To mark the 110th birthday of two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams, organizers of Columbus’ annual Tennessee Williams Tribute, in partnership with the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau (Visit Columbus), will host a weekend of celebrations Friday and Saturday.
Williams was born in Columbus March 26, 1911, the second of three children of Cornelius and Edwina Dakin Williams. Edwina Williams’ father, the Rev. Walter Dakin, served as priest at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on College Street. The famed playwright died in New York Feb. 25, 1983.
In 2001 in Columbus, Brenda Caradine and co-organizers began honoring the legacy of Williams’ work by presenting the Tennessee Williams Tribute each autumn. Events have included numerous plays, the Stella Shouting Contest hosted by Hollyhocks Gift Shop, home tours, renowned Tennessee Williams scholars and many other observances.
Two events this Friday and one on Saturday will mark the 110th anniversary of Williams’ birth.
■ Friday morning — Visit Columbus will serve birthday cake and coffee at 10 a.m. at the Tennessee Williams Home Museum and Welcome Center at 300 Main St. While there, have photos made with “Tennessee” and “his mother” and tour the historic home. Register to win a picnic for four on the lawn of the Tennessee Williams Home.
■ Friday evening — A night of entertainment is planned from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Columbus Arts Council’s Rosenzweig Arts Center, 501 Main St. Broadway veteran Joel Vig returns to Columbus to perform a reading of “Mr. Williams and Miss Wood,” featuring Columbus actress Cherri Golden.
Of all the women in Williams’ life, perhaps the most important in terms of his career and professional success was Audrey Wood, his agent, mentor and friend.
“The Tennessee Williams Tribute is excited to be a part of celebrating Tennessee’s 110th birthday,” said Marthalie Porter of the Tribute committee. “The play will show the business and friendship between Williams and his agent over 25-plus years.”
Refreshments will be served at this free event open to the public. Masks and social distancing are required.
■ Saturday morning — Friendly City Books, 118 Fifth St. N. downtown, hosts a book signing from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. for Tennessee Williams scholar Augustin Correro and his new book “Tennessee Williams 101.”
Correro has assisted with past tributes, including serving as director of “Suddenly Last Summer” in 2015.
For more information on the birthday celebrations, visit the Facebook page at facebook.com/TWTCOLUMBUS, the website tennesseewilliamstribute.org, or the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau site visitcolumbus.org.
About Tennessee Williams
Thomas Lanier Williams was born March 26, 1911, in Columbus, the second of three children of Cornelius and Edwina Dakins Williams. Williams’ father traveled extensively as a shoe salesman and left the raising of the children to Edwina.
Williams grew up in a dysfunctional home and began to use his writing as an escape from the emotional toll it took on him and his family. In years to come, he would channel the emotions, desires, loss, frustration and anger into the plotlines of his plays. He also famously based many characters on his family and friends, flaws and all.
In 1944 Williams had his first Broadway hit, “The Glass Menagerie,” the story of a dysfunctional family that was loosely based on his own. Other major works by Williams include: “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Summer and Smoke,” “The Rose Tattoo,” “Camino Real,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Orpheus Descending” and “Suddenly Last Summer.”
Williams received numerous accolades and awards honoring his work, including the Pulitzer Prize for “A Streetcar Named Desire.” His works have been performed all over the world and several have been made into hit movies starring actors including Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh and Eva Marie Saint.
Williams experienced life to the fullest, traveling the world to keep his creative juices flowing, He also consumed drugs and alcohol to help in that aspect, as well. As he aged, that combination began to take its toll and his health began to decline. He died in New York on Feb. 25, 1983, at the age of 71 and is buried in St. Louis near his mother.
Editor’s note: Biographical information courtesy of the Tennessee Williams Tribute committee.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.