A Note from Summer and Smoke Director Jack Cummings III
I had always shied away from the idea of doing a co-production, fearing the match would be ill-fitting. But when John Doyle approached me with the possibility of doing a co-production with Classic Stage Company, there was no question in my mind that Transport Group should jump at the chance. I moved to New York in 1996 right after graduate school, and one of the theaters I immediately dreamed of working with one day was CSC—their dedication to significant works of classical theater that focused on language, enormous ideas, and infinitely complex emotions was inspiring to me then and is inspiring to me now, over twenty years later. Then in 2006, I met John through my wife Barbara Walsh when he cast her in his production of Company. Besides getting the chance to experience John’s work as an audience member, I began to get to know him personally as a friend and colleague. I was struck by his intense devotion to storytelling, his penchant for risk-taking, and his deep belief in the power of the actor. So, when given the chance to partner not only with this great theater company but with an artist for whom I have great respect, the chance was simply too good to pass up, as they say. Although we are different companies, Transport Group and CSC share similar values—a love for classic stories told directly with resources that return the focus back on the actor and the writing.
It is a tremendous honor to introduce Tennessee Williams simultaneously to both of our companies, especially within CSC’s 50th anniversary alongside Shakespeare, Bizet, Hammerstein, and McNally. Summer and Smoke was birthed between The Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire—the world premiere of Summer and Smoke occurred in July of 1947 (directed by Margo Jones) six months before Streetcar opened on Broadway. Living between these two landmark plays, Williams’ tragically heartfelt story of Alma Winemiller and John Buchanan can get lost within the cannon. But despite the play’s “challenging birth year” this extraordinary work by one of America’s premier playwrighting poets is as worthy of attention as any of his other works. Williams’ fiery determination to ask the question of what it is to be alive as a human being in this world is no more powerfully on display than in Summer and Smoke—that alone makes it necessary to revisit time and again. Transport Group is thrilled to explore this quintessential Williams question alongside CSC.
Jack Cummings III
Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Transport Group Theatre Company