One of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century, Tennessee Williams was born Thomas Lanier Williams (1911-1983) in Columbus, Mississippi. The gifted artist turned to writing to escape an unhappy childhood and took on the pen name "Tennessee," the state of his father's birth.
"All creative work, all life in a sense, is a cri de coeur," he once observed.
Williams had a lifelong passion for New Orleans and the city played a big role in his work. "Instinct, it must have directed me here, to the Vieux Carre of New Orleans...I couldn't have consciously, deliberately selected a better place than here to discover -- my true nature," he said.
With The Glass Menagerie (1945), a memory play inspired by his southern belle mother and sister Rose, Williams created vividly colorful characters with emotional depth. The Broadway play received critical acclaim.
His masterpiece of poetic realism, Streetcar Named Desire won him the Pulitzer Prize for the three-act play in 1947. William's unforgettable character Stanley Kowalski made Marlon Brando a star in the 1951 film version of the drama.
Williams often shocked audiences by boldly writing about subjects that were taboo in his time-- domestic violence, alcoholism, homosexuality, mental health, and incest. He created characters who explored the loneliness of being human. His work, Williams explained, was "always a struggle to achieve cathartic purity."
Williams won another Pulitzer in 1951 for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and his work flowed successfully from stage to screen. "In memory, everything seems to happen to music," he wrote with elegant, poetic insight.
Boldly go, with your heart engaged...