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Drama by Mississippi Writers

This is the dress in which I led the cotillion. Won the cakewalk twice at Sunset Hill, wore one Spring to the Governor's Ball in Jackson! See how I sashayed around the ballroom, Laura? I wore it on Sundays for my gentlemen callers! I had it on the day I met your father…. I had malaria fever all that Spring. The change of climate from East Tennessee to the Delta—weakened resistance. I had a little temperature all the time—not enough to be serious—just enough to make me restless and giddy! Invitations poured in—parties all over the Delta! “Stay in bed,” said Mother, “you have a fever!”—but I just wouldn't. I took quinine but kept on going, going! Evenings, dances! Afternoons, long, long rides! Picnics—lovely! So lovely, that country in May—all lacy with dogwood, literally flooded with jonquils!
—Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie

The Glass MenagerieCat on a Hot Tin RoofA Streetcar Named Desire … Though Mississippi is not as well known for its drama as for its fiction, nevertheless some of the most acclaimed stage dramas of this century were written by Mississippi native Tennessee Williams, who was born in Columbus and grew up in Clarksdale. Regarded as one of America’s greatest playwrights, Williams lived most of his life away from his native soil, but his childhood experiences continued to inspire him throughout his career, as depicted in Amanda Wingfield’s recollections of receiving “gentleman callers” in the Mississippi Delta in The Glass Menagerie.

But he is by no means the only Mississippi dramatist to win acclaim for playwriting. Jackson native Beth Henley has been winning popular and critical accolades with such plays as Crimes of the Heart and The Miss Firecracker Contest, and Greenville’s Endesha Ida Mae Holland has enjoyed similar acclaim for her one-woman play Miss Ida B. Wells and the autobiographical From the Mississippi Delta.

Several Mississippi writers have also written for the movies, though often not exclusively. Nobel Prize-winning novelist William Faulkner wrote motion picture screenplays (usually for his friend, director Howard Hawks) because he could not make enough money from the sale of his books. Though he received on-screen credit for only six movies—including the film noir classics To Have and Have Not (loosely based on the novel by Faulkner rival Ernest Hemingway) and The Big Sleep—he also worked unofficially on several other films, including Jean Renoir’s The Southerner. Another movie-maker from Mississippi, best known as a director and performer, is “Muppets” creator Jim Henson, who was born in Greenville. The author of occasional screenplays, Henson named the Muppet character most intimately associated with himself after a childhood friend from Leland, Mississippi—Kermit. Contemporary novelists Richard Ford and William Attaway have also written for television and film.

Though they are not writers, a number of talented actors also hail from Mississippi, including Diane Ladd (Meridian), Eric Roberts (Biloxi), Oprah Winfrey (Kosciusko), and James Earl Jones (Arkabutla). Last but not least, there is singer, songwriter, and occasional movie actor Elvis Presley, who was born in Tupelo.

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