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Our top picks of the month’s events

24th annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, March 24-28.

Tennessee Williams 1956, Courtesy of Estate of Yousuf Karsh (www.karsh.org)

Celebrating TENNESSEE’S Legacy

To be the namesake of a festival means that you’ve accomplished a great deal. Of course if your name is Tennessee Williams, you’ve done even more. The famous playwright and literary luminary, who loved New Orleans with a passion, will be celebrated at the 24th annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, March 24-28. The author, who died in 1983, lives on in his beloved plays, including A Streetcar Named Desire, which took place on our own Elysian Fields Avenue as its loveable, complicated characters got into mischief in the French Quarter.

This five-day festival will feature two days of master classes, a slew of lively discussions among panelists, celebrity interviews, theatrical events, food and concerts. There will also be a comedy improvisational event and a poetry slam, along with short-fiction and one-act play competitions.

Visitors and guest speakers include two-time Tony Award nominee, actress Lois Smith (aka Sookie Stackhouse’s grandmother in HBO’s “True Blood”); film critic/author Molly Haskell; “The Wire’s” mastermind David Simon and playwright/screenwriter Eric Overmyer, co-creators of HBO’s upcoming series, “Tremé” (Ed. Note: For more on Overmyer, see Persona, pg. 24); Emmy Award-winning journalist Cokie Roberts; and literary agent Marly Rusoff, among many others.

Most of the events take place in the French Quarter. Sites hosting events include Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré, The Historic New Orleans Collection, the Cabildo, the Royal Sonesta Hotel, Muriel’s Jackson Square, the Palm Court Jazz Café, the Windsor Court Hotel and others.

Information, 581-1144, www.tennesseewilliams.net.

Abundant Altars

The Italian influence is strong in this city and, on March 19, several churches and private residences celebrate St. Joseph’s Feast Day by decorating altars and eating traditional Sicilian food. The Crescent City once saw a large influx of Sicilian immigrants, and one of the traditions that has been carried on is the celebration of St. Joseph’s Feast Day.

According to legend, a severe drought caused the desperate Sicilians to pray for rain. When their prayers were answered by St. Joseph, they rewarded him with a large feast; the menu featured dishes made of fava beans – crops that had survived the drought, and are today considered to be good luck. Giving food to the needy is also a tradition on this day.

Altars throughout the city will be filled with handmade beads, decorative objects and culinary treats (and of course the lucky beans). Check out your local churches; for a complete listing of area Catholic churches, visit the Archdiocese Web site.

Information, www.arch-no.org.

The Dutchman Flies Again

This month, the New Orleans Opera Association presents Richard Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman), a woeful tale of endless wandering, passion and, of course, complicated love triangles. Set in the 1700s in Norway, the opera, which is performed in German, is based upon a poem.

The story begins as an icy storm drives the sea captain Daland’s ship. As the sky darkens, Daland spots a ghostly schooner helmed by the Flying Dutchman, a brave lad who once swore he would sail around the Cape of Good Hope if it took him forever. The devil took him at his word, and once every seven years he may leave his ship in search of a woman who will redeem him from his deathless wandering if she gives him absolute love. Naturally, the Dutchman falls in love with Daland’s daughter; matters are, of course, complicated by her relationship with another man, Erik.

The opera will take place at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts March 19 and 21, and stars Lise Lindstrom, Evgeny Nikitin, Raymond Aceto and Roy Cornelius Smith, among talented others.

Information, www.neworleansopera.org.

Paint the Town Green

The Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Club parades on March 13. This is when merry men in green tuxedoes take to the streets armed with beads, cabbages, trinkets and flowers for the lasses. The lighthearted parade of mischievous revelers, which begins at the corner of Felicity and Magazine streets, will be preceded by the 63rd annual Mass at St. Mary’s Assumption Church.

A few days later, the Channel will be celebrating again at Parasol’s, a favorite hangout for residents with its friendly bartenders, cheap drinks and the eclectic jukebox (not to mention its famous roast beef poor boy sandwiches that go perfectly with a Guinness or a few shots of Jameson), On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, the loveable dive bar will be extra lively for its annual block party. Even though it falls on a weekday, St. Patrick’s Day at Parasol’s will be an all-day affair. Of course, remember to wear green.

Information, 897-5413.

Clapton in Concert

Eric Clapton has been a leading icon of rock ‘n’ roll since the 1960s, and the 64-year-old star still has that spark that was ignited many years ago. He will be performing at the New Orleans Arena on March 6 – exactly 10 years after he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Clapton’s musical expertise is vast; he has experience in blues and rock ‘n’ roll; he’s a guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer who has performed with multiple bands, garnering success as an innovative and talented musician. He has sold millions of albums and has been a key component of bands including The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith and Derek and the Dominoes.

Information, www.neworleansarena.com

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