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When Karen Met Tennessee

Not many people are aware of the friendship between Karen Kondazian and playwright Tennessee Williams.

Karen and Tennessee Williams

Kondazian would win many awards portraying the powerful, complex women Williams had created. As Serafina in The Rose Tattoo, she won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, portraying the secluded widow in the 1978/1979 revival at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. That February evening in ’79 when Williams attended the production, a young Christopher Reeve was in the audience, along with the great film director Richard Brooks (Sweet Bird of Youth, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) who had directed two of Williams most famous films but had never met Tennessee in the flesh, until that evening.


Karen and Ed Harris in “Sweet Bird of Youth”

Tennessee gave a Q&A after the performance and was quoted in the Los Angeles Herald Examiner by reviewer Gardner McKay, thanking Karen for her “staggeringly beautiful performance”. Williams was so smitten by Karen’s performance in Tattoo, that the two became close friends, giving Karen his blessing to produce any of his plays during his lifetime. As a result, she went on to portray Princess Kosmonopolis in Sweet Bird of Youth (1980). Starring with her was a brilliant young actor named Ed Harris. She also acted and produced in the west coast premier of Williams’ Vieux Carre (1983), alongside the extraordinary Ray Stricklyn, who later took his character Mr. Nightingale from the play and created the memorable, award-winning one man show playing Tennessee Williams.

Other Williams roles Kondazian has starred in are Orpheus Descending, Night of the Iguana, and The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, all produced by the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood and directed by the award winning Simon Levy.

Karen Kondazian, Tennessee Williams, and the cast of The Rose Tattoo Q&A

“If you put all of Tennesee’s women in a big pot and stir them up, what will come out of the broth is who Tennessee was… I have a pair of his glasses. When you look through them you are blind, you cannot see anything, as his sight was so damaged… but when Williams put them on, he saw a world filled with violence, inhumanity, poetry and salvation.” –Karen Kondazian on Williams


Karen recently sat down with Gordon Osmond, from the Eclectic Authors Showcase, for a funny and entertaining chat about her friendship with Tennessee Williams, her life on-stage and how and why she decided to become an actor at the age of eight.

Click below and listen to Kondazian’s amusing stories about Tennessee Williams.

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