Mar 25, 2011

In Honor of Tom

A moment of drama almost worthy of a Tennessee Williams drama, at a centennial celebration of same:
The crowd at the Thursday, March 24, night Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival gala celebration at Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre were served up a slice of unexpectedly delectable drama. Maybe it was iconic theater observer Rex Reed’s wonderfully wicked behind-the scenes anecdotes, or his use of an incendiary expletive in a punch line, but something he said apparently angered one of the guest speakers, Broadway star Zoe Caldwell.

When, late in the spirited program, it was time for panelists Louise Hirschfeld Cullman (wife of celebrity cartoonist Al Hirchfeld), Shirley Knight, Carroll Baker, and Caldwell to present brief prepared performances, Caldwell refused. She informed the audience that she’d planned to read a pair of especially precious poems by Williams, … but not on the same stage with Reed.

Reed, an utterly charming host, who radiated enthusiasm for the event, seemed naturally nonplussed. Thus ensued a jagged moment in which the players on the stage seemed to be irreconcilably alienated and at the same time strangely drawn closer together. Everyone in attendance who’d ever felt offended at one time or another or bewildered by coy human behavior was magnetized by the moment.

Somewhere, Tennessee was smiling.
Or laughing, in that inimitable way of his (skip to 8:30 to hear a small sample).

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