plays depict complicated relationships. Tennessee Williams was
surrounded by them. In Tennessee Williams and the South,
its author Kenneth Holditch describes the playwright's mother Edwina
Dakin as "indomitable" and says she inspired her son's character of
Amanda Wingfield, the overwhelming matriarch and lapsed southern
belle of The Glass Menagerie. Williams declared
Menagerie "a memory play."
Gaius Whitfield of nearby Demopolis, Alabama, ranked memorably among
the suitors received by Edwina Dakin in Columbus, Mississippi,
before her marriage. Whitfield's post card to Edwina of his
ancestral home, Gaineswood, remains plastered to a page of Edwina's
scrapbooks archived by the Harry Ransom Center at The University of
eventually became Vice President of the National Bank of
Middlesboro, Kentucky. With inspiration from Edwina Dakin, it may
not be coincidental that Amanda in Menagerie recalls the
"son of a planter...who later became vice-president of the Delta
Planters Bank" as one of her "gentlemen callers."
It is no coincidence that Tennessee Williams named many of his
characters for his friend Marian Gallaway, the first full-time
Director of Theatre at The University of Alabama. Described by
retired UA Theatre Department Chair Edmond Williams in a pictorial
history of The Marian Gallaway Theatre, named for her in 1976, she
was "a force unlike any other, before or since, at The University of
Dr. Williams adds that Gallaway "knew her craft inside and out" but
she "did not know her place" as she campaigned for a Theatre
Department at the University during the 1940s and 1950s. Similarly,
in a foreword to Gallaway's book Constructing a Play
(1950), Tennessee Williams wrote: "Marian Gallaway was one of those
persons who lived and breathed theatre and somehow managed to infect
her associates with her own religious excitement about it."
Marian Gallaway and Tennessee Williams met at The University of Iowa
where she costumed him for a small role in Shakespear's Henry
IV, Part I, in April 1938. They remained friends and lifelong
correspondents. Gallaway claimed to be the role-model for Blanche in
A Streetcar Named Desire.
According to the Tennessee Williams Notebooks, edited by
Margaret Bradham Thornton, Williams repeatedly used Gallaway's
surname for his characters: the former girlfriend of the narrator in
the short story The Kingdom of Earth; the landlady Miss
Gallaway in The Strangest Kind of Romance; the "marginally
youthful but attractive" Dorothea Gallaway in A Lovely Sunday
for Creve Coeur; and the wife of a tycoon lording over "Gallaway
Cotton Mills" in the play Heavenly Grass or The Miracles at
Granny's (a Primitive Libretto).
These relationships set the stages for a unique two-night tribute to
Tennessee Williams, Alabama's playwright next door, at Gaineswood in
Demopolis and in the Marian Gallaway Theatre at The University of
Alabama in Tuscaloosa on March 2 and 3, 2015. Commentaries and
keynotes about Tennessee Williams and Marian Gallaway will be
provided by Dr. Kenneth Holditch and Dr. Edmond Williams.
readings from the plays of Tennessee Williams, including A Glass
Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire, will be
presented by contemporary Drama students at the University in both
venues with direction by Allison Hetzel. Grant funding is provided
by the Alabama Humanities Foundation, a state agency of the National
Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
Alabama's tribute to Tennessee Williams during Trailfest 2015 will
continue in April when the Canebrake Players of Demopolis present
The Glass Menagerie on the weekend of Friday, April 24,
2015, with direction by Susanna Naisbett. One of the founding
directors for the Canebrake Players, Walter Brown McCord, and
Tennessee Williams were also friends, meeting each other in New York
City during the early days of the playwright's efforts to achieve
stage success. Link to the Alabama Calendar
for all Tribute events.
Tennessee Williams: The Alabama Tribute at Gaineswood and The
Marian Gallaway Theatre is presented with gratitude and appreciation
to The Tennessee Williams Tribute of Columbus, Mississippi, and its
Director Brenda Caradine.