Creatives in other fields fascinate me — they have so much to teach us! Consider Joe Manganiello, a classically trained actor who’s currently flexing his six pack as a hunky werewolf on the hit series, True Blood. Since it only takes a couple of days a month to “rip my shirt off and growl,” our boy Joe has time and a heavy dose of frustrated creativity to spare. What to do? What to do?
Tennessee Williams to the rescue! It seems that Joe’s agent has found him a quick gig: He’ll be starring as Stanley Kowalski in the Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire (one of my all-time favorite titles!) Joe knows the part “inside and out” since he played the role of Stanley a few years ago. He’s looking forward to performing it, because Streetcar is his favorite play. Here’s what he had to say about it:
“…I’m excited to check in and see where I’m at now, as a person, what’s going to get pulled out from me this time. Everyone knows someone like these characters — the aging beauty, the abused spouse and this Jungian shadow form of a man. You don’t agree with the choices they make, but you get it. And what’s really amazing, on any given night, it depends on the performance as to who the audience is going to side with. There’s so much talk now about how the protagonists on cable TV are anti-heroes who live in a gray area, be it Don Draper on Mad Men or Walter White on Breaking Bad. People talk about this as if it’s some kind of new thing, but Tennessee Williams did it in the 1950s, and I think did it better than anybody. Stanley Kowalski is still the quintessential, top-of-the-mountain male role in American drama.”
I love Joe’s enthusiasm for Streetcar and his take on the universal nature of the timeless characters that Tennessee created. But even more, I love the way he feels about the play as an actor: It’s something fluid, alive, constantly changing and reinventing itself from performance to performance. You sense the dynamic, propulsive nature of a great work of art in Joe’s comments and the incredible writing achievement of Tennessee Williams in creating a drama so enduring that it still seems fresh more than 50 years later and gave birth to a character so iconic that everyone else seems to be just a knock-off. What an incredible feat!
Isn’t that one of the goals of writing dangerously: to create stories and characters so enduring that they stand the test of time? Let’s take a tip from Tennessee and write on!