Why Tennessee Williams And Edward Albee Lied To Me

I once had the chance to ask these two gifted playwrights the same question: “How could you write plays with such mature wisdom at such young ages?” I have since judged their answers to have been lies. Perhaps lies of modesty, but untruths nevertheless. If I could have asked other young playwrights the same question — Shakespeare, Chekhov, O’Neil, Miller — I suspect they too would have sidestepped the full truth.

Lets remember how Shakespeare defined life [“A tale told be an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.”]. Chekhov [“Life is a tragedy filled with joys.”]. Very much the same way Williams portrayed his characters in “Streetcar Named Desire” and Albee in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Someone equally young once wrote: “History is the sum total of all the things that could have been avoided.” Each in their own unique way, our finest playwrights might have agreed. And yet In some redeeming way, history is also the sum total of all the remarkable artists whose insights into human nature and human society have lit the way for the rest of us. Lit it with illuminating truths about our penchant for pride, greed and power somehow side by side with our pursuit of good, tenderness and love.

So here’s one man’s guess about the gifts of insight among the great writers, composers and singers in our midst: That’s precisely what they are, gifts…! Gifts granted them from somewhere outside them. Case in point. Every time Luciano Pavarotti sang Puccini’s ‘Nessum Dorma,’ the opera lovers in my family would gasp, “A gift from God.” The older I grow and the more gifted people I meet, the less I can find any explanation better than this.

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