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St. Louis Debut Set For Tennessee Williams Play

"Stairs to the Roof"

For only the second time, Tennessee Williams' "Stairs to the Roof" will be seen in the U.S. 

Williams wrote the play in December 1941, after he had left Washington University and was working at the International Shoe Co. in St. Louis.

“It’s, I think, his love letter or valentine to St. Louis,” set and costume designer Marcel Meyer told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter on Friday. “The main character is the Williams alter ego.”

That character, Ben, is a young poet who works in a shirt factory. He goes to the roof to feed the pigeons and escape. “St. Louis becomes a magical place by night” in the play, Meyer said.

The St. Louis production begins on Nov. 7 at the Boo Cat Club, which was once the St. Louis Artists Guild, a place where Williams worked and performed.

“It is the first professional revival of this play in the USA,” Meyer said, who is from South Africa. “There’ve been two student productions and there was the original production, the Pasadena Playhouse in the ’40s, and there’s been one professional production in London in the early 2000s. You’re going to see history in the making.”

Williams was inspired by St. Louis when he wrote “Stairs to the Roof,” and several familiar places appear as scenes.

“He wrote it as what he was hoping to be his first hit on Broadway,” Meyer said. “He was inspired by the spectacles he had seen at the Muny growing up in St. Louis. It’s a huge play because it takes place all over St. Louis. There are scenes in the Washington U. quad. There’s Forest Park. There’s the zoo.”

“I think it’s long overdue for the city to recognize the influence that his years here had on much, much of his work,” said artistic director Carrie Houk, who is working on bringing more Williams work to St. Louis as well as a festival. “This is a dream for me. He’s my favorite playwright since I was a child. I love all of his work. I think he’s really underrecognized in our town.”

But this isn’t the Williams with which many are familiar.

“It’s such a wonderfully positive play,” Meyer said. “It’s truly (Williams’) fantastic romantic comedy; it’s got a very magical, mystical element as well. It’s a wonderful experience for audiences to see.”  

Related Events

"Stairs to the Roof"

  • When: Nov. 6-23, 2014
  • Where: Boo Cat Club, 812 Union Blvd., St. Louis
  • More information

Tennessee Williams "The St. Louis Years" Bus Tour

  • When: 1 p.m. Nov. 9, 2014
  • Where: Beginning and ending at the Boo Cat Club, 812 Union Blvd., St. Louis. 
  • Cost: Free with purchase of a Nov. 9 matinee performance ticket.
  • More information

Tennessee Williams "The St. Louis Years" Panel Discussion

  • When: Following the 3 p.m. performance on Nov. 9, 2014
  • Where: Boo Cat Club, 812 Union Blvd., St. Louis
  • More information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

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