The Rose Tattoo

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The Rose Tattoo
First edition cover (New Directions)
Written byTennessee Williams
  • Serafina Delle Rose
  • Alvaro Mangiacavallo
  • Man
  • The Strega
  • Father De Leo
  • Doctor
  • Teresa
  • Flora
  • Salesman
  • Miss Yorke
  • Rosa Delle Rose
  • Peppina
  • Salvatore
Date premiered3 February 1951
Place premieredMartin Beck Theatre
Original languageEnglish
SettingGulf Coast village between New Orleans and Mobile

The Rose Tattoo is a three-act play written by Tennessee Williams in 1949 and 1950; after its Chicago premiere on December 29, 1950, he made further revisions to the play for its Broadway premiere on February 2, 1951, and its publication by New Directions the following month. [1] A film adaptation was released in 1955. The Rose Tattoo tells the story of an Italian-American widow in Mississippi who has withdrawn from the world after her husband's death and expects her daughter to do the same.

The setting is a place in proximity to Biloxi. Jacob Adler stated that the story is disconnected from the culture of the Southern United States as the plot "has almost no Southern connections".[2]


People originating in Sicily in real life became involved in the fruit industry in the area around New Orleans in the late 1800s,[3] and according to Robert Rea, the playwright had a friend named Marion Black Vaccaro and that the playwright "likely" was aware of how the Vaccaro brothers created their fruit business via said friend.[4]


Maureen Stapleton and Don Murray, 1951

The original Broadway play starred Maureen Stapleton, Phyllis Love, and Eli Wallach. Other original cast members of the 1951 Broadway play included Martin Balsam and Vivian Nathan.[5] The original production of The Rose Tattoo premiered February 3, 1951, at the Martin Beck Theatre (now known as the Al Hirschfeld Theatre) and concluded October 27, 1951, with a total of 306 performances. It was produced by Cheryl Crawford, written by Tennessee Williams; incidental music by David Diamond, staged by Daniel Mann, scenic design by Boris Aronson, costumes designed by Rose Bogadnoff, lighting designed by Charles Elson, general manager John Yorke, stage manager Ralph De Launey, conductor and harpist Nettie Druzinsky, musicians: Michael Danzi, Jack Linx and Frank Kutak, production associate Bea Lawrene, and press representative Wolfe Kauffman.[6] The play was recreated for a July 5, 1953, hour-long radio adaptation on the program Best Plays.[7] Recordings of the radio drama exist in archives and private collections.

The play was revived in 1966, again starring Maureen Stapleton, with Maria Tucci replacing Phyllis Love in the role of Rose Delle Rose. Tucci was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance.[8] The revival ran from November 9 to December 31 at the Billy Rose Theatre (now known as the Nederlander Theatre) with 62 performances under the direction of Milton Katselas. Scenic design was by David R. "Tex" Ballou, costume design by Frank Thompson, lighting designed by Peggy Clark, stage manager Ray Laine, and press representatives Arthur Cantor and Artie Solomon.[9]

The second revival, starring Anthony LaPaglia and Mercedes Ruehl, took place in 1995 from March 23 to April 30, running for 73 performances at the Circle in the Square Theatre with casting by Stuart Howard and Amy Schecter under the direction of Robert Falls. Scenic design was by Santo Loquasto, costume design by Catherine Zuber, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, sound design by John Kilgore, hair and make-up design by Claus Lulla, wig design by John Aitchison, general manager Don Roe, management consultant Gordon G. Forbes, stage manager Peggy Peterson, assistant stage manager Wm. Hare, and dialect coach K. C. Ligon.[10]

New Directions Publishing reissued the play in 2010 with a new introduction by playwright John Patrick Shanley.

A third Broadway revival starring Marisa Tomei and directed by Trip Cullman premiered at the American Airlines Theatre in previews on September 19, 2019, and officially on October 15.[11][12][13]


For many years critics have looked for possible sources in Italian literature, suggesting such authors as Giovanni Verga or Luigi Pirandello. In 2016 an Italian critic for the first time found the undeniable inspiration for this play in Eduardo De Filippo's 1946 play Filumena Marturano.[14] In the play, that was staged in Rome while the playwright was living in the city in the 1940s, the main character speaks one-to-one with the Madonna of the Roses in the same way that Serafina Delle Rose does in The Rose Tattoo.


On May 12, 1957, the Pike Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, staged The Rose Tattoo with Anna Manahan as the lead and the Irish scenic artist Reginald Gray as the set designer. After a short run, the theatre was invaded by the Irish police and director Alan Simpson was arrested for producing "a lewd entertainment" for miming dropping a condom onto the floor. Williams' script calls for a condom to fall out of a pocket during the show but the Pike staging mimed the act, knowing it would cause conflict. An intellectual revolt against the closing of The Rose Tattoo came from not only Ireland but from the continent, led by playwrights Samuel Beckett, Seán O'Casey and Brendan Behan. Simpson was later released. The presiding judge, Justice O'Flynn, ruled: "I can only infer that by arresting the accused, the object would be achieved of closing down the play." One of the results of this case was that any charges brought against theatre would have to be proven before the show could be forced to close.[15]


