(Robert Faires’s interview with John Lahr appeared in the Austin Chronicle, 2/25.)
Blanche DuBois was no Athena.
That is to say, the faded belle of Belle Reve, who makes her way to her sister's cramped French Quarter digs via that fateful streetcar named Desire, didn't spring fully formed from the head of her creator. For that matter, neither did her sister Stella or Stella's brutish husband, Stanley, or the drama in which they all live. However gifted and inspired a writer Tennessee Williams may have been – and he was as gifted and inspired as any the American theatre has produced – he was not a writer whose work first hit the page in finished form. Those landmark plays for which he is best known – Streetcar, The Glass Menagerie, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Summer and Smoke, The Night of the Iguana – were the result of many revisions and drafts, some of which took the plays down very different roads than the ones we know. He would sometimes rework a play over a span of years, as he did with the 1940 drama Battle of Angels, which by 1957 he had transformed into Orpheus Descending.