By Victoria L. Dammer

Award-winning actor and writer Jacob Storms opened in his solo performance of Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams at the newly remodeled AMT Theater on Sunday, March 5. The evening performance was an in-depth view of Tennessee Williams’ life from 1939 to 1945.

Storms delved into the formative years of William’s life, an unknown playwright known as Thomas Williams. Storms took the audience through Williams’s struggles with his family life and personal relationships as he transformed into one of the most iconic playwrights of the 20th century.

Tony Award recipient Alan Cumming directed the off-Broadway debut of Storms’ solo play, originally slated to run in 2020 but canceled because of Covid. However, theatergoers did not go away unrewarded for waiting for this captivating production.

Storms presented the raw pain of William’s life that had haunted him for decades. His father was a heavy drinker, and his parents had a tumultuous relationship, causing him to leave his hometown of St. Louis and land in New Orleans, where Tennessee Rising began. Storms exposed William’s uncertainty about himself, saying, “I am a writer! At least that’s what I am aspiring to be.” Aspirations caused Williams to enter a writing competition, with the non-de plum of Tennessee Williams, not Thomas, and winning the contest was the start of his career.

Storms suggested meeting a musician named Jim Parrott initially introduced Williams to a lifelong attraction to men. The play discusses several of William’s attempts to feel love, something missing from his childhood. While discussing the bleakness of his sister’s room in St. Louis, the audience is privy to the origins of one of Williams’ most famous stories, The Glass Menagerie.

“Rose’s room was so bleak… she put her little menagerie of glass animals on the ledge with her prized unicorn in the center and when the sun hit them just right, they would give off little celestial sparkles of white light and rainbows all over the room.”

The audience also discovered that his interaction with the mentally unstable Rose gave rise to the character Stanley Kowalski, a colleague at the shoe factory where Williams worked before leaving home. Kowalski is the origin of the persona with the same name from A Street Car Named Desire, which coincidentally takes place in New Orleans. Known as Williams’s most famous piece of literature, it is a tumultuous story that shadows many events and influences in Williams’s life.

Storms delighted the audience with several lines that brought glorious laughter to the theater. In addition, his mannerisms brought life to a character whose happiness and fear of mental illness overshadowed his life.

“What frightened me the most was the realization that if Rose could lose her mind, then just as easily, so could I.”

Storms shared the story of Williams watching an iguana get killed on the beach in Mexico, the backstory for his stage play, The Night of the Iguana.

Tennessee Rising was a history lesson and an emotional journey, and Storms brought his commanding performance and insight into William’s life to the stage. Williams produced some of the most significant literature of his time, and Tennessee Rising pays homage to this prominent writer. Audiences should praise Storms and Cumming’s production.

Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams, written and performed by Jacob Storms. Directed by Alan Cumming. Playing now through April 2 at the AMT Theater, 354 West 45th Street, New York, NY. Tickets are available at

The performance is approximately 75 minutes with no intermission.