Thursday, May 10, 2012

"Ten Blocks on the Camino Real" - opens tonight at Charlestown Working Theater

The thirty days are now up - time to visit Camino Real! For our last entry, it's only appropriate that the final words go to Elia Kazan (director of the first Broadway production of the 16 block "Camino Real"), Beau Jest director Davis Robinson, and to Tennessee Williams, creator of this mysterious, magical place.
Elia Kazan:
"The play didn't take place in Mexico or in any other land that can be found in an atlas.  It happens in the topography inside the author's head.  What I got was a lugubrious realistic setting that was, in a word, heavy handed.  And too real.  It made the fantasies that took place inside it seem silly."
Kazan on the play's characters:
"They are all doomed, but Kilroy has a quality the others have lost: He can still struggle to get up when he's knocked down."
Kazan again:
"Camino Real is as private as a nightmare. No playwright except Eugener O'Neill in his last plays was as personal as Tennessee Williams. This play perhaps more than the others --- are about the greatest fears of the author, of distrust and betrayal: distrust of his own fate and of other humans and the betrayal he was certain would come, both from other men, even those close to him, and, because of its anarchy and cataclysmic speed, from time itself."

Kazan's question to Williams:
"Once when I asked him what his play was about, he answered, 'It's the story of everyone's life after he has gone through the razzle-dazzle of his youth. Time is short, baby, it betrays us as we betray eachother. Work, that's all there is! There is terror and mystery on oneside, honor and tenderness on the other."
Davis Robinson:
One of the most fascinating things to read while researching "Ten Blocks" was the public and private correspondence between Tennessee Williams and the show's many supporters and detractors after its reception on Broadway as the 16 block "Camino Real." Although many characters were added and plot points expanded for the Broadway version, both versions share a sensibility that was well articulated by Tennessee in a letter to the New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson after reviews came out:
"…In writing fantasy it is terribly hard to know when you have violated the boundaries of audience acceptance. Some will allow you absolute license, others almost none, and I don't suppose there is any way of assuring a uniform disarmament, no matter how carefully or subtley you prepare them. A lot of the grotesque comedy in this work, and I think that is its dominant element, even though all of it had a serious import back of it, is traceable to the spirit of the American comic strip and the animated cartoons, where the most outrageous absurdities give the greatest delight. I'm sure you've seen the movie cartoons where the characters are blown sky high one moment and are skipping gaily about the next, where various members of their bodies are destroyed and restored in the flicker of the projector, and nobody seems to mind the implausibility of it. I thought that this art-form had softened up my American audiences for the manifest illogicalities of Camino! (More's the pity!) The Messrs. Chapman and Kerr - (I stopped reading the notices after those came out – except for Hawkins which a true friend read over the phone at 3AM when a combination of nembutal and seconal still hadn't worked) - were obviously not willing to be budged one centimeter from the strictest of literal approaches, or at least moralistic attitudes, toward something that literally got down on its knees and begged for imaginative participation."
-- Tennessee Williams
Quotes from the autobiography "Elia Kazan: A Life", published 1997 by Da Capo Press, excerpted by Larry Coen. Photo: Stan Rowin

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