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Open Access Thesis

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Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)

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This thesis is a two-part work. Its components, a written paper and a one-night symposium/film screening event entitled Tennessee Williams: Gender Play in 2015 and Beyond, have been closely coordinated with my dramaturgical research for the February 2015 University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Theater production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The written inquiry is structured around a chronological, selected American production history of Cat; this history, rendered in a series of three case studies, will (1) synthesize preexisting analyses of Cat’s dramaturgical profile, its impact on American theater, and its position in Williams’s oeuvre; and (2) examine the interplay between this body of scholarship’s primary foci (e.g., gender, sexual identity, and family dysfunction) and the evolving cultural climate in which its subject, Cat, is perennially reinterpreted and restaged. In other words, my thesis reframes Cat as a series of inherently American—and potentially unanswerable—questions posed by Williams to his viewers; it then investigates the artistic and critical responses generated by sixty years of public engagement, or “dialogue,” with those questions. Ultimately, each case study will illustrate my central premise: that the value of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof lies in its ability to resonate, both in production design and reception, with the social, sexual, and domestic challenges of the period in which it is produced.