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The Height of Write

Tennessee Williams Fest Previewed

The Tennessee Williams Festival is growing to be as large as its namesake’s legacy. On Thursday (3.26), New Orleans will be treated to a dense schedule of literary events, theatre, and talks.


For starters, this year's Tennesee Williams Festival joined with the LGBT queer literary festival, Saints and Sinners. “We usually run them at a separate times but both are going to happen at the same time this year,” said J.R. Ramakrishnan, Director of Literary Programs for the festival. 


On Thursday (3.24), the fest will offer a neighborhood story project titled Queer Cartography Presents The First Five Posters. The event will focus on connections, not literal maps. “I think cartography sort of suggest that there are many ways of imagining,” said Ramakrishnan. "There are many different iterations of what a map can be. Definitely one of my picks to do on Thursday night."


TWF will also look at the role of other minorities in literature. Literary Late Night: Mixed Company is a book launch highlighting short fiction by women of color based in the South. The multimedia gathering will feature literature, art, film, and music by local artists of color.


Ramakrishnan herself will interview author Laila Lalami in a Master Class. The moderator explains that Lalamiin’s work is about the “first African American explorer, of whom there is very little written about. He traveled to Florida, the Gulf Coast and basically all the way to California long before Lewis and Clark. It’s a very thought provoking book. I’ll be speaking to Laila a little bit about how historical details can be brought into fiction.”


For writers looking to break into the biz’, there will be plenty of opportunities to learn from insiders. Playwrights from Page to Stage: Agents, Producers, and Directors will feature an all-star panel of successful playwrights talking about their lives and experiences in the theater. John Biguenet, Dr. Femi Euba, John Patrick Stanley and Martin Sherman will be lead by Moderator Thomas Keith in a talk about the business end of writing for the stage.


Marly Rusoff and Jonathan Odell of the Author-Agent Alliance will provide tips about the “brass tax of the business of publishing.” If you have a book to sell, this is the Master Class for you. Marly Rusoff is Jonathan Odell’s agent. They will wax poetic about how they found each other, what the landscape is like right now and how to get your work published.


Ramakrishnan calls Lauren Cerand “the literary godmother.” Cerand is a publicist who will teach a class highlighting suggestions, thoughts, and strategies on how to publicize yourself as a writer, as well as your work.


Of course, Williams was a playwright and there will be plenty of theatre. Organizers are excited about Diana Shortes staging of “The Waltz,” a woman play based on Dorothy Parker’s short stories, starring Claudia Baumgarten. In addition to nearly a dozen other performances, there will be seminars. Randy Fertell will tackle the crossover between improv and literature. R.J. explains, “I think for a lot of writers improv is extremely broad. He’ll be talking about improv in plays and in the acting sense. Improv is generally associated with performance. He’s looking at it and bringing it into the literary realm.”


TWF is New Orleans festival. So, there will also be music. “If you abandon me, comment je vas faire: An Amede Ardoin Songbook” at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe will look at the foundation of the Creole and Cajun genres. Cajun musician Goldman Thibodeaux will perform in a rare literary context at this event. Darrell Bourque, a former Louisana Poet Laureate will read aloud from his chapbook accompanied by the music of Thibodeaux’s accordion.


The venue will also host a discussion of Sunpie Barnes’ new collaboration Talk That Music Talk: New Orleans’ Music Roots Today. The Treme Brass Band and Neighborhood Story Project will use the books as a springboard to discuss the progression of jazz through a generation of families in New Orleans.


For those who are overwhelmed by the options and simply want to write, there’s a marathon for that. Throughout the weekend, Richard Louth will be facilitating creativity. Writers will break out into groups individually and write in different places around the Quarter. Then they will reconvene for discussion.On Sunday, the finished works will be read at a final session at the Monteleone. Advance signup via email ( is required.


Check out the official schedule for exact times, locations, and many more events.

Erin Rose
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