In May, the city of St. Louis will pay homage to the city’s favorite playwright – Tennessee Williams – with an annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis (TWFSTL). This inaugural celebration kicks off May 11th and runs through the 15th on a variety of both conventional and unexpected stages in the Grand Center and Central West End areas. Highlights from this first festival include a Hirschfeld Exhibition Unveiling and An Evening with Olympia Dukakis. With a focus on St. Louis, the TWFSTL will offer something for all tastes – theatrical productions, movies, a visual art exhibition, readings, panel discussions, a tour, and live music. Tickets will be available through Metrotix.
The Hirschfeld Exhibition, Broadway Poet, will kick off the festival on Wednesday, May 11th at the Kranzberg Studio. “Al Hirschfeld Draws Tennessee Williams” gathers more than 20 of Hirschfeld’s iconic works to give visitors a glimpse of a fascinating archive of Williams’ Broadway career (both original productions and revivals). Both men, who hailed from St. Louis, spent their lives studying their fellow men and women and interpreting them through their own prisms for their respective (and in many ways shared) audiences. This special exhibit is sponsored by Mary Strauss. The Curtain Call Club will host the Opening Night Party.
Olympia Dukakis, Academy Award Winner for Moonstruck, will appear in a program on Thursday, May 12th that will reveal the depth of her relationship with Williams’ words. Olympia has been performing roles written by Williams since she played Stella in Streetcar during her first professional work — summer stock in Maine. She’s played Maxine in Night of the Iguana at Williamstown; Serafina in The Rose Tattoo (four times over the course of almost 30 years); The Glass Menagerie‘s Amanda at Trinity Rep; and Flora Goforth in Milk Train in Hartford in 2010, in Williamstown in 1996, and on Broadway in 2011. If there is a virtuoso actor of Tennessee Williams throughout America, it’s Olympia Dukakis. David Kaplan, the Curator and Co-founder of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival, will host the onstage conversation. A reception will follow the program. This special evening is sponsored by Ken and Nancy Kranzberg.
The variety of entertaining theatrical programming over the five-day festival includes The Rooming House Plays, a series of five short plays set in St. Louis and performed in the rooms of the historic Stockton House. This production, based on a concept first presented by the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, is under the direction of David Kaplan with writer/director and former St. Louisan Brian Hohlfeld. Other productions being presented are veteran stage and screen actor Jeremy Lawrence’s One-Man Show What’s Next on the Agenda, Mr. Williams; Upstream Theater’sThe Glass Menagerie at the Kranzberg Black Box, an uncommon production that aims to take the piece out of the museum in a way that’s guaranteed to move you, and move you to think, under the direction of Philip Boehm; and Ensemble: The Williams Family Letters as read by Williams’ niece Francesca Williams. This collection of treasured memorabilia features correspondence between Tennessee and his mother Edwina, sister Rose and brother Dakin.
TWFSTL is thrilled to bring a portion of their festival back to the theatrical home of The Mummers, the company that Williams was a member of during his St. Louis years – The Learning Center, formally The Wednesday Club. Located in the historic Theodore Link Building in the Central West End, it will host both “The Two Character Play” and Tennessee Williams / The Soul of a Poet. “The Two Character Play,” produced by The Midnight Company is one of Williams’ final, most haunting and eloquent plays. Tennessee Williams / The Soul of a Poet features an evening of readings, musings and more of Williams’ most popular works, performed by St. Louis actors and guests of the festival with music by Henry Palkes. This program is directed and curated by Thomas Keith, a Williams editor, theater instructor and Literary Director for the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival and Creative Advisor to the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival.
There will be a strong educational component with Williams’ scholars offering public discussions and panels including “TENNESSEE WILLIAMS 101,” a tightly-packed hour of Williams facts and stories taught by Augustin J Correro, Co-Artistic Director of the Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans; “Tennessee Williams: The St. Louis Years” with Thomas Keith, Augustin Correro and Washington University professor of Drama and Comparative Literature, Henry Schvey; and “The Glass Menagerie & The Two Character Play: Same and Different” lead by David Kaplan.
A bus tour of Williams’ sites in St. Louis, an exhibition of Ride Hamilton’s photos of New Orleans’ The Hotel Plays, a Stella Shouting Contest, a Beatnik Jam, screenings of his films, a variety of readings and a Closing Night Party round out the festival.
Following her successful production of Williams’ Stairs to the Roof, TWFSTL Executive Artistic Director, Carrie Houk was urged by many to honor her favorite playwright by organizing an annual St. Louis festival, including mentor, guide and festival guest David Kaplan. “TWFSTL brings together three of the greatest loves of my life—theater, Tennessee Williams, and St. Louis! I’m not the only one who recognizes that it is time for St. Louis to recognize and celebrate America’s greatest playwright and poet. We look forward to offering theatrical, artistic and educational offerings to the community and to becoming a major destination event.”
“It is time that Tennessee Williams is honored with a festival in the town where he grew up in his most impressionable years. He is probably the greatest playwright of our generation,” states Ken Kranzberg, Chairman of the Grand Center board.
For more information and to view the full schedule of teh festival, click here. Fans of Williams eager to learn more and find out how they can be involved are encouraged to check the festival’s Facebook page for updates and announcements along the way. V
Via Press Release