The Tennessee Williams and New Orleans Literary Festival Announce 2020 Lineup and Special Events

By: Feb. 04, 2020

The Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival returns to its home in the historic French Quarter for its 34th annual celebration of contemporary literature, culture, theater, and the works of Tennessee Williams. More than a typical book festival, TWNOLF showcases award-winning writers, actors, musicians, and other artists in over 150 events in the French Quarter and other New Orleans venues.

The 2020 Festival, March 25-29, includes writing workshops, literary panels, theater events, a book fair, Tennessee Williams tribute reading and scholars conference, walking tours, music events, culinary events, interviews, and the Saints + Sinners LGBTQ Literary Festival. TWNOLF will present a range of diverse speakers and performers, including Jami Attenberg, Andrei Codrescu, Maureen Corrigan, Beth Ann Fennelly, Jewelle Gomez, Saeed Jones, Jac Jemc, Sister Helen Prejean, Leigh Camacho Rourks, Maurice Carlos Ruffin, Colm Tóibín, John Warner Smith, Katy Simpson Smith, Edmund White, and many more.

"Tennessee Williams once called New Orleans his 'spiritual home' and each year we strive to bring that feeling to our Festival," says Executive Director Paul J. Willis. "We have a family of artists, writers, readers, and New Orleans cultural enthusiasts who return to their literary home every year. Newcomers are welcomed in and often become lifelong attendees."

The opening night on March 25 is sure to be a night to remember-or rather a circus to remember. The Vieux Carré Baroque Circus will be a dazzling theatrical performance that transports attendees into Carnivals' past through the eyes of Tennessee Williams, featuring an eclectic entourage of the finest performing artists in the Crescent City. The emcee, the legendary drag icon Vinsantos, will guide the audience through a journey of circus arts, stunts, vaudeville, and sideshow performances. Stories from the life of Tennessee Williams and a monologue from his rarely staged autobiographical play Vieux Carré will be woven into the performance to capture the hauntingly beautiful atmospherics of the French Quarter.

Theater Highlights include two full-length productions by local theaters. The Tennessee Williams Theatre Company of New Orleans will take audiences into the future with their creative adaptation of Tennessee Williams' In the Bar of a Tokyo Hotel. Southern Rep Theatre will present Reykjavik by Steve Yockey, directed by Aimée Hayes. This series of interconnected vignettes features tourists mixing with (sometimes supernatural) Icelandic locals. Other theater events include performances by The NOLA Project, actress Brenda Currin, two Tennessee Williams short plays from the new Beaubourg Theatre Company, plus a new solo play from Jacob Storms called Tennessee Rising: The Dawn of Tennessee Williams.

Special Events include the annual book club, "Books and Beignets," featuring the late Nobel laureate Toni Morrison's classic novel, Beloved.

NPR Book Reviewer Maureen Corrigan shares her favorite books at "Cocktails with Corrigan: A Boozy Book Conversation," to be held at Belle Epoque Absinthe Lounge.

The annual Tribute Reading will return with the theme "The Long and the Short of It." Williams never let go of a good idea, and this, combined with his strong and resilient work ethic, led to a constellation of fascinating connections that can be found in his shorter works and later in longer works.

Alexandra Kennon will share history, stories, and recipes at Broussard's Restaurant, including samples.

Poppy Tooker will host a culinary event celebrating her book, Drag Queen Brunch at Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House featuring three courses, bottomless mimosas, and four queens.

A Festival tradition for music enthusiasts, Drummer and Smoke returns with New Orleans musicians Raynel Shepard, Clive Wilson and Tom Sancton, and Alexis and the Samurai.

TWNