Tennessee Williams fell in love with Hart Crane’s poetry at an early age. Crane’s life, death by jumping off a ship into the Gulf of Mexico, and poetry inspired and fascinated Williams. In the last years of his life, Williams wrote a play that featured Crane and his fraught relationship with his mother. Williams’ short play, Steps Must Be Gentle, one of his last, takes its title from one of Crane’s poems. In Steps Must Be Gentle, Williams imagines Crane at peace on the bottom of the sea … until his mother dies and tracks him down to straighten him out.

The Case of the Crushed Petunias, written in 1941, tells the story of Dorothy Simple, a woman trapped in her job at a prim and proper shop in Massachusetts. She has barricaded her house and heart behind a double row of petunias—until the day she wakes up to find every single petunia crushed by the footprints of a size-eleven-D shoe. Afterward, a young man arrives to confess his crime but is also on a mission to alert Dorothy to the “miraculous accident of being alive.” Armed with poetry, seeds for wild roses, and a business card from “LIFE, INCORPORATED,” the young man endeavors to convince Dorothy that tremendous inspiration lies beyond what can be bought or sold in a shop.

Tennessee Williams’ The Reading is a short sketch of what would eventually become Vieux Carré.   The Reading, like I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark on Sundays, is structured as a play-within-a-play, with two actors auditioning for their respective parts. Their script centers on Jane and Tye, two more elements this play shares with I Never Get Dressed Till After Dark on Sundays. Making its Festival debut, The Reading looks at Jane’s depiction of a mysterious merchant whom she believes (or wants to believe) will rescue her from poverty and dependence on Tye. The thin plot also involves Jane’s advancing leukemia (named here but only poetically described in Vieux Carré) and her futile attempt to abandon Tye to run off with her wealthy suitor. The play’s only other characters are Two Voices presiding over the audition.

03/26/2023 11:00am , Hotel Monteleone, Vieux Carré Room, $20 or VIP Pass


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