KU Theatre to stage Williams' 'Summer and Smoke'

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas University Theatre is staging "Summer and Smoke" by Tennessee Williams at 7:30 p.m. March 2, 3, 9, and 10 and at 2:30 p.m. March 4 and 11, in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre in Murphy Hall.

The production is directed by Boone J. Hopkins, Gainesville, Ga., doctoral student; music direction is by Ryan McCall, University Theatre accompanist, and choreography is by Michelle Heffner Hayes, professor of dance. Scenic designer is Rana Esfandiary, Tehran, Iran, graduate student; costume designer is Delores Ringer, associate professor of theatre, and lighting designer is Julia Fleck, Sedalia, Mo., graduate student.

The evocative story of “Summer and Smoke,” has been called Williams' most poetic. It is deeply intertwined with an extraordinary collaborator and supporter of the playwright, Margo Jones, who believed in Williams, often when he did not believe in himself. In 1947, Jones co-directed the Broadway production of “The Glass Menagerie” and helped the playwright discover an unknown actor, Marlon Brando, for the role of Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” She began pushing Williams to develop the play in which he lacked faith, and her profound belief in the play led Jones to direct the piece during the first season of her trailblazing regional theatre company, Theatre ’47 in Dallas. The subsequent Broadway production, directed by Jones at the Music Box Theatre in 1948, was panned by critics and only ran for 102 performances. Between the success of the regional theatre performance and the relative failure of the Broadway production, this production seeks to rediscover the staging and rehearsal practices Jones used in her original 1947 staging of the play in Dallas.        

“Summer and Smoke,” set in Mississippi before World War I, centers on a high-strung, unmarried minister's daughter, Alma Winemiller, and the romance that nearly blossoms between her and the wild, undisciplined young doctor who grew up next door, John Buchanan. From childhood she has harbored a deep spiritual love and affection for Buchanan, who prefers livelier company than the timid Alma and is attracted to Rosa Gonzales, the daughter of the owner of Moon Lake Casino. One night, John, intrigued by Alma's shy and inhibited longings for love, takes her to the casino. When he tries to seduce her, a horrified Alma denounces him and runs away. As months pass, Alma's brooding love erupts into passion and she goes to John. But it is too late and it is John who now regards their relationship as a spiritual one. After learning that John plans to marry another woman, a heartbroken and frustrated Alma wanders to the park, where she must find a new path to spiritual love and fulfillment.

Reserved seat tickets for "Summer and Smoke" are on sale in the KU ticket offices: University Theatre, 864-3982, and Lied Center, 864-ARTS, and online at kutheatre.com. Public tickets are $18, tickets for all students are $10, and senior citizen and KU faculty and staff tickets are $17. All major credit cards are accepted for phone and online orders.