Theater
11:25 am
Thu June 13, 2013

Rare Radio Recording Of Tennessee Williams In Key West Released

Tennessee Williams speaking at the dedication of the auditorium in the Key West Library named for him in March 1975. From the Ida Woodward Barron Collection, Monroe County Public Library.
A rare recording of Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Tennessee Williams has just been made available to the public. As WLRN's Arianna Prothero reports, the reel to reel recording has been sitting in a vault at the Key West public library for decades.

Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) was perhaps the most influential playwright of the twentieth century.

During the 1940s and 1950s, his work took the American theater by storm, achieving enormous popular success and the sort of feverish criticism only accorded writers of groundbreaking genius.

His best-known works include A Streetcar Named Desire, whose 1947 Broadway production launched the careers of Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy, and the 1955 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Both plays were awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Although his later career was marked by declining success, poor health, and a dependence upon drugs and alcohol, when Williams died at 71 he was regarded among the most important artists of his era. His plays continue to be produced around the world to this day.

Williams had a long love affair with Key West, where he owned a home on Duncan Street and lived off and on for more than forty years. He had a strong relationship with the Key West Library, and produced the recording featured here for the Monroe County Public Library at the Key West studios of WKWF on April 3, 1971. Though he was known as a playwright, Williams thought of himself as a poet1, and here he presents a selection of 15 poems, “most of it early, and young” as he says in the brief introduction.

The nearly thirty-minute recording offers a rare opportunity to hear the voice of an American master reading his poems as he felt they ought to be read.

Arlo Haskell is associate director of the Key West Literary Seminar and publisher of Sand Paper Press. His poems, reviews and interviews with authors have been published in Maggy, the Miami Rail and the Los Angeles Review of Books.