Camino Real: Meet the Characters Part 1

Williams wrote, “I took to the theatre with the impetus of a compulsion” (Lahr 41).

NEED permeates Williams’ writing. He weaves his compulsive, voracious need for life into his lines of prose. It is intoxicating. I feel his incessant search for answers to his life’s questions. Through his words we understand our need, we question our lives. We understand his characters because each character carries facets of our personalities, our lives. And when Baron de Charlus says, “…My normality has been often subject to question,” we breathe with relief and say, yes, we celebrate life because our differences (247). After all, what is normal? Actually, the question should be: Is there a normal?

We connect to Williams’ writing because he makes us want to connect. I believe I am so drawn to Williams’ writing because finding and creating connections has always been a driving force behind my choreography.

As I read Camino Real, Williams’ letters, his biography, I visualized his characters expressing themselves through my movement. His character development gave me ongoing inspiration. The driving, hungry energy in his writing propelled his characters into iconic action. I cast the ballet, and then mixed the characters arc with the personalities of the dancers. Their connection to their characters is many layered and will certainly reach to the back of the house.

In this blog, I will highlight the main characters and offer some information on some other characters. The protagonists are included in this blog article and the antagonists and where the characters reside follow in the next post.

“The characters embody Williams’s longing for a life beyond life, for an ecstasy not just of the flesh” (256).

The protagonists of Camino Real


Elia Kazan wrote, “Kilroy embodies Williams’s faith in transcendence…”

“He is the eternal spiritual wanderer,... HIS ONLY WEAPON IS LOVE” (268).

Tennessee’s main hero, Kilroy, our hero, and I will use "our" from now on, embodies the hope and courage we want to embody. “…his dignity, his sincerity and his honor” are badges he holds close to his heart (255). We root for our hero, Kilroy. We stand up with him. We throw our punches. We run from tyranny, the threat of the cage. We fight the good fight. We root for Williams, for ourselves, when we root for Kilroy. Kilroy’s movement is bold, hopeful, gutsy, confident, witty.

The original Kilroy from the first Broadway production had this to say:

“ 'All of us in the cast felt we were embarking on a trip to a world we had never encountered before,' said Eli Wallach, for whom Camino Real would be 'the greatest experience I had in the theater' " (266).


Elia Kazan said to Barbara Baxley, Esmeralda in the original play, "Kilroy represents freedom to you, and the object of all your desires” (269).

Esmeralda, the temptress, tethered to her handler, the Gypsy, invokes sensual and tragic beauty and compassion. She is “the eternal object of desire,” who is auctioned off at every full moon (255). She is at the will of her jailer. Or is she?

Williams puts us in the position to not only want her, but also want to save her. When Kilroy enters the arena, lands on the Camino Real, we want Esmeralda and Kilroy to save each other, to fall in love and escape together. Esmeralda’s choreography is seductive, playful, and slightly defiant, at times, provocative yet innocent. She believes her prayer every night protects the inhabitants of CAmino Reel.*

Her prayer:

“God bless all con men and hustlers and pitchmen who hawk their hearts on the, all two-time losers who’re likely to lose once more, the courtesan who made the mistake of love, the greatest of lovers crowned with the longest horns, the poet who wandered far from his heart’s green country and possibly will and possibly won’t be able to find his way back, look down with a smile tonight on the last cavaliers, the ones with the rusty armor and soiled white plumes, and visit with understanding and something that’s almost tender those fading legends that come and go in this plaza like songs not clearly remembered, oh, sometime and somewhere, let there be something to mean the word honor again!” (Williams 110)

The “Trapped Romantics…” (Lahr 255)

“Marguerite is the romantic sensualist” (255).

She is captivating. Yet, Marguerite is also wounded by life’s pitfalls. A former courtesan, she sees her charm fading and is desperate to break away from her cage. Caged birds think of nothing but flying away. Her charm is effortless, an elegant, delicate butterfly. Marguerite is overt in her needs, yet she is empathetic. And when she is betrayed, she strikes back.

She is romantically connected to Jacques Casanova.

Marguerite’s movement covers all physical, emotional, and sensual aspects. At times she feels velvety and silky, and at other times she moves like tears rolling down a cheek.

“Casanova is an out and out rake, but also with romantic yearnings that promiscuity did not satisfy” (255).

He needs Marguerite. Her love is his saving grace. He is the beautiful man and can be languorous in the way that beautiful people can be. He resides on the good side of town at the Hotel Siete Mares, with Marguerite and her money. His friendship with Kilroy ignites in him, again, a passion for life. He, the eternal charmer, is also wounded and can act vindictively when faced with the idea of loss. But, he lives his life as honorably as he can, trying like the rest of us. He moves like a cat. He seduces through his movement.

The play has its share of antagonists, as well. That information arrives in the next post!

- Helen

Previous Posts from Helen Pickett

Camino Real: What’s in a Name?
*Learn about the two pronunciations of Camino Real and their dual meanings.

Creating a Ballet Based on Camino Real with Choreographer Helen Pickett


Lahr, John. Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh. W. W. Norton & Company. iBooks.

Williams, Tennessee. Camino Real / by Tennessee Williams ; introduction by John Guare. New York: New Directions Publishing Company, 2008. Print.

Costume sketches and designs by Sandra Woodall.