Press Release

Press Release


February 12, 2016


Dominique Ellis

(225) 315-3186


Dorothy Allison, Mary Badham, Rick Bragg, Billy Cannon, Dick Cavett, and Estelle Parsons to top Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival

 Festival releases full program for 30th Anniversary Festival in the French Quarter

NEW ORLEANS—Celebrating 30 years of theatrical, literary, and cultural offerings, the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival  hosts a stellar lineup at its annual event March 30—April 3, 2016, in locations throughout the city’s iconic French Quarter and beyond. Guests will enjoy a packed tableau of events to celebrate our patron playwright, his works, and literary life, as well as contemporary artists.

The five-day event brings together past Festival favorites such as Dorothy Allison, Rick Bragg, Dick Cavett, John Lahr, and Rex Reed, along with first-timers Alys Arden, Lisa D’Amour, Beth Henley, and Estelle Parsons.

“We’re excited to continue expanding this historic event honoring Tennessee Williams in the adopted city he called his ‘spiritual home,’” said executive director Paul J. Willis. “The 30th anniversary Festival will be a landmark event in New Orleans literary culture.”

The 2016 program includes master classes; scholarly discussions among distinguished panelists; celebrity interviews; theater, food and music events; a scholars’ conference; short fiction, poetry and one-act play competitions; a breakfast book club; French Quarter literary walking tours; a book fair; and special evening events and social gatherings as well as a special “Passing Of Stella’s Slip” at the Stanley & Stella Shouting Contest.

Our 30th anniversary speaker line-up includes:

Megan Abbott, Edgar-winning noir crime writer, whose latest book, The Fever, is being adapted for an MTV show;     

Dorothy Allison, award-winning author of Bastard Out of Carolina, Cavedweller, and the forthcoming She Who;

Alys Arden, New Orleans native who parlayed her self-published novel The Casquette Girls into a two-book deal;

Cynthia Bond, New York Times best-selling author of the novel Ruby, the latest Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 selection;

Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own StoryAll Over But the Shoutin’Ava’s Man, and his latest, My Southern Journey: True Stories from the Heart of the South;

Billy Cannon, Heisman Trophy-winner and College Football Hall of Fame LSU Halfback;

Dick Cavett, Emmy-winning broadcaster, who has interviewed many cultural icons including Tennessee Williams, and author of Talk ShowConfrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets, and Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, and Assorted Hijinks;

Alexander Chee, Whiting Writers Award-winning author of the novel Edinburgh and the just released The Queen of the Night;

Lisa D’Amour, Pulitzer finalist and multi-award winning playwright of Detroit;

Beth Henley, Pulitzer-winning playwright of Crimes of the Heart, who recently adapted Tennessee Williams’ short story, “The Resemblance Between a Violin Case and a Coffin,” for the stage;

John Lahr, senior drama critic at The New Yorker, author of the highly-acclaimed biography, Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, and Joy Ride: Show People and Their Shows;

Estelle Parsons, Oscar winner (Bonnie and Clyde), Broadway legend with a star turn in Williams’ The Seven Descents of Myrtle, and widely known as Mother Bev on “Roseanne”;

Rex Reed, critic, columnist, and lecturer whose writings have appeared in nearly every national magazine and newspaper in London and the U.S;

Claire Vaye Watkins, author of the critically-acclaimed Battleborn and newly-released Gold Fame Citrus, who is judging our 2016 Fiction Contest.

Literary Highlights

The popular Breakfast Book Club focuses on Harper Lee’s “lost” novel Go Set a Watchman, written before To Kill a Mockingbird. Southern literary scholar Gary Richards hosts this lively discussion over breakfast at Muriel’s Jackson Square Restaurant.

Rick Bragg leads a master class on sense of place in essay writing. Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina, reveals the tricks of sustaining story, and John Lahr shares techniques in formulating a critical perspective. Other master classes include using memories in fiction, setting the mood, and the nature of freedom in fiction writing.

Award-winning sports journalist Jennifer Hale joins LSU alum and Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon and other sports writers to discuss sports in American life, from its use in metaphors to its ability to rebuild communities. Additional panel discussions cover the power and politics of New Orleans Voodoo, the biographer’s craft, memoir, and crime fiction.


Actress Mary Badham, best known as Scout in the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird, will be the guest of honor at the Festival Opening, joining Pulitzer Prize-winning author Rick Bragg on stage at Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré. Following their conversation, Badham will read from Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. The evening will culminate in a VIP after-party at Williams’ St. Peter Street apartment.

Southern Rep Theatre presents Orpheus Descending directed by Jef Hall-Flavin, Tennessee Williams’ re-imagining of the classical Orpheus myth, starring Beth Bartley, Brenda Currin, and Irene Glezos at the University of New Orleans, Robert E. Nims Theatre.

Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré brings to the stage Williams’ elegiac masterpiece The Glass Menagerie, renowned for its vivid characters, exquisitely written dialogue, and absorbing story.

Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans offers a trio of Williams’ one-acts, including two world premieres, in Weird Tales performed at the Metropolitan Community Church with an opening night champagne reception.

