Tuesday, October 07, 2014

John Lahr at Mechanics' Institute

Critic John Lahr is on tour promoting his new biography of Tennessee Williams & on Monday spoke at the Mechanics' Institute. Rather than read from the book, he gave a free-form talk. I didn't quite follow his convoluted history of the battle to publish an "authorized" Williams biography, but we heard many anecdotes about Lady Maria St. Just, a trustee of Williams's estate, who resorted to blackmail & even resectioning the playwright's letters with a razor blade. Mr. Lahr's book is apparently a sort of follow-up to an earlier biography by Lyle Leverich, a San Francisco theater manager whom Tennessee Williams named as his official biographer. Lahr's book starts with the Broadway opening of The Glass Menagerie & interprets all the plays in the context of Williams's emotional state.

It was nice to hear Mr. Lahr say that he never had a bad day at the New Yorker, where he has been senior drama critic for over 20 years. In the Q & A, he became very animated when panning the Young Vic's recent production of A Streetcar Named Desire. I planned to buy a copy of the book at the event but then balked at the $44 hardcover price.

§ Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh
An afternoon with author John Lahr
Monday, October 06, 2014 - 12:30pm
Mechanics' Institute


Civic Center said...

Somebody needs to write a play about Marie St. Just. From all accounts, she was one of Williams' Monster Women on steroids, and in one of his many acts of sheer perversity, he left her as his literary executor.

Not a big fan of Lahr's writing (the Orton book is bad), but Tennessee Williams' works are aging pretty brilliantly.

Axel Feldheim said...

Lyle Leverich had never even written a book when he was appointed official biographer, so Williams apparently liked to make capricious decisions about his legacy.

Perhaps you should write that play about Maria St. Just!