Dr. Philip C. Kolin, University Distinguished Professor of English at The University of Southern Mississippi and an internationally recognized Tennessee Williams scholar, served as guest editor for the spring 2010 issue of the literary review Valley Voices, titled “Tennessee Williams (1911-1983): A Pre-Centennial Issue.”
Anticipating the centennial of Williams’ birth, the issue focused primarily on the playwright’s early work, much of it set in the Mississippi Delta, his childhood home. The issue contains two new interviews, seven scholarly essays and original poetry commemorating Williams and his work.
Opening the special issue is Kolin’s interview with distinguished Tennessee Williams biographer and editor Allean Hale, who has made significant contributions to scholarly research on Williams as an editor and biographer over the last half century. At 96, Hale is still writing and lecturing about Williams and has appeared on PBS and other national media.
Many of the early plays Hale has edited are discussed in articles that follow on “Spring Storm,” one of Williams’ first full length works set in the Delta, “Stairs to the Roof,” and a series of shorter plays such as “When Will Mr. Merriwether Return from Memphis?” A photo essay by celebrated director Thomas Mitchell captures the power of these works in recent productions.
Kolin has also included an essay on Williams’ ghost artists, characters who wander throughout his canon from the early 1940s through later works such as “Clothes for a Summer Hotel” (1980) about Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Another essay also tackles an area of Williams’ canon that few have written about—his travel articles written for his St. Louis high school—which foreshadow such later plays as “Glass Menagerie” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Kolin’s “Pre-Centennial” issue also celebrates the Deep South that is synonymous with Williams’ canon, early and late, in articles on Streetcar in light of theories of stagecraft articulated in the 1940s and with Williams’ influence on British theatre in the 1990s which had a completely different interpretation of his South than did audiences in the 1940s or 1950s.
An interview with director Michael Marks, whose award-winning production of “Streetcar” at Hattiesburg High School in the 1991-1992 school year cites many local places referred to in Williams’ play, such as Laurel, Miss. and Camp Shelby.
The issue concludes with 10 original poems by such highly respected poets as Linda Pastan, Marjorie Maddox, George Guida, and Sue Walker, the Poet Laureate of Alabama. Kolin’s own poem, “My Name is Candy,” explores how so many of Williams’ heroines—in name and in action—“depended on the geography of seasons.”Philip Kolin
Kolin is the first Charles W. Moorman Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Southern Miss. He has been a member of the university’s faculty since 1974.
About The University of Southern Mississippi
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