Suggested Itinerary for Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival
One of our all-time favorite festivals, the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival is celebrating its 29th year at the end of the month (that’s right, next year is the big 3-0). With so many facets of this festival to navigate — master classes, author panels, theater performances, tours, exhibits, cooking demonstrations — picking and choosing what to do can cause the sort of fatigue experienced by the best of Williams’ characters. Had the playwright himself been attending this festival, he probably would have just taken a seat at one of his French Quarter watering holes, had a drink and watched from afar. But whether you’re a first-timer or seasoned veteran of this festival, we suggest jumping right in and experiencing as much of the literary goodness as you can possibly can — some of it at a bargain of $25.
FESTIVAL DATES: March 25-29
LOCATION: Hotel Monteleone (headquarters) plus various other venues around the French Quarter
WHAT TO BRING: Comfortable shoes, a notebook and snacks for when you’re rushing from event to event and don’t have time for one of those four-hour French Quarter lunches
SUGGESTED ITINERARY (see the full program here):
EXHIBITS: “A Rainy Afternoon in New Orleans: Mr. Williams’ Neighborhood” is a special pop-up exhibit at the Gallier House Shop just for guests of the festival and shows the inspiration for many of the playwright’s works in the French Quarter.
The Ogden Museum of Southern Art is showing a collection of paintings and mixed media compositions by Williams through May 31, so festival goers can witness his creative side in addition to his literary one.
CLASSES: Mississippi writer Michael Farris Smith (Rivers; pictured) teaches a master class on on “Putting the Pieces Together” that we wouldn’t miss, especially for what we think is a bargain price for advice from one of the South’s emerging writers. Thursday, March 26, 2:30 p.m., The Historic New Orleans Collection, $25
THEATER: We had the pleasure of attending The Hotel Plays last year, and they’re one of the most innovative forms of theater you’ll see at the festival. Set at the Hermann-Grima House, actors travel from room to room bringing to life Williams’ work set in hotel rooms and boarding houses. Thursday, March 26-Sunday, March 29, times vary, $30
See actress and Southern literature enthusiast Brenda Currin in Southern Rep’s production of Williams’ “Suddenly Last Summer.” Wednesday, March 25-Sunday, March 29, times vary, Ashe Powerhouse Theatre, $20-40
Blue Devils and Better Angels: Tennessee Williams Tribute Reading brings together greats John Waters, John Patrick Shanley, Mia Dillon and more in a one-of-a-kind setting. Friday, March 27, 8:30 p.m., Old Ursuline Convent, $35
Truman Talks Tennessee is a one-man show by Joel Vig in which the Broadway veteran plays Truman Capote near the end of his life and recalls his friendship with Williams. Sunday, March 29, 2:30 p.m., Hotel Monteleone, $20
TOURS: For the first time, TW Fest NOLA coincides with the city’s Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, and LGBT Literary Walking Tours focus on the French Quarter’s Queer history and rich literary heritage. Thursday, March 26, 2:30 p.m. and Friday, March 27, 10:30 a.m., Hotel Monteleone lobby, $25
PANELS: Louisiana Witness: Homegrown Narratives brings together writers M.O. Walsh (My Sunshine Away), Laura Lane McNeal (Dollbaby), Rick Barton and Vicki Salloum (Faulkner & Friends) to discuss how their characters bear witness to an ever-changing Southern social and cultural climate. Friday, March 27, 10 a.m., Hotel Monteleone, Panel Pass
Sweet & Savage: Writing The Women of the South with Natalie Baszile (Queen Sugar; pictured), LaShonda Katrice Barnett, Katy Simpson Smith and John Warley. Friday, March 27, 11 :30 a.m., Hotel Monteleone, Panel Pass
Good Morning Baltimore: Laura Lippman Interviews John Waters to talk about the road trip that inspired his book Carsick. Friday, March 27, 4 p.m., Hotel Monteleone, Panel Pass
Tennessee Today: His Critical Reputation and Popular Image has Kenneth Holditch, David Kaplan, John Lahr and Annette Sadik discussing the playwright’s hold on our contemporary cultural reputation and how the future may view his work. Saturday, 11:30 a.m., Williams Research Center, Panel Pass
Storm and Storyteller Ten Years On: Two Writers and a Photographer Revisit Katrina presents Dan Baum, Ted Jackson and Cheryl Wagner in recognition of the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Saturday, March 28, 2:30 p.m., Hotel Monteleone, Panel Pass
A Conversation With John Lahr will give insight into the recent Williams biographer’s decade of research. Sunday, March 29 10 a.m., Hotel Monteleone, Panel Pass
New Orleans: Crafting a Mythical City examines how writers like Williams, Mark Twain, Anne Rice and Francis Parkinson-Keyes play off the city’s reputation for eccentricity, debauchery, mystery and corruption through panelists Rien Fertel, Brian Boyles and Nancy Dixon. Sunday, March 29, 2:30 p.m., Hotel Monteleone, Panel Pass
Shaking Up Prohibition in New Orleans: Authentic Vintage Cocktails From A To Z serves as a happy hour and book launch for this new title from LSU Press. Saturday, March 28, 5 p.m., Backspace Bar, free with a Festival ticket
Afro Vegan: Bryant Terry in Conversation presents the chef and food activist whose new cookbook remixes Southern foods and plant-based deliciousness. Sunday, March 29, 11 a.m., Bourbon House, $15
LATE NIGHT: By Any Scenes Necessary: A Streetcar Named Desire has The NOLA Project improvising Williams’ most famous work using suggestions from the audience. Friday, March 27, 10:30 p.m., Cafe Istanbul, $10
FINALE: The Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest gathers contestants in Jackson Square to rival Stanley Kowalski’s shout for Stellaaaaaaa! from “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Sunday, 4:15 p.m., free
View the entire festival program here.