The back story of Tennessee Williams’ “Ten Blocks on the Camino Real” is almost as interesting as the play itself.

The great American playwright wrote “Camino Real” in New Orleans in 1946, in between “The Glass Menagerie” and “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He was in New Orleans working on “Streetcar” when he wrote this unusual one-act fantasy.

But success derailed his vision.

” ‘Streetcar’ became a hit, and Tennessee’s reputation took off as being this great dramatic realist,” said Davis Robinson, artistic director of the Beau Jest Moving Theatre, which will present a rarely seen version of the show beginning tonight at Lucid Stage. “But if you look into it, Tennessee was always a little experimental, and the ‘Ten Blocks’ (version) represents that side of his artistic personality. He has this wild, poetic, experimental side that never got to be expressed.”

Because of his reputation as a realist, Williams was persuaded to make changes. He added characters and rewrote the plot. The result, “Camino Real,” debuted on Broadway in 1953 as a much longer and unwieldy show, and it bombed. This shorter version is much closer to what Williams originally intended, said Robinson.

Until the “Ten Blocks” version was published in 2008, the only authorized version of “Camino Real” was the 1953 Broadway version.

“The original script is a shorter and more mysterious play,” said Robinson. “We thought it was a fascinating little play. It’s theater of the absurd and off-Broadway material before there was an off-Broadway. It’s very experimental.

“We tried to stage what Tennessee thought in 1946 was the original idea. It combines mask work, live music, poetry, visual art, puppetry and dance. He wanted it to have this dream-like quality in a world that doesn’t have a specific time and place.”

Beau Jest staged the show earlier this month in Charlestown, Mass. The Portland run is three nights only, tonight through Saturday.

Robinson lives and works in Maine, and teaches theater at Bowdoin College, but Beau Jest includes Boston-based actors. This show marks the first time in many years he has brought Beau Jest to Maine.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: pphbkeyes




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