Festival celebrates all things Tennessee Williams, with readings, plays, news and more | Arts

It’s been 75 years since Blanche Dubois, broke and desperate, boarded that old rattle streetcar named Desire and changed American theater forever.

The 1947 Broadway premiere of “A Streetcar Named Desire” had an immediate and lasting influence, a clash of romance and realism that introduced the world to iconic characters and established Williams as a distinctive voice whose seminal pieces have been in high rotation on stages around the world for more than three quarters of a century.

This year, the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival celebrates the diamond anniversary of “A Streetcar Named Desire” by paying homage to Williams’ best-known work, while also highlighting some of the more obscure offerings in the playwright.

The festival features a wide range of speakers and panel discussions, as well as performances throughout the weekend that showcase the breadth and depth of Williams’ writing.

Tribute reading

Many of the festival’s favorite writers and actors will gather Thursday night for this year’s tribute reading, “A Little Piece of Eternity: ‘Streetcar’ Turns 75!”

The event will feature selections from Williams’ poetry, prose and letters, as well as startling international reviews, critical responses and other playful insights into the enduring legacy of Williams’ play. Performers will include Tony Award-winning actor Michael Cerveris (“Assassins,” “Fun Home”), Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jericho Brown and many more.

On Sunday, local theater company NOLA Project presents its annual “Tennessee X Three” staged reading series, a one-act trio that this year includes “Interior Panic,” a precursor to “Streetcar.” This short play is Williams’ first work to first feature a character named Blanche arriving in New Orleans to stay with her sister and brother-in-law – though the ending of it is very different from the version. final of “Streetcar”. The series will also include staged readings of the first play “Honor the Living,” alongside “Portrait of a Madonna,” which premiered the year after “Streetcar” and also follows a faded beauty whose mental deterioration leads to institutionalization.

New Orleans’ Tennessee Williams Theater Company offers a different take on “Streetcar” with its production of “Desire, Desire, Desire,” a comedic parody by Tony Award-winning playwright Christopher Durang. The piece is packed with another one-act Durang, “For Whom the Beauty of the South Rings” and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s “Swamp Gothic.”

Misleading game?

The show is the only all-stage production this year to be offered alongside the festival’s stage readings and workshops.

“‘Desire, Desire, Desire’ is a misleading little piece,” said Augustin J. Correro, co-founder of TWTC’s artistic director. “At first it looks like a quote from Williams, but in truth it’s a good-humoured parody of a number of Pulitzer Prize-winning dramas, including ‘Cat on a Hot Roof.’

Correro added that the triple bill “highlighted the fine line between drama and low comedy, a distinction Williams knew well.”

While the “Streetcar” story is headlining at this year’s festival, there’s plenty of programming for those who want to delve into Williams’ work as well.

Perhaps most notable is TWTC’s first staged reading of “Moise and the Age of Reason,” based on Williams’ little-known 1975 novel about an artist and writer trying to survive together in New York City. The novel, one of only two written by Williams during her career, was adapted for the stage by New Orleans playwright Justin Maxwell, in collaboration with TWTC and the Tennessee Willaims estate.

Deep cuts

Maxwell described the theme of “Moses” as “heavy loneliness, with plenty of lust for good measure”.

The team hopes that the festival reading will pave the way for a full production in the future.

“We’re very lucky to have what could be a very supportive and knowledgeable audience,” Carrero said of the first reading. “By performing it in the Hotel Monteleone ballroom, we’ll be able to see their faces and get some of their candid responses at particular times so that this can hopefully be a growing moment for the play.”

Other Williams deep cuts at the festival include Friday’s performance of “Amor Perdido/Lost Love,” a joint production by the University of Illinois and the Celebration Company of Urbana, Ill., which adapts a quartet of short stories by Williams for the stage.

And Friday night, New Orleans cabaret artist Vinsantos DeFonte presents a Williams-inspired “Nightingale” reading workshop. Part play and part musical, “Nightingale” takes its name and inspiration from the title character of Williams’ “Vieux Carré,” a play about a young writer newly arrived at a boarding house in New Orleans.

This year’s Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival is a welcome return to the spring festival season in New Orleans for locals and visitors alike, and promises something for everyone, from plays of theatre, round tables, scholarly presentations or just luck shouting “Stella! at Sunday’s shouting contest on the streets of Jackson Square.

For a full schedule and ticket information, visit tennesseewilliams.net.

EVENTS

Tribute reading: A little piece of eternity: “Streetcar” celebrates its 75th anniversary!

Thursday, March 24, 6:30 p.m.

New Orleans Jazz Museum at the Old US Mint, 400 Esplanade Ave.

$40 or festival pass

“Love Lost/Love Lost”

Friday, March 25, 4 p.m.

Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St.

$10 or festival pass

“Desire, Desire, Desire”, “For Whom Southern Beauty Rings”, and “Swamp Gothic”

Presented by the Tennessee Williams Theater Company of New Orleans

From Friday March 25 to Saturday April 9, 7:30 p.m.

Loyola University of New Orleans, Lower Depths Theater

Tickets to twtheatrenola.com

“Nightingale: A One-Man Show with Vinsantos DeFonte”

Friday, March 25, 9:30 p.m.

830 N. Rampart Street

$20, to galleryvinsantos.com

“Moses and the World of Reason”

Saturday March 26, 2:30 p.m.

Hotel Monteleone, Old Square Room

$20 or festival pass

The NOLA Project Presents Tennessee X Three

Sunday, March 27, 1 p.m.

Hotel Monteleone, Old Square Room

$20 tickets or festival pass

Stella and Stanley Scream Contest

Sunday, March 27, 4:15 p.m.

Jackson Square

Free and open to the public

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