2014 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Kicks Off Today

2014 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Kicks Off Today

A stellar group of literary, theater and musical talent will gather for the 2014 Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, marking its 28th anniversary, today, March 19-23. The five-day fête honors the legendary Tennessee Williams, his works, and literary life in the adopted city he called his "spiritual home" and features two days of master classes; 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 parties.

To set the stage, sample a taste of the March 2013 event here: www.tennesseewilliams.net/watch-what-happened-at-the-2013-fest.

"I am delighted that we are able to bring so many of Tennessee Williams' masterpieces to our audiences this year," said Executive Director Paul Willis. "In addition, we are thrilled to add such a broad spectrum of established and rising literary stars to the mix."

The programming schedule is still taking shape but some of the illustrious participants on board to share their diverse talents are:

Dorothy Allison, author of the best-selling novel, Bastard Out of Carolina, later made into an award-winning movie;

Hilton Als, drama critic, writer for the New Yorker, and author of White Girls;

Alicia Anstead, editor-in-chief of the national magazines Inside Arts and The Writer;

Adrienne Barbeau, best-selling author and actress in numerous features and television shows (Sons of Anarchy, Argo, Swamp Thing, Grey's Anatomy);

John Freeman, writer and critic, former editor of Granta, onetime National Book Critics Circle president, and author of recently-published How to Read a Novelist;

Diane Ladd, actress, director, author, producer, and three-time Emmy and Oscar nominee, who, at the age of 17, made her New York theatrical debut in (her cousin) Tennessee Williams' Off-Broadway revival of Orpheus Descending, to rave reviews;

Kiese Laymon, novelist, essayist and a contributing editor at gawker.com, Esquire and many other publications;

Laura Lippman, masterful and prolific mystery writer, whom The Washington Post dubbed "one of the best novelists around, period";

Julia Reed, author and regular contributor to Garden & Gun, Elle Décor, Architectural Digest and Conde Nast Traveler; and

Dani Shapiro, best-selling author of the memoirs Still Writing, Devotion and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History, as well as a contributor to several publications including Travel + Leisure.

Literary highlights include more than two dozen literary panel discussions on a wide range of topics such as Southern history in fiction; the return of the essay; true crime; and the city's many unique and enduring traditions, to name a few. The popular Breakfast Book Club will examine The Glass Menagerie. For the after-hours crowd, there will be Literary Late Night events, including The Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas Salon, at which contributors to this colorful reinvention of the time-honored atlas will read their essays.

Eight lively Master Classes feature sessions with authors and editors who share literary tips, techniques, and current industry trends with aspiring writers and interested bibliophiles. The 2014 line-up will offer a wealth of information on how to create a successful writing practice, write effective and believable dialogue, build a literary brand through social media, and more.

Theater events include a full production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a Williams classic presented by The NOLA Project, an innovative theater company known for breathing new life into familiar stories. The play will be staged at Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré, a French Quarter landmark and one of the country's oldest community theaters, which recently reopened after an extensive renovation.

"The Hotel Plays," a special opening event, features Williams' short plays set in hotel rooms. A collection of them will be performed in the historic Hermann-Grima House (a former rooming house) with the audience moving from room to room.

Several blocks away, on Elysian Fields, award-winning Southern Repertory Theater will stage The Night of the Iguana, considered by many to be Williams' last great play.

Daytime soap opera diva Julia Chapman will portray Vivien Leigh in her dazzling one-woman show, Vivien, which has garnered high acclaim. Leigh won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Blanche DuBois in the original 1951 film version of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Rounding out the Williams marquée, New York playwright Jeremy Lawrence will present En Vivant, a compilation of his four dead-on portraits of Tennessee Williams, which never fail to mesmerize audiences; and "Tennessee Williams and the Crescent City" will feature star-studded tribute readings of the playwright's works about - or set in- New Orleans.

In addition, the University of New Orleans will mount a production of Frederick Mensch's Father, the Festival's 2013 One-Act Play Competition winner; the 2014 prizewinner will receive a staged reading.

Music enlivens the program with "Drummer & Smoke," a series of Sunday offerings, including sessions with world-renowned clarinetists Dr. Michael White and Tom Sancton.

Food events promise to pleasure the palate. At one, Kit Wohl will be talking about her new cookbook, New Orleans Classic Celebrations. Participants will sample tasty treats and receive a copy of the book.

At another gathering, food writers who voted for their favorite gumbo, jambalaya and other New Orleans standards in the "Best of" section of the newly released EAT DAT: The People & Places of New Orleans' Unique Food Culture will mince words on the topic.

It's a Scream! 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.

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; Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré; Tableau Restaurant; Muriel's Jackson Square Restaurant; Palm Court Jazz Café; Hermann-Grima House; Beauregard-Keyes House; 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, www.facebook.com/TWFestNOLA , www.twitter.com/TWFestNOLA or http://pinterest.com/twfestnola.

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