Today we celebrate the 1911 birth of Tennessee Williams — who remains, at least in my estimation, the greatest American playwright for his lyricism, characters, originality, honesty, insight, and compassion. Born in Columbus, Mississippi, and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Williams had no connection to Tennessee — other than the word starting with the same letter as his given name (Thomas). He decided not to call himself “Mississippi” Williams or “Missouri” Williams because he wasn’t fond of the abbreviated version (i.e., Miss Williams).

It’s been 30 years since Williams’ 1983 passing (at age 71), but he will live forever in his unforgettable creations — Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski (Streetcar Named Desire), Maggie the Cat and Big Daddy (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Laura and Amanda Wingfield (The Glass Menagerie), and scores of others.

Here is some playwriting advice from the master:

“I believe the way to write a good play is to convince yourself it is easy to do — then go ahead and do it with ease. Don’t maul, don’t suffer, don’t groan till the first draft is finished. A play is a pheonix and it dies a thousand deaths. Usually at night. In the morning it springs up again from its ashes and crows like a happy rooster. It is never as bad as you think, it is never as good. It is somewhere in between, and success or failure depends on which end of your emotional gamut concerning its value it approaches more closely. But it is much more likely to be good if you think it is wonderful while you are writing the first draft. An artist must believe in himself. Your belief is contagious. Others may say he is vain, but they are affected.” TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, as found in his 856-page Notebooks (Yale University Press, 2007) available at