SEPTEMBER 24 - 27, 2020

Battle of Angels at the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival

Battle of Angels

by Tennessee Williams
A MORALITY PLAY performed in NEW YORK, NY

Three women fight over a handsome stranger newly arrived in their Mississippi Delta small town. Written by Williams in 1940, 'Battle of Angels' was closed by order of the Boston League of Decency.
'A play about cheap, white trash….Indecent and improper….Lascivious and immoral…' -Boston Police Commissioner Timilty, 1940

An abbreviated presentation
Directed by Jessica Burr
Produced by Blessed Unrest

Performances

Sept. 24-27, 2020

Plan Your Visit

“Low and common”     
-Joan Crawford
(declining the offer to play the role which had been enlarged to make the play more attractive to her)

“Putrid”     
-Unnamed (but outspoken) Boston City Councilman

 


The battles Tennessee Williams fought and lost with Hollywood censors are famous. Displays of a woman’s lust or the outburst of a man’s gay ways were chopped off (despite the author’s protests) in order to release the money-making films adapted from Williams’ Broadway hits: A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Sweet Bird of Youth.

Battle of Angels is the play that began Williams’ battle with censors. A production of Battles was meant to hit Broadway after a Boston try-out in 1940. Though not exactly banned in Boston, its run was cut short after the Boston City Council demanded an investigation. “Lascivious and immoral” reported Boston Police Commissioner Joseph F. Timilty. The show’s star Miriam Hopkins responded  “The dirt is something in the minds of some of the people who have seen it. They read meanings into it according to their own suppressed feelings.”

For the play to continue in Boston, censors demanded certain lines be cut, including:  “All references to [the] deity and Christ,” and “to [the] stigmatae” on the hero’s hands. A painting of the hero which resembled Jesus started a scandal of its own among those in the audience who hadn’t been following the plot and thought a portrait of their Savior was being desecrated. A temporary solution had been to put the painting  in a closet. Eventually the painting was changed so it looked nothing like Jesus. Then it could be destroyed in Boston without offense.

When Margaret Webster, the original director of Battle, returned to Boston to watch the censored version in performance she wrote to say she “found a castrated and largely incomprehensible edition of the play dying an inevitable death at the Wilbur Theatre.”

An abbreviated presentation based on the uncensored text will be presented by Blessed Unrest, directed by Jessica Burr. Blessed Unrest is a subversive physical theater ensemble that has been creating award-winning original theatre in NYC and touring internationally for twenty years.  

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