Backed by Mississippi cultural leaders, the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival is teaming up with The Infinite Theatre to bring their popular production of “Orpheus Descending” to Tennessee Williams’ home state of Mississippi this month. A total of nine performances are planned in three cities: Columbus
from February 23-March 3.
For the past two years, this powerful rendition of “Orpheus” has been called “thrilling” with “outstanding performances.” It was a runaway success at the annual fall Festival, held in September in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Arts, culture and political leaders from Mississippi were so impressed with the production that a coalition of supporters has been formed and funds were raised for the New York-based Infinite Theatre’s production to come to Mississippi. It is co-produced by the Festival with over 20 people involved.
Here are some scenes from previous performances around the country. Photos courtesy of Josh Andrus and Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival:
The production is conceived as a morality play – to be performed in a house of worship. The imagery in the text comes not only from the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus, but from Williams’ own Episcopal upbringing in small-town Mississippi. “Orpheus Descending” takes place in the Mississippi Delta
, where Williams spent his boyhood until the age of 7. The play follows the handsome, guitar-playing Val Xavier (Thomas Beaudoin) as he tries valiantly to turn his back on corruption. He appears in a metaphorical purgatory, arriving mysteriously in a small-town dry goods store run by an Italian immigrant named Lady Torrance (Irene Glezos). She’s married to an old, dying man, but Lady takes in the alluring drifter, giving him a bed in the store and thereby unlocking her long-repressed desire. Val’s arrival stirs up the insular, suspicious townspeople, leading to his inevitable expulsion, while the free-wheeling misfit, Carol Cutrere (Beth Bartley), haunts Lady’s store in a tangle of innocence and vice. Broken, brazen and defiant, these three tragic heroes are the ultimate outsiders. Yet their ordinary weaknesses reveal extraordinary zeal.
Columbus – Feb. 23-25
First United Methodist Church, Artz Fellowship Hall, 602 College St.
Oxford – Feb. 26-28
Paris-Yates Chapel, University of Mississippi
Jackson – Mar. 1-3
St Luke’s United Methodist Church, 621 Duling Ave.