For a festival that ends with a Stanley and Stella shouting contest at Jackson Square, there must be a great first act to match. Wednesday, March 24, the special event, “Jewels after Dark: New York and New Orleans Honor a Great American Poet,” made for a memorable kick-off evening for the 24th Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. A celebration of Williams’ induction to the American Poet’s Corner at New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine, the night brought esteemed performers and supporters of the festival together to enjoy Williams’ words at the Palm Court Jazz Café.
Hostess Janet Daley Duval led Orpheus Descending Broadway star Lois Smith, Williams’ impersonator Jeremy Lawrence and editor Thomas Keith through the poems and memories of the literary genius. Jim O’Quinn, editor of American Theatre magazine, came from New York for the weekend along with other fest-goers from as far as New Zealand.
New Orleans-style seafood dishes from the Palm Court were enjoyed as a four-course dinner with fine wines. Guests conversed at tables named for Williams’ poems, decorated by Dunn & Sonnier Antiques and Flowers. A silent auction included Mignon Faget jewelry, A Peace Treaty scarves, books and DVDs from Peggy Scott Laborde, a gift certificate to Jacmel Inn restaurant in Hammond, a set visit to “Treme” and more. Giveaways included Palm Court CDs, Festival merchandise and a gift certificate to GW Fins.
Though he isn’t with us in the flesh, the gifted Tennessee Williams came alive in spirit on a night like he once described: “Towns become jewels at seven, after sunset, pearled with lamps, the avenues fit for pleasure …”