At a ceremony at the Garrick Club today, John Lahr was awarded the Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography for Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh.
John Lahr said today, “You don’t write books for prizes, but it’s amazing how thrilling it is to win the acknowledgement because the whole enterprise is so solitary, and there are so many good writers – it’s a huge honour.”
The other books on this year’s shortlist were Our Time of Day: My Life with Corin Redgrave by Kika Markham, What do I Know?: People, Politics and the Arts by Richard Eyre, Covering Shakespeare by David Weston and I Know Nothing: The Autobiography by Andrew Sachs.
Now in its eighth year, the prize is awarded for the best biography, autobiography or diary in theatre or show business published in the preceding calendar year.
Established in 2008, the Prize is to honour Sheridan Morley’s career as an author who specialised in biographies of actors, directors, and theatre and film personalities, including his own acclaimed memoir, Asking for Trouble. In his lifetime, he wrote 37 books, the majority of which were biographies, amongst them, the authorised lives of Sir John Gielgud, Sir Noel Coward, and David Niven.
The Prize is judged by a distinguished jury of theatrical and literary practitioners. Led by Ruth Leon, the panel for this year’s prize are Kate Bassett, journalist and theatre critic for The Times, stage and screen actress Gemma Jones, and actor and writer Michael Simkins – his work The Rules Of Acting was shortlisted for 2014’s Sheridan Morley Prize.
The winner receives a £2000 cash prize. The Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography is a Charitable Trust. It is funded by small donations from individuals and generous support from The Garrick Club which provides the elegant setting for the Awards.
THE WINNING BOOK:
Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh
by John Lahr, published by Bloomsbury Circus
On 31 March 1945, at The Playhouse Theatre on Forty-Eight Street the curtain rose on the opening night of The Glass Menagerie. Tennessee Williams, the show’s thirty-four-year-old playwright, sat hunched in an aisle seat, looking, according to one paper, ‘like a farm boy in his Sunday best’. The Broadway premiere, which had been heading for disaster, closed to an astonishing twenty-four curtain calls and became an instant sell-out. Beloved by an American public, Tennessee Williams’s work – blood hot and personal – pioneered, as Arthur Miller declared, ‘a revolution’ in American theatre.
Tracing Williams’s turbulent moral and psychological shifts, acclaimed theatre critic John Lahr sheds new light on the man and his work, as well as the America his plays helped to define. Lahr shows how Williams’s late-blooming homosexual rebellion, his struggle against madness, his grief-struck relationships with his combustible father, prim and pious mother and ‘mad’ sister Rose, victim to one of the first lobotomies in America, became central themes in his drama.
Including Williams’s poems, stories, journals and private correspondence in his discussion of the work – Lahr delivers an astoundingly sensitive and lively reassessment of one of America’s greatest dramatists.