NEW ORLEANS – Prize-winning authors, thespians and a myriad of other creative souls will unite this spring in celebration of the 21st annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, March 28-April 1, 2007. The lofty list of participants includes Pulitzer Prize-winners Richard Ford and Yusef Komunyakaa; best-selling authors Barry Gifford, Haven Kimmel, Michael Lewis, Sharyn McCrumb, Margaret Sartor, Donna Tartt and Calvin Trillin; and filmmaker/artist John Waters who wrote the introduction to a new edition of Tennessee Williams’ Memoirs, published by New Directions.
The five-day fête, which celebrates the life and cultural legacy of the eponymous playwright in his adopted city that he called his “spiritual home,” offers two days of master classes; a roster of panel discussions and celebrity interviews; theater, food and music events; a scholars’ conference; literary and other French Quarter walking tours; and a book fair. Bookending the event is an opening night fundraising gala and the closing ceremony — a Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest, in playful homage to the bellowing mates in Williams’ masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire.
Theater highlights include some of Williams’ lesser-known one-acts: The Traveling Companion, The Chalky White Substance and Lifeboat Drill, featuring, among others, New York actor Jeremy Lawrence, who has thrilled Festival audiences the past few years with his one-man show, Talking Tennessee. The marquee also includes a staged reading of Rancho Pancho, a new play by Gregg Barrios, recounting Tennessee’s life with Pancho Rodriguez, his “live-in muse” during the 1940’s.
Acclaimed actress Grace Zabriskie will channel Norma Wallace, New Orleans’ legendary bordello queen, in readings from the hit play, The Last Madam, which was adapted from Christine Wiltz’s best-selling memoir by the same title. On another stage, Ryan Reinike will portray William Faulkner in the one-man show, MIRRORS OF CHARTRES STREET: Faulkner in New Orleans/New Orleans in Faulkner, adapted for the stage by Rob Florence from various vignettes and character sketches by the literary genius. And, back by popular demand, Ignatius on Stage features John McConnell and a cast of colorful characters in a staged reading of scenes from John Kennedy Toole’s New Orleans classic novel, A Confederacy of Dunces.
On the film front, the Festival is presenting Tennessee Williams: Theater in Process, a documentary, narrated by Williams, which traces the development of his play The Red Devil Battery Sign from its incipient stages to its first performances at Boston’s Schubert Theater in 1975.
Festival programmers have cooked up events with star chefs and cookbook authors Leah Chase and John Besh. And food/wine connoisseur John Mariani returns with his Fireside Chat, always a sold-out event.
Most of the events take place in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter. Sites hosting events include Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré, The Historic New Orleans Collection, the Cabildo, the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, Muriel’s Jackson Square, the Palm Court Jazz Café, the Windsor Court Hotel and others to be determined.
A Festival Panel Pass is $60 ($50 for students); a One-Day Pass is $25; theater/special events range from $10-$50; master classes are $25; walking tours are $20. Group rates on request.
For more information, contact the Festival office at 504.581.1144 or visit the website at www.tennesseewilliams.net for regular updates and information on how to become a “Friend of Tennessee.” To help support the Festival and the New Orleans literary arts community through Katrina Arts Relief and Emergency Support (K.A.R.E.S.), visit www.neworleansliteraryinstitute.com.
Major funding for the Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival is made possible through a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Festival is also supported by grant funds from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council. The Festival also receives a Community Arts Grant made possible through funding from the City of New Orleans and is administered by the Arts Council of New Orleans. Funding has also been provided by The Louisiana Cultural Economy Foundation, Adelaide Benjamin, The Booth-Bricker Fund, The Fertel Foundation, Fidelity Homestead, Harrah’s New Orleans, Michael and Jesse Ledet, Louisiana Lottery Corporation, Southeastern Louisiana University, Tulane University, University of New Orleans, Xavier University, and the Zemurray Foundation. Additional support comes from The Historic New Orleans Collection; Brennan’s Restaurant; The Besh Steakhouse at Harrah’s; Glazer’s Distributors; Muriel’s Jackson Square; The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans; Windsor Court Hotel; and Pelican Publishing Company.