Summer and Smoke
Mr. Thomas Williams (Tennessee,) was born in Columbus, Mississippi to Cornelius Coffin and Edwina Dankin Williams, March 26 1911. Thomas' family moves to Missouri in 1918, and between the years of 1929 and 1939 Tennessee attends three different universities. After having written his first Blanche DuBois scene, from A Streetcar named Desire, in December of 1944, he took a few months break and wrote his first draft of Summer and Smoke. As a result, the character Alma is seen having a parallel to Blanche. Also in the year 1937, Tennessee's sister Rose is institutionalized for schizophrenia. Typically patients with schizophrenia are at times progressive, at times intermediate and can regress at anytime. They also show a tendency toward deterioration, and memory disturbance. Knowing that Tennessee grew up around a person of this nature helps to explain the "Blanche DuBois" character and all of the other characters such as Alma who relate to her. This show echoes more than just this reflection of Tennessee's past, before the family's move to Missouri, Tennessee grew up much like Alma, in a rectory. Much like Reverend Winemiller, Reverend Dankin, Tennessee's grandfather, was an Episcopal minister. Tennessee's grandfather had also been a doctor, as was John Buchanan. Also for her gift of song, as Alma also had, Rose Dankin in nicknamed the "Nightingale of the Delta."
Tennessee finally, in 1938, graduates with a BA degree in English from the University of Iowa. Summer and Smoke was written after Tennessee had taken break from writing A Streetcar named Desire.
The first production was at the Music Box Theater in New York, October to January of 1949. In 1947, Margo Jones agreed to stage Summer and Smoke. Williams at the time, was living in Province town, the script was still undergoing some changes, and Margo would meet with him occasionally to present what they had been working on. Eventually, October 6, 1948, interestingly enough, the play opened before it was eventually published by New Directions on November 17, 1948. Also, Summer and Smoke was re-written and published in 1965 under the new title: The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, which was eventually, by Dramatic Publishing's changed back to Summer and Smoke. Original scenic design was created by Jo Meizner, who had created a "Skeletonized view of John's office, and an equally Victorian view on the right, and, in between the town square, presided over by the statue of a kneeling Angel" (Bordman.) Original stars of the show included Todd Andrews, as John, and Katherine Balfour, as Alma. The production ran for only 100 performances, after being constantly compared to and eventually replaced by A Streetcar named Desire. Part of the reason why critics believe this show was so unsuccessful is because Margo Jones went about this blind eyed, and only had the guide of Tennessee when she went to visit him, they
blame the poor outcome of this show...