Blanche DuBois might have depended on the kindness of strangers. Her charm might have been 50 percent illusion, but not Brenda Caradine’s charm. It’s one 100 percent real, and she depends on her own hard work, vision and will.
Like Amanda Wingfield, she is an iron hand in a velvet glove, but she is not caught in a flight of fancy like Amanda. She’s fully grounded in reality and in the present, and because of her unflagging determination, the Tennessee Williams Tribute and Tour of Victorian Homes will kick off in Columbus again in just a couple of weeks.
If by chance Tennessee Williams is not a favorite of yours (and don’t tell Brenda), Blanche and Amanda are two of his most dramatic heroines, and Brenda is one of mine. Of course, she has lots of help and support from the community, but everyone knows this annual festival is her labor of love and her gift to the birthplace of America’s greatest playwright, Columbus and the state of Mississippi. Heck, the festival is so respected that it draws patrons nationwide and even internationally, and this year it will be held Sept. 3-8 with funding from both the Mississippi Arts Commission and the Mississippi Humanities Council.
I’m told that the likes of Olympia Dukakis even graced the stage a few years ago, and while staying in Brenda’s delightful Bed and Breakfast, I got to sit in the very dining chair where Olympia took her tea. That’s pretty exciting for a boy from the country.
I know this may seem a bit astray from my usual fare, but not as far as you might think. I write for and about women because I simply adore them (although men are most cordially welcomed), and Tennessee Williams adored them as well. Most of his very best characters are women, and most of the principal players in my business and in my life are leading ladies. So this week, Thomas Lanier Williams and I celebrate Brenda, Blanche, Amanda and all the rest.
Williams writes: “Physical beauty is passing — a transitory possession — but beauty of the mind, richness of the spirit, tenderness of the heart … increase with the years.” Yep, that’s the women I love for sure, but I don’t know that physical beauty necessarily does pass. I saw a photo of Sophia Loren this week, and at 78, I’m not a bit sure she isn’t still the most beautiful woman in the world.
Blanche opens “A Streetcar Named Desire” recounting her trip to the French Quarter, how they told her to take a streetcar named Desire, to transfer to one called Cemeteries, and get off at Elysian Fields. Well, I suggest instead of Elysian Fields, you consider stopping and tarrying at one of the many exciting and diverse events that the festival will unfold this year including the Williams classic “Period of Adjustment” and a celebration through music and poetry called “Autumn Song.” For more information and schedule information, go to muw.edu/tennesseewilliams/.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.
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