Black Butterflies

The safe and idyllic world Rose created for Tom (Tennessee), her shy and sickly younger brother, suddenly falls apart when their father, a hard-drinking, womanizing, traveling salesman, moves the family from the peaceful home of their maternal grandparents, to the “dreadful” city of St. Louis. As Rose and Tom struggle to cope with their puritanical mother and tyrannical father, and their own emerging sexual identities, the very underpinnings of their symbiotic relationship begin to crumble. Tom eventually escapes the oppressive household through his writing, while Rose remains imprisoned behind a terminal wall of silence.

Image: Watercolor of Rose Williams by Marylou DiPietro


Black Butterflies is a poignant and poetic account of Tennessee Williams’ older sister and creative muse, Rose. Marylou DiPietro gives Rose her overdue “me, too” moment and releases her long quieted voice in this lovely play. I was honored to have been a small part of the play’s journey at The Road in Los Angeles.

– Riley Steiner, Director of the first West Coast reading of Black Butterflies by Marylou DiPietro


In Black Butterflies the characters come alive, the scenes are beautifully selected and dramatized, the final push of the play, toward the catastrophe, is genuinely frightening. Ms. DiPietro’s rendering is truthful, deep, and beautifully written. I am looking forward to seeing the remarkable production I believe it deserves to have.

– Austin Pendleton


Such a great reading of Black Butterflies at the Peter Sharp Theater last night! The play brilliantly explores the relationship between the members of Tennessee Williams’ family. Marylou DiPietro writes about family dysfunction with brutal honesty and compassion.

– Sally Cook, Writer


I was immediately drawn in by Marylou DiPietro’s intriguing, poetic play about the enigmatic Rose Williams. Those of us who know and love the plays of Tennessee Williams know about Rose and her importance in her brother’s life. However, not until my involvement with Black Butterflies did I learn that, contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t as much the shy, “crippled” Laura Wingfield who was modeled after Rose Williams (that character was actually more representative of young Tom Williams) as it was the beautiful, tragic, Blanche in A Street Car Named Desire.

Black Butterflies tells the true story of Rose for the first time. Rose tells us, in her own voice, what happened in her childhood house and why her mother and father wanted so desperately to “cut out the truth.” Rose’s story is so important because we know aspects of her tragic life from her famous playwright brother’s plays and also because this depiction is so fundamentally distorted. Painstakingly researched, the facts of the real life story provide a guiding through-line for the play. The challenge is to turn those facts into a theatre piece. I believe that Marylou, in her play, has drawn the characters with clear, vivid strokes and has presented their story in a truly dramatic way. At this creative juncture, I believe her choices — the themes of the play, the characters – their objectives, needs, and desires, – the action of the scenes, and how conflicts are addressed and resolved — are ready to be tested and executed so that she may achieve her vision for this play.

– Nat Warren-White, director of Staged Readings of Black Butterflies at The Boston Playwrights’ Theater and The Peter Jay Sharp Theater

Black Butterflies a brilliant play and a story that needs to be told.

– Bess Miller, actor


Marylou has spent many years exhaustively researching the subject matter: the life of Tennessee Williams’ only sister, Rose. Her writing is poetic and moving, with great heart for Rose’s tragic struggle. Black Butterflies is a theatrically imaginative and dramatically rich play that peels off the layers and exposes the close and tragic relationship of Tennessee Williams and his sister Rose.

– Buzz McLaughlin, author of “The Playwrights Process”


Stage Reading at the Road Theater

Los Angeles, 2018

Directed by Riley Steiner and Sponsored by Jessica Wierzba

Big thanks to Frank Collison, Jessie Einstein, Laura Gardner, Kyle Hall, Alex Smith, Tim Wardell, and Jessica Suzanne Wierzba for making Black Butterflies come alive on stage.

Stage Reading at Peter Jay Sharp Theater at Playwrights Horizons

New York City, December 7, 2015

Directed by Nat Warren-White

Cast: Ben Diskant, James Broaddus, Alex Cook, Lisa Bostnar, James Lehman, Joel Bernstein, and Ruby Rees

Lisa Bostnar at the audition for the Dec. 7th Reading of Black Butterflies. Photo by Wenting Sun.

Nat Warren-White, Marylou DiPietro

Ruby Rees as Rose
Williams. Photo by Wenting Sun.

Abingdon Theater

New York City, October 27, 2014

Directed by Bill Ryall

Rose: Jennifer Joan Thompson
Tom: Ben Diskant
Edwina: Lisa Bostnar
Cornelius: Rob Roy
Multiple male roles: Henry Gottfried and Kurt Kelly

Marylou DiPietro at off-Broadway staged reading of Black Butterflies

With actor Lisa Bostnar