A Tribute to Williams the Poet takes place at an exciting new venue, The Jaxson on the River. Festival celebrities pay homage to Williams’ insight, compassion, wit, and humanity in a reading culled from his plays, stories, poems, essays and letters. Participants include the legendary interviewer Dick Cavett; playwrights Lisa D’Amour and Beth Henley; authors Dorothy Allison and Jewelle Gomez; and actors Mary Badham, Austin Pendleton, and Estelle Parsons.

Back by popular demand, The NOLA Project brings a new rendition of “By Any Scenes Necessary,” a fast-paced rollicking improv dedicated to Williams led by comedy maven Cecile Monteyne. The NOLA Project will also present Christopher Durang’s “For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls,” a light-hearted take on Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.

Additional Festival theater highlights include: “Goat Song,” an unpublished one-act play by Tennessee Williams; Wit and Wrath: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker starring Claudia Baumgarten; scenes from Swine Palace’s production of Vieux Carré; “Kissed by Tennessee” a theater workshop facilitated by Kathy Randels and Lisa D’Amour; a staged reading of “Something Unspoken,” Williams one-act that explores the nature of queer desire featuring Beth Bartley and Brenda Currin; and a Festival favorite Dick Cavett takes the stage with Rex Reed to share personal insights on cultural icons. In honor of the Festival’s 30th anniversary, “Tennessee’s Got Talent” returns to showcase New Orleans’ vibrant theater companies presenting scenes from Williams’ canon and rarely produced works.

Music offerings:  “Drummer & Smoke,” the Festival’s popular Sunday program returns to the Palm Court Jazz Café. This year’s offerings feature: “Music of the Mississippi” with Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes; a sampling of Southern Rep’s Boudin: The New Orleans Music Project; and Tommy Sancton’s New Orleans Legacy Band with music from the 1940s popular when Williams lived in the French Quarter.

Jeremy Lawrence returns to the Festival as part of an evocative music and theater hybrid performance titled He Knew He Would Say It—But Could He Believe It Again? This creative work combines an eclectic style of contemporary music with Williams’ poems, play fragments, and journal entries espousing views of love.

Food events: Louisiana foodie and culinary historian Poppy Tooker celebrates the iconic Tujague’s restaurant with a special event featuring tastings from her latest book, Tujague’s Cookbook: Creole Recipes and Lore in the New Orleans Grand Tradition.

Chef and author of Soul Food Love, Caroline Randall Williams joins Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse chef Sara Toth to offer a four-course dinner paired with cocktails and wine for a Southern Soul Food Steakout.

Stanley & Stella Shouting Contest: Spectators and contestants at the annual shouting contest in historic Jackson Square will be treated to a special twist at the closing event this year. Long-time Stella (and Festival board president), Janet Daley Duval will “pass the slip” on to a new Stella, The NOLA Project’s Cecile Monteyne. Celebrity judges include Rex Reed. The event takes place at 4:15pm on Sunday, April 3 and is free and open to the public. Prizes will be awarded.

Most events take place in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter. Sites providing generous support and hosting events include Hotel Monteleone, the Festival’s host hotel; The Historic New Orleans Collection; Williams Research Center; Gallier House; The Jaxson on the River; Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré; Dickie Brennan’s Tableau Restaurant; Muriel’s Jackson Square Restaurant; Tujague’s Restaurant; and Palm Court Jazz Cafe; among others.

During the Festival weekend: Saints and Sinners (SAS), our annual LGBT literary conference now in its 13th year, gathers members from the national LGBT literary community. Featured authors include Michael Thomas Ford, Jewelle Gomez, Andrew Holleran, Felice Picano, and many others. Visit for more details.

There are a variety of ways to enjoy this year’s Festival. A Festival Panel Pass is $75 ($60 for students); a One-Day Pass is $30; theater/special events range from $10-$100; master classes are $25; the Scholars Conference is $20; walking tours are $25. Group rates, available on request, are 20% off for groups of five or more. For more information and a full listing of events, call 504-581-1144 or visit 

About the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival

The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival celebrates the genius of Tennessee Williams, who once called our city his “spiritual home,” and the contemporary artists who are as honest and unflinching in their examination of the human condition as our patron playwright. Founded in 1986 by a group of cultural enthusiasts, the Festival has grown from a small gathering of 500 to a five-day literary and multi-cultural event, which sees 11,000+ seats filled each year. In late March, we toast Williams’ birthday with theater, literary panels, food, and music events featuring luminaries and the brightest new talents in American arts. For more information, visit or find us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.   

Major funding for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival [TW/NOLF] is made possible through a grant from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Festival is also supported in part by a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council as administered by the Arts Council New Orleans. Funding has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency. In addition, the program is supported in part by a Community Arts Grant made possible by the City of New Orleans as administered by the Arts Council of New Orleans. The TW/NOLF is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts through an Access to Artistic Excellence literature grant; by a grant from the New Orleans Theatre Association, NOTA supports performing arts throughout the Greater New Orleans area; and a grant from The Pulitzer Prize Centennial Campfires Initiative, established in celebration of the 100th year of the Prizes.


Dominique Ellis

(225) 315-3186