Interviewed by Gail M. Burns, June 16, 1999
Although Blair Brown has visited Williamstown many times, this is her first season appearing with the WTF, as Marguerite in the first MainStage play, Tennessee Williams' "Camino Real". "Nikos used to call every year and invite me to lunch," Brown recalls, "He's say 'What do you want to play?' And then he'd cast Blythe Danner."
This year WTF resident director Nicholas Martin brought in a host of performers whose work he knew well for this production, and Brown was among them, "There is never enough time in a summer stock production," Brown said, reflecting on a first run through after only five days of rehearsals, "Here you have to jump in with both feet. It takes a very light touch, and Nicky [Martin] chose his actors wisely. People have to be up for it." Martin is familiar to WTF audiences for his direction "The Royal Family" and "Dead End", among many other shows, here in Williamstown.
Brown, best known for her starring role in the 1987-1991 TV series "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd" has had an enviable career in theatre, film and television - receiving five Emmy nominations, two Cable Ace nominations, and a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Jackie Kennedy in the NBC mini-series "Kennedy". Brown just ended a run in the current Broadway revival of "Cabaret" and made another, sadly short-lived, foray into series television two years ago heading up the cast of "Feds" on CBS. She can be seen in two 1999 films - "The Astronaut's Wife" and "Random Hearts".
"Camino Real", Williams' still controversial 1953 opus, demands a lot of energy from cast, director, designers and crew. Boasting a cast of 44 - including Brown, Hope Davis, Ethan Hawke, and Richard Easton - the show takes place in a fictional Latin American town through which famous fictional characters pass. Brown is playing Marguerite, La Dame au Camellias, opposite Easton's Casanova.
"I am a huge fan of Tennessee Williams," Brown said, noting that, although "Camino Real" is seldom produced professionally because of the size of the show, it is being done in four regional theatres this year, "In this show you need all those actors on stage. You need the rich, the poor, the whole world to comment on the action and the principals. It is a work that just gets richer and richer as you get into it."
Brown has done her homework, citing parallels between "Camino Real" and "The Wasteland" and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", contemporaneous works by T.S. Eliot; and relecting on the time in American history which produced the play, "Do you realize that Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' and Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot' opened on Broadway the same year as 'Camino Real'?" Brown exclaimed, "Both Walter Winchell and Ed Sullivan attacked 'Camino Real' as un-American. And Arthur Miller had his passport revoked for writing 'The Crucible'."
Brown is obviously enjoying her visit to the Berkshires and the chance to appear in this play and work with Martin and other old friends. Her son, about to enter his senior year in high school, is with her, and he has already had his admissions tour of Williams College. The rest of her summer will include more college visits and a chance for the two of them to take a real vacation.
"Camino Real" by Tennessee Williams will open the 1999 Main Stage season at the Williamstown Theatre Festival on June 23, running through July 4. The box office (413-597-3400) is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 AM till 8 PM, and Sunday from 11 AM till 4 PM.
copyright Gail M. Burns, 1999