Saturday night Gremlin Theatre opens a never-before-seen Tennessee Williams play, The Enemy: Time. How is that possible? I mean, he's been dead for 26 years. Is someone channeling him from the grave? And why is such an important theater event happening in Minnesota? (First, Kushner. Now, Williams. Is this an important new play trend? Come to Minnesota; the water's good here.)
Turns out, according to director Jef Hall-Flavin, that it's not so strange after all. Williams "wrote every day of his life," said Hall-Flavin, so there's a "ton of short plays that have never been produced." This one was written in 1952 and given to a producer who asked Williams to expand it. Over time, it became the full-length play Sweet Bird of Youth. (Paul Newman starred in the 1962 movie, for whatever that's worth to you.) This short version was actually published in a magazine in 1959, the year Sweet Bird of Youth was first produced on stage.
So are we going to be seeing a flood of Tennessee Williams world premieres from now on? Like being a living playwright wasn't hard enough, I got to compete with the brilliant and the dead for production slots now? As Hall-Flavin tells it, the Williams estate and the publishers who hold the rights to his unproduced work don't allow any and all of his daily writing to be shown publicly. They're always trying to strike a "delicate balance" between the interest the public has in "new" Williams work and the desire not to put something out there that's "half-baked." The careful decision was made that this play is one Williams wanted produced.
Jeff Hall-Flavin, who makes his home in Minnesota, is also the director of the three year old Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival, where Gremlin's premiere production of The Enemy: Time will be remounted in September. It will actually be the 6th world premiere of the festival.
Still, a world premiere play by one of the most important American playwrights ever? Over at scrappy Gremlin Theatre on University? Even though I know how it happened now, I still think its pretty amazing.