2015 Press Release

2015 Press Release

30th Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival

Line Up Announced

March 30- April 3, 2016


Dominique Ellis


(225) 315-3186

NEW ORLEANS—The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival is happy to announce a stellar line-up for its 30th anniversary in 2016. The historic annual event is slated for March 30, 2016 to April 3, 2016 and will take place in locations around the city’s iconic French Quarter with a packed tableau of theatrical, literary, and cultural events to celebrate its patron playwright, his works, and literary life.

From its modest beginnings in 1986, the Festival has grown into a five-day literary event featuring master classes; a passing of the role of Stella in our traditional Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest; a roster of lively 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.

“The 30th anniversary Festival will be a landmark event in New Orleans literary culture,” said executive director Paul J. Willis. “Our 2016 program is one for the books and will bring together festival veterans, such as Dorothy Allison, Rick Bragg, Dick Cavett, Yusef Komunyakaa, and John Lahr as well as highlight festival first-timers including Alys Arden, Alexander Chee, and Claire Vaye Watkins. We’re excited to continue to grow and expand this historic event honoring Tennessee Williams in the adopted city he called his “spiritual home.”

To set the stage, visit this clip from the March 2015 event: https://vimeo.com/126820020

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

Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the 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;

Dick Cavett, the Emmy-winning broadcaster, who interviewed many cultural icons including Tennessee Williams, and author of the recent books 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 forthcoming The Queen of the Night;

Beth Henley, the 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 stage as a one-act;

Yusef Komunyakaa, the Pulitzer-winning poet and author of Emperor of Water Clocks, who is also the judge of our 2016 Poetry Contest;

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;

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

Literary highlights include spirited panel discussions on a wide range of topics: “Writing the Mississippi River,” “Larger than Life: The Biographer’s Craft,” “Southern Literary Travels,” and “Tennessee Williams’ Short Stories,” to name a few.

Speakers will also discuss the representations of the Civil War in our time (in a special presentation by The Midlo Center for New Orleans Studies at the University of New Orleans), New Orleans in the 1930s (in a panel of talk and music curated by Xavier University), spiritual life in Louisiana, and much more. Our popular Breakfast Book Club will discuss Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, with facilitator Gary Richards presiding.

Also during the festival weekend this year, Saints and Sinners (SAS), our annual LGBT literary event, will take place. Now in its 13th year, SAS gathers the local, national, and international LGBT literary community. Featured authors will include Michael Thomas Ford, Jewelle Gomez, Ellen Hart, Felice Picano, and many others. Visit sasfest.org for more details.

Eight master classes for writers and avid readers feature noted authors and editors who will share literary tips, techniques and current industry trends. Among this year’s sessions: Rick Bragg will discuss literary place; Dorothy Allison will reveal the tricks of sustaining story; and Megan Abbott will mediate on fictional mood-making.

Theater offerings will include Orpheus Descending, a classic Tennessee Williams play presented in partnership with Southern Rep Theatre. Stars Beth Bartley, Brenda Currin, and Irene Glezos are members of the cast of Tennessee’s re-imagining of the classical Orpheus myth.

The NOLA Project theater company will stage a late night production of Christopher Durang’s “For Whom The Southern Belle Tolls.” This light-hearted take on Williams’ The Glass Menagerie is one of Durang’s most popular one-acts. Back by popular demand, led by improv comedy maven Cecile Monteyne, The NOLA Project will present a new rendition of “By Any Scenes Necessary,” a fast-paced rollicking improv dedicated to Tennessee.

Festival celebrities will gather at an exciting new venue, The Jaxson on the River, to stage our annual tribute to Williams and read selections of his work around the theme of “Tennessee Williams the Poet.” Also, in honor of our 30th anniversary, the Festival will bring back “Tennessee’s Got Talent,” an evening dedicated to showcasing New Orleans’ vibrant theater companies presenting scenes from Williams’ canon and rarely produced works.

Rounding out the Williams marquée, Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré will present Williams’ elegiac masterpiece The Glass Menagerie directed by Maxwell Williams. This “memory play” is one of America’s most powerful, timeless, and compelling works of theater.

Music plays at “Drummer & Smoke,” the Festival’s series of Sunday offerings, including a session on the Music of the Mississippi with Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes; a tribute to Percy Mayfield, the Louisiana-born songwriter of the classic “Hit the Road Jack”; and a sampling of Southern Rep’s BOUDIN: The New Orleans Music Project.

Food events bring added zest and flavor to the offerings. Louisiana foodie and culinary historian Poppy Tooker will celebrate the iconic New Orleans restaurant with an event showcasing her latest, Tujague’s Cookbook: Creole Recipes and Lore in the New Orleans Grand Tradition. Meanwhile, at Dickie Brennan’s Tableau Restaurant, Caroline Randall Williams will discuss a hundred years of her family’s recipes from her book, Soul Food Love.

STELLAAA!  Festival-goers won’t want to miss the riotous closing ceremony, the Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest, a playful homage to the bellowing mates in A Streetcar Named Desire. This year we are proud to announce that our esteemed board president Janet Daley Duval will be passing the role of Stella onto Cecile Monteyne, Managing Director and actor with The NOLA Project, ushering in the time honored tradition to a new generation.

Most of the 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; Hermann-Grima 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.

 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 on request. Group rates are 20% off for groups of five or more. 

For more information, call 504-581-1144 or visit www.tennesseewilliams.net. 

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 theatre, literary panels, food and music events featuring luminaries and the brightest new talents in American arts. For more information, visit www.tennesseewilliams.net or find us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.  


For a downloadable pdf of this press release, click here:  2016 Festival Press Release