John Lahr, author of Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, will be the 2015 Stacey Allen Haines Lecturer. On Wednesday, April 8th, at 4:30, Mr. Lahr will give a reading, appropriately enough, at the Tennessee Williams Theatre, followed by a reception.
In his compelling, intelligent, and unflinching biography, Mr. Lahr, the senior drama critic at The New Yorker magazine since 1992, reveals the tangled umbilical connection between Tennessee Williams’s life and his artistic creations; as he writes, “[Blanche’s] turmoil [in A Streetcar Named Desire] – the promiscuity, the drinking, the fear behind the display of erudite charm – is a veiled admission of Williams’s own delirium. She believes, we learn, that her words have inadvertently caused the suicide of her beloved husband, just as Williams feared that his had precipitated his sister’s descent into madness” (121).
Through his meticulous research, Mr. Lahr also recreates the personal dramas behind the theatrical ones and uncovers the complexities of Williams’s most important relationships, with director Elia Kazan, Marlon Brando, Frank Merlo, Lady Maria St. Just, and most of the 20th century’s leading actors, cultural celebrities, and dramatists.
Many of the insights in Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh come from Lahr’s deep roots in and knowledge of the world of theatre. J.D. McClatchywrites in the Wall Street Journal that Lahr“knows his way around Broadway better than anyone. He is a witty and elegant stylist, a scrupulous researcher, a passionate yet canny advocate… He brings us as close to Williams as we are ever likely to get.”
In 2002 Lahr became the first drama critic to win a Tony Award. He has twice won the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism. His biography of Williams is a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award and was named one of the Best Books of 2014 by the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and Publisher’s Weekly.
The Stacy Allen Haines Memorial Lectureship was established in memory of Stacy Haines, who became a Sewanee resident following his retirement from Sears, Roebuck and Co. in Chicago. It supports visiting lecturers and imaginative young writers the subjects of whose readings are pertinent to the English literature program. The English department is also grateful for the collaboration and contribution of the theatre department.