One of the best things about the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival is the likelihood of hearing a compatriot of the writer reminisce in Hotel Monteleone, where Williams often held court. Case in point is the panel “Tennessee Williams in Others’ Words” with the playwright’s family, friends, directors, actors, producers, critics and fans, including Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours.
But the festival, running March 20 to 24, pays tribute to the New Orleans writer in many other ways. It kicks off with the gala “Only A Paper Moon” featuring songs that can be found in Williams’ plays, and a repast fit for Maggie the Cat. Highlights of this year’s 70 literary and theatrical attractions include actress Judith Chapman discussing her performance in Vivien, a one-woman show about Vivien Leigh, who portrayed Blanche DuBois in Williams’ legendary A Streetcar Named Desire; New Orleans’ own Bryan Batt performing the Williams one-act play Talk to Me Like the Rain and Let Me Listen; and Auto-Da-Fe, a Williams play staged in the historic Hermann-Grima House. Of course, in a food town, dining-related sessions tend to sell out early. “Restaurant Scoop from the Virtual Gourmet” with Esquire food critic John Mariani is a hot ticket.
The festival wraps with Stellabration!, the annual Stanley & Stella Shouting Contest in which hundreds of Williams fans gather in Jackson Square as “Stanley!” and “Stella!” are belted out to judges assembled along the balcony of the historic Pontalba Apartments. An homage to A Streetcar Named Desire, the Stellabration is uniquely Tennessee Williams.
All-access passes to the festival are $500, and tickets to individual events, from master writing classes to walking tours, vary in cost. Check here for the full schedule and registration details.
Photo courtesy of Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival