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Fest preview: Tennessee Williams Festival

A contestant in the 2013 Stella! Shouting Contest at the Tennessee Williams Fest.

A contestant in the 2013 Stella! Shouting Contest at the Tennessee Williams Fest.

Editor's Note: NolaVie presents a guest blog series from Neutrons Protons, a New Orleans-based literary publication that believes well-written stories, and a good dose of humor, have the power to change the world.  The magazine represents a wide range of material -- from satirical critiques to comics to memoirs. Each month, on the week before the latest issue launches, one of NP's editors will pen an original piece for NolaVie. Here's "Heart Editor" Willa Conway on what to look out for during this weekend's TWF.

This weekend our city will host the 28th annual Tennessee Williams Festival. Events began on on Wednesday, with the festival bringing together thespians, playwrights, novelists, and artists from around the country. Panel discussions, theatrics, walking tours, master classes and various special events are among the many ways to engage in another exciting weekend in the Crescent City.

Tennessee Williams, who found a lasting love for New Orleans in 1938, is remembered as one of the most controversial American playwrights in history. Like many artists whose work challenged both social and creative norms, Williams was able to bring attention to that which was dysfunctional in both his own upbringing and in society at large. He found New Orleans inspiring, as it is a city that contains both tragedy and beauty, repression and sexuality -- themes seen in many of his plays, such as Cat on A Hot Tin Roof and The Night of the Iguana, both of which go up this week as a part the festival.

Although his reception had its highs and lows in his own lifetime, William’s craft and stories have come to bear great cultural significance, as, through his fiction, he was able to critique and explore complex interpersonal and societal relationships. These relationships were not always pretty, yet his works seek to capture these darker realities, rather than shying away from them, for these darker moments always have something to teach us.  His stories become timeless because they have a way of teaching us of moments past, while still living around and in us, no matter how unfamiliar the setting or the time of the piece presented. We are fortunate this weekend to spend time with working artists who address many of the central themes of William’s original work: loneliness, violence, American culture, relationships, communication, love and alienation.

The festival began 28 years ago to not only celebrate the artist Tennessee Williams, but also to bring together, honor, and continue to learn from those who carry on the depth of his craft, vision, and potency. The complete program can be found online here; below is a list of the don't-miss picks. However, with three more jam-packed days of the festival, it will be hard to make a wrong choice.

Friday

11:30 a.m.—Panel Discussion: The Unfathomable City Salon. Hotel Monteleone Queen Anne Ballroom. 

4 p.m. –Panel Discussion: Not Even Past: Southern History in Contemporary Fiction. Hotel Monteleone Queen Anne Ballroom.

7:30 p.m—Theater: NOLA Project’s production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Le Petit Theater 

Saturday

10:00 a.m.—Panel Discussion: Whose Life is it Anyways? Hotel Monteleone Queen Anne Ballroom.

2:00 p.m.—Theater: Hotel Plays. Hermann-Grima House 

7:30 p.m. Theater: Southern Rep Theater’s production of The Night of the Iguana. The Art Klub 

Sunday 

10:00 a.m.—Panel Discussion: Writing America. Hotel Monteleone Queen Anne Ballroom.

11:30 a.m.—Panel Discussion: The Return of the Essay. Hotel Monteleone Queen Anne Ballroom.

4:15 p.m.—Special Event: Stanley and Stella Shouting contest. This video explains it all. Jackson Square. 


 Neutrons Protons is an idiosyncratic literary project on the web and in print. It focuses on true-to-life narrative stories and offbeat, highbrow humor writing. The next digital issue will launch April 1. Read last month's guest blog from Sophie Lucido Johnson.