Elizabeth Wilson: Entirely Unconditional

Tenn, in conversation
New Orleans

In that difficult time of Picnic, when Bill [Inge] was not listening to me, nor I to him; as we battled for the position of pre-eminent American playwright, I was desperate to find some sort of rock onto which I could throw myself--for balance and stability.

The irony--as we see now--is that of the people in Bill's orbit, I chose Barbara Baxley, that brilliant, erratic firefly, as my rock, and while she was a devoted friend and a rapacious muse, her rock was sandy and shifting at best.

I should have looked closer and longer at Elizabeth Wilson.

'Aunt Lizzie,' her friends call her. Carrie Nye adores her, and Maureen [Stapleton] and Colleen [Dewhurst] consider her a sister. When I am alone and confused and afraid, almost always deep in the night, I fantasize of a group of sane and balanced and kind women to whom I might place a call. I think of Marian Seldes and Julie Harris and Eileen Heckart and Kim Hunter, and I think, more and more, of Elizabeth--Aunt Lizzie.

I could call on Stella [Adler] or LeG [Eva LeGallienne], but their calls would involve instruction and rules: In those deep nights, I need understanding and, I suppose, something unconditional.

Elizabeth Wilson is entirely unconditional: She gives her all to her parts, and I have loved her in everything I've seen. She is a beacon of intelligence and integrity. She loves her players and she loves the act of playing, and it is evident in all that she does.

And I will make that call one night, in the deepest darkness, and I will find her, as always, unconditional.


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