Characters 1951 original Broadway production 1966 Broadway revival 1995 Broadway revival 2019 Broadway revival
Serafina Delle Rose Maureen Stapleton Mercedes Ruehl Marisa Tomei
Alvaro Mangiacavallo Eli Wallach Harry Guardino Anthony LaPaglia Emun Elliott
Rosa Delle Rose Phyllis Love Maria Tucci Cara Buono Ella Rubin
The Strega Daisy Belmore Georgia Simmons Irma St. Paule Constance Shulman
Estelle Hohengarten Sonia Sorel Marcie Hubert Deborah Jolly Tina Benko
Miss Yorke Dorrit Kelton Barbara Townsend Elle Tobie Cassie Beck
Salvatore Sal Mineo Sonny Rocco Anthony Manganiello Alexander Bello
Jack Hunter Don Murray Christopher Walken Dylan Chalfy Burke Swanson
Peppina Augusta Merighi Jo Flores Chase Suzanne Grodner Andréa Burns
Father De Leo Robert Carricart Dino Terranova Dominic Chianese N/A
Violetta Vivian Nathan Ruth Manning Fiddle Viracola Ellyn Marie Marsh
Vivi Judy Ratner Elena Christi Jackie Angelescu Isabella Iannelli
Mariella Penny Santon Anna Berger Malatzky Elaine Bromka Jennifer Sánchez
Flora Jane Hoffman Gina Collens Catherine Campbell Portia
Salesman Eddie Hyans L.M. Gibbons Phillip LeStrange Greg Hildreth
Doctor Andrew Duggan Kevin O'Morrison N/A
Giuseppina Rossana San Marco Rossetta Veneziani Carol Locatell Susan Cella
Assunta Ludmila Toretzka Nina Varela Antonia Rey Carolyn Mignini
Bessie Florence Sundstrom Peggy Pope Kay Walbye Paige Gilbert
Bruno Salvatore Taormina Peter Flazone N/A Jacob Michael Laval

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation starring Anna Magnani was released in 1955. Magnani won an Academy Award for her performance.

Awards and nominations[edit]

1951 Original Broadway Production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1951 Theatre World Award Outstanding Individual Maureen Stapleton Won
Outstanding Individual Eli Wallach Won
Tony Award Best Play Won
Best Featured Actor in a Play Eli Wallach Won
Best Featured Actress in a Play Maureen Stapleton Won
Best Scenic Design Boris Aronson Won

1966 Broadway Revival[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1967 Tony Award Best Featured Actress in a Play Maria Tucci Nominated
Theatre World Award Outstanding Individual Christopher Walken Won

1995 Broadway Revival[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
1995 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Play Mercedes Ruehl Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play Anthony LaPaglia Nominated
Tony Award Best Revival of a Play Nominated

2019 Broadway Revival[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2020 Drama League Award Outstanding Revival of a Play Nominated
Distinguished Performance Marisa Tomei Nominated
Tony Award Best Original Score Fitz Patton and Jason Michael Webb Nominated
Best Costume Design in a Play Clint Ramos Nominated

See also[edit]


  • Rea, Robert (Spring 2014). "Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo: Sicilian Migration and the Mississippi Gulf Coast". The Southern Literary Journal. 46 (2). University of North Carolina Press: 140–154. doi:10.1353/slj.2014.0009. JSTOR 24389063 – via Gale Academic Onefile. - See also at Project MUSE


  1. ^ [1] Williams, Tennessee. Plays 1937–1955. Mel Gussow and Kenneth Holditch, eds. New York: Library of America, 2000, p. 1033. ISBN 978-1-883011-86-4
  2. ^ Rea, p. 141.
  3. ^ Rea, p. 141-142.
  4. ^ Rea, p. 142.
  5. ^ Barnes, Mike (2015-04-10). "Vivian Nathan, Original Member of The Actors Studio, Dies at 98". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-04-25.
  6. ^ League, The Broadway. "The Rose Tattoo – Broadway Play – Original | IBDB". Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  7. ^ Kirby, Walter (July 5, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. The Decatur Daily Review. p. 40. Retrieved July 5, 2015 – via Open access icon
  8. ^ The Rose Tattoo 1966 Playbill Vault accessed 11/23/2016
  9. ^ League, The Broadway. "The Rose Tattoo – Broadway Play – 1966 Revival | IBDB". Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  10. ^ League, The Broadway. "The Rose Tattoo – Broadway Play – 1995 Revival | IBDB". Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  11. ^ Evans, Greg (2019-05-20). "Marisa Tomei Headed To Broadway For Tennessee Williams' 'The Rose Tattoo' Revival". Deadline. Retrieved 2019-08-13.
  12. ^ "Full Casting Announced for Marisa Tomei-Led Revival of The Rose Tattoo". Retrieved 2019-08-13.
  13. ^ "Read Reviews for Broadway's The Rose Tattoo, Starring Marisa Tomei and Emun Elliott". Playbill. 2019-10-15.
  14. ^ Clericuzio, Alessandro (2016). Tennessee Williams and Italy. A Transcultural Perspective. London: Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 114–121.
  15. ^ Morash, Christopher (2002). A History of Irish Theatre: 1601–2000 (illustrated ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-521-64682-6.

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