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Ten Out of Ten-nessee

NoDef's Guide to The Tennessee Williams Festival

Playwright Tennessee Williams had a long love affair with New Orleans. So goes a bon mot Williams once said, “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.” No offense to the rest of the country, but New Orleanians take great pride in being revered as decidedly not-Cleveland by the late playwright. This week, the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival returns for its 31st annual celebration. The five-day fest kicks off this Wednesday, all culminating on Williams’s 106th birthday on Sunday (3.26). 


2017 will feature 145 speakers including celebrated talk show host Dick Cavett, playwright Lisa D’Amour, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Rick Bragg, and best-selling authors Dorothy Allison, Patricia Bosworth, Winston Groom, and Wally Lamb, among many more. On the celebrity front, Hollywood husband-and-wife duo Robert Wagner and Jill St. John will be on hand to discuss their 1970s staging of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in addition to taking part in the fest’s "Tennessee Williams and the Eternal City" tribute reading.


Williams’s position as one of the foremost playwrights of the 20th century is celebrated with plenty of theatrical stagings of his work. Southern Rep will present their much-anticipated production of “Sweet Bird of Youth,” while the Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans is putting on “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore.” The New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) will perform "Loneliness and Desire," a collection of three scenes by Williams. More obscure works like the playwright's one-act work “Now the Cats with Jewelled Claws” are also on the lineup. 


Read on for NoDef’s round-up of can’t-miss events. 


Where Sex and Sin Were the Specialties: An Evening of Storyville Memories (3.22)

The fest's opening night is an exploration of New Orleans’s Red Light District, Storyville. Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the neighborhood’s closing, the Brook Hanemann-directed event will showcase the intersection of history, literature, theater, live music, and period dance in the infamous Storyville. Lucky VIPs can attend a pre-performance cocktail party at the apartment where Tennessee Williams lived when he wrote "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré, 616 St. Peter St., 7:30PM


Soul Searching: A Victorian-Style Séance (3.23)

Spiritual medium Juliet Pazera and historian Melissa Daggett team up for an inside look at the supernatural rituals popular among 19th century Creoles in the city. Daggett, the author of Spiritualism in New Orleans, will offer insight into the antebellum-era séance fan club known as Le Circle Harmonique, while Pazera will lead attendees through a Victorian-style séance ceremony. 

Hermann-Grima House, 820 St. Louis St., 3:30PM


Sweet Bird of Youth (3.23)

Tennessee Williams excelled at writing about the boozed up and overheated dynamics of people in the Deep South. The Southern Rep Theatre stages from one of the playwright's most iconic plays, "Sweet Bird of Youth," with a multi-night run at Loyola’s Marquette Theatre. "Youth" tells the story of an aging movie star who puts herself in the care of a drifter gigolo with less than honorable intentions. Cue slow-burning Southern melodrama. 

Loyola University Marquette Theatre, 6363 St. Charles Ave. Tickets at: or 504-522-6545. 


Williams and the Female Persona (3.24)

Friday marks a series of panel discussions themed around everything from the eternal influence of Tennessee Williams, to more thematically specific discussions like Williams’s treatment of mental and physical disorders in his writing. One of the most compelling panels is the look at Williams's female creations, examining the psychological complexities of the women like Blanche DuBois, Amanda Wingfield, and Maggie the Cat. Panelists include Annette Saddik, Lisa D’Amour, Bess Rowen, and moderator Katherine Weiss. 

Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St., 11AM


’Stella!’ Shouting Contest (3.26)

Consistently one of the most popular events at the annual fest is the Shouting Contest, which will take place this year on the final day of the festival. Celebrity judges will choose the top Stanley (or Stella) Kowalski among contestants reenacting the iconic scene from "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Jackson Square, 4:15PM


Saints and Sinners LGBT Literary Festival (3.24-3.26)

Founded in 2003, Saints and Sinners runs in tandem with the Tennessee Williams Festival, and brings together the top LGBT writers, publishers, and readers for a three-day literary festival at Hotel Monteleone. Standout events include the panel discussion “New Orleans Gay History: An LGBTQ Mecca” featuring writers Clayton Delery-Edwards, Alecia Long, and Frank Perez, as well as the annual closing Hall of Fame ceremony. A French Quarter Walking Tour (3.23 at 2PM, 3.24 at 10:30AM) taps Perez as a guide, and will highlight the neighborhood’s queer history and rich literary heritage. 

Hotel Monteleone, all-day 


New Orleans Writing Marathon (3.23, 3.25, 3.26)

The marathon's founder Richard Louth will host the event, with participants making their way across the French Quarter on an epic literary odyssey. Writers will drop by bars, bookstores, coffee shops and more to find their local inspiration. Poetry, essay, fiction, memoir — all literary styles are accepted, as long as they reflect the unique atmosphere of the Big Easy. 

Hotel Monteleone Queen Anne Ballroom, 9AM


Read more about the Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival here. 

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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

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