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Tennessee Williams: The Alabama Tribute at Gaineswood & The Marian Gallaway Theater -- Monday, March 2, 2015, and Tuesday, March 3, 2015 -- Demopolis and Tuscaloosa 

Tennessee WilliamsGreat 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 Texas, Austin.

Marian GallawayGaius 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 Alabama."

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."

Edwina Dakin of Columbus, Ms.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.

A postcard to Edwina Dakin from Gaius Whitfield (Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas)Dramatic 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.