Encore feature on Tennessee Williams and “Summer and Smoke”

Hilberry celebrates Tennessee Williams’ centenary anniversary with ‘Summer and Smoke’

Read original article here.

DETROIT – March 26, 2011 marked the 100th anniversary of playwright Tennessee Williams’ birth. The Hilberry Theatre has joined the list of Michigan institutions, including The University of Michigan and Michigan State University, which are participating in the nationwide recognition of one of America’s literary legends. Awarded four Drama Critic Circle Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Williams was one of the greatest playwrights in American history. His distinct love for the South can currently be witnessed in all its glory in the Hilberry Theatre’s production of “Summer and Smoke,” which runs in rotating repertory with “Major Barbara.” “Summer and Smoke plays” until April 22.

Famous for his idyllic portrayals of small-town Southern life, Williams would also go on to become recognized for something a little less literary: his homosexuality. When commissioned to write a personal memoir about the writing process behind his plays, he would end up revealing more in the memoir about his private life and sexuality than about his writing which shot him to prominence.

Andrew Papa as John and Lorelei Sturm as Alma

“Sexuality is a basic part of my nature,” Williams once said. “I never considered my homosexuality as anything to be disguised. Neither did I consider it a matter to be over-emphasized. The most stupid thing said about my writing is that my heroines are disguised transvestites. Absolutely and totally none of them are anything but women… Miss Alma (of “Summer and Smoke”) is one of my very best characters.”

A number of Williams’ plays, such as “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” would go on from Broadway hits to become critically acclaimed feature films. Annually, in one of Williams’ most beloved places, New Orleans (a place he attributed to his sexual awakening), a five-day Tennessee Williams Festival celebrates his life’s work through a series of master classes, competitions and discussions with distinguished panelists. Throughout the nation over the last year, numerous conventions, special events and stage productions have celebrated Williams’ centennial and commemorated the many achievements and contributions he has left on the literary, theatrical and LGBT communities.

The Hilberry cast members include Alec Barbour (Archie Kramer), Danielle Cochrane (Mrs. Winemiller), Megan Dobbertin (Nellie), Christopher Ellis (Reverend Winemiller), Brent Griffith (Vernon), Sara Hymes (Mrs. Basset), Edmund Alyn Jones (Gonzales), Andrew Papa (John Buchanan, Jr.), Topher Payne (Dusty), Joshua Blake Rippy (Dr. John Buchanan, Sr.), Vanessa Sawson (Rosa Gonzales), David Sterritt (Roger Doremus) and Lorelei Sturm (Alma Winemiller).

The production team includes: Lionel Walsh (director), Veronica Zahn (stage manager), Michael Peters (assistant stage manager), Peter Schmidt (scenic designer), Leazah Behrens (technical director), Tyler Ezell (sound designer), John Woodland (costume designer), Samuel G. Byers (lighting designer) and Alex Goodman (publicity manager).

Tickets are $12-$30 and are available by calling the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at 313-577-2972 or online at www.Hilberry.com. The box office is open Tuesday through Saturday from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m., with extended hours to 8 p.m. on performance evenings (Thursday-Saturday). Group discounts and corporate packages are also available.

For more information, please call 313-577-2972 or visit the Hilberry Theatre Box Office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock in Detroit.

About the Hilberry Theatre Company
The Hilberry Company is the nation’s only graduate theater company staffed by young up-and-coming professionals that also runs on a rotating repertory schedule. Approximately 40 graduate students are selected in national competition to receive fellowships to work in this theater and study for advanced degrees. The company performs an annual season of six plays, including high school matinees for nearly 6,000 students. Through the years four Hilberry productions have been selected to appear at the American College Theatre Festival.

Performance Information

Show times

Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Friday, April 20, 2012 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 2:00 pm
Saturday, April 21, 2012 at 8:00 pm
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