Tennessee in St. Louis
“What shouldn’t you do if you’re a young playwright? Don’t bore the audience! I mean, even if you have to resort to totally arbitrary killing on stage, or pointless gunfire, at least it’ll catch their attention and keep them awake. Just keep the thing going any way you can.”
—Tennesee Williams in an interview with Dotson Rader for The Paris Review, 1981
Today kicks off a five-day-long celebration of St. Louis’s favorite native playwright. The inaugural Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis will feature film screenings, readings, performances of The Glass Menagerie, and more . . . including a Stella shouting contest at Strauss Park on Sunday. Of particular interest to us history fans will be the reading of a new trove of Williams family letters on Friday night.
To appreciate Williams the rest of the year, I just have to take a stroll in the neighborhood by my office at the Missouri History Museum’s Library and Research Center. You see, Williams lived in or spent time at many locations in University City and Clayton, and no less than three of his family’s homes are within a mile of the LRC.
Take a peek at these homes, accompanied by text from our 2006 book Here’s Where: A Guide to Illustrious St. Louis, written by Charlie Brennan.
Williams’s family rented the house at 42 Aberdeen Place from 1937 to about 1940. He lived at the house when he wasn’t studying at the University of Iowa. Williams described it as “a fine location.” From this address, he applied for work at KXOK, a new radio station owned by the St. Louis Star-Times.
Williams’s mother, Edwina, lived at 53 Arundel Place in the 1940s. In the basement, he worked on a screenplay about Louisiana governor Huey Long. He wrote letters from this address, claiming his mother monitored his phone calls from the house by listening in on the other line.
Williams’s mother lived at 6360 Wydown in her later years, in the 1950s. Tennessee stayed at his mother’s home when visiting St. Louis. In 1955 he wrote a letter from this address, stating he was in St. Louis to visit “what remains of my family.”
—Lauren Mitchell, Director of Publications