Sid Shier brings Tennessee Williams back to life

Add this share

imageActor Sid Shier has been away from the stage and from Atlanta for a while, but the openly gay acting veteran comes back with a bang—portraying iconic gay playwright Tennessee Williams in the play “Confessions of a Nightingale,” opening March 24 at 14th Street Playhouse.

“Nightingale” is a one-man show in which an elderly Williams—author of such classics as “The Glass Menagerie,” “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”—looks back on his personal and professional life. It’s based on Charlotte Chandler’s book “The Ultimate Seduction,” which featured actual interviews with Williams, and is a warts-and-all account, the actor says.

We caught up with Shier (photo) to chat about the production and his return to the theater.

This is a return to acting for you. How did it come about?
I was a well-known actor in Atlanta back in the ‘60s and ‘70s and ‘80s. I moved to Los Angeles for 18 years, and after I moved back, I realized I wanted to return and get my name out there. But people had forgotten me. A generation had passed. I’m 74 now. I decided to produce a play, and this was the one I chose from those I considered.

What were some of your signature roles before you moved?
Two of the highlights would be a production of “Boys in the Band” where I played Harold and a production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” where I was Hysterium. In “Boys,” I made my entrance and didn’t move for the entire first act, and in “Forum” there was non-stop movement.

Why does Williams’ work continue to hold up?
He was a poet, and he understood the human condition so well. He had such great insight. Every time “Streetcar” is on TV, I am riveted. I can’t look away. The language of Blanche was unlike any other.

What were the surprises you found out while doing research?
I did learn that Tennessee Williams lived in Macon, where I grew up, in 1943 for three months, and Big Daddy (from “Cat”) was based on a gentleman he was friends with. He did have a longterm relationship near the end of his life, but he had a voracious appetite for sex, three or four times a day. He came out at 27. At first, he had sex with women then men. He had sex with a lot of straight men.

Do you think we in the South have a better understanding and appreciation of his work?
Southerners are so different from people in other places; the South is its own culture. Williams understood that, and I think we can recognize the people he wrote about. His Southern women, for instance, are polite but never want to show their dirty laundry. I don’t think that has changed.

“Confessions of a Nightingale” opens March 24 and runs through April 24. Visit 14th Street Playhouse for tickets and more information. Shier also appears at Outwrite on March 26 for a discussion and a preview of his performance.

imageJim Farmer is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and public relations professional specializing in film promotions. He has been a theater and pop-culture critic for more than a dozen years and is the director of Atlanta’s annual Out On Film gay and lesbian film festival.


Project Q Atlanta goes on hiatus after 14 years

On Sept. 1, 2008, Project Q Atlanta promised a hyper-local “queer media diet” for Atlanta. The site set out to bring LGBTQ news, in-depth...

Photos catch Purple Dress Run invading Midtown

After three years of pandemic-inflicted limitations, Atlanta’s gay rugby squad let loose on one of its most popular events. The Atlanta Bucks Purple Dress...

Ooo Bearracuda: Photos from Bear Pride’s Main Event

The seventh annual Atlanta Bear Pride hit the ground running on Friday with packed houses at Woofs, Heretic and Future. Turned out, they hadn’t...

Atlanta Bear Pride set to go hard and long all weekend

That low, growing growl you hear is a nation of gay bears headed for Atlanta Bear Pride this weekend. By the time they arrive,...

PHOTOS: Armorettes bring back Easter Drag Race magic

Gay Atlanta’s queens of do-good drag brought the sunshine to a cloudy afternoon on Saturday when Heretic hosted the triumphant return of Armorettes Easter...