Tennessee Williams in his Centenary Year
The word 'theatre,' means “where the action goes,” was redefined to me on September 25, while volunteering in a day-long seminar titled “Tennessee Williams in his Centenary Year” organised by the Department of English, Dhaka University (DU), at R C Majumdar Arts Auditorium.
The seminar set in action as the director of the show, Professor Rebecca Haque, Chair of English Department, welcomed everyone with her opening speech. Her words resonating in the auditorium, Professor Dr Niaz Zaman, Department of English, DU read a keynote paper that had a tinge of personal memories of American theatre as well as her own textual encounter with various American playwrights.
The panel of speakers. courtesy: DU
The second session commenced with a paper titled “Hollywood and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” by Syeda Nadia Hasan from East West University. Farhanaz Rabbani from DU presented the next paper, titled, “Transference and Obsession in The Glass Menagerie” in which she applied Freud's idea of transference to view the protagonist of The Glass Menagerie Laura's obsession in animals made of glass. In the final presentation of this session, Dr Shamsad Mortuza showed the audience how the famous animated series 'The Simpsons' had reworked Williams' 'A Streetcar Named Desire'. The clips from the famous Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh starring movie in parallel to the Homer and Marge relationship in the parody 'A Streetcar Named Marge' illustrated the relevance of Tennessee Williams in popular culture. Poet and Professor Kaiser Haque, who was chairing this part of the session, made many critical observations on all three presentations and invited the participating students to ask questions.
A documentary on Tennessee Williams was shown by the group called 19 Film Factory. A colloquium on Tennessee Williams on Stage and Screen was then arranged, where Professor Razia Sultana shared her thoughts on the topic. Also, Professor Niaz Zaman shared with the audience her experience of playing Laura in The Glass Menagerie years ago when it was organised by the American Cultural Centre, then known as USIS. She also spoke on how Stanley represents the industrial North and Blanche the agricultural South of America in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' and encouraged students to read the less popular plays of Williams like 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' and 'Night of the Iguana' because they are often overshadowed by the greatness of the masterpieces.
The discussion ended in high spirits and Professor Rebecca Haque thanked all the teachers and students for participating in the seminar and the staff and student volunteers of Dhaka University who helped to organise the event.
The event was concluded with the screening of the movie A Streetcar Named Desire, by Elia Kazan with the unforgettable performances by Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh as Stanley and Blanche, two of the many great and complex characters that this American playwright has created.