The New York Times
Spooky Action's 2019-2020 season concludes in the Spring with Maple and Vine by Jordan Harrison, directed by Stevie Zimmerman. Big City dwellers Katha and Ryu have become disenchanted with their 21st-century lives. The harder they try to figure out what happiness looks like, the more elusive it becomes. Then they meet Dean, from a idealistic community that exists in a permanent state of 1955. They forsake cell phones and sushi for cigarettes and Chicken a la King, taking on new identities that challenge who they thought they were and who they might become. How far will they go -- how far would you go to alter your life in the pursuit of happiness?
Speaking about his fictional Society for Dynamic Obsolescence, Harrison says, “The notion that less freedom could make you happy is a morally problematic idea... I’m hoping that the audience thinks, ‘I would never do something like that... Or would I?"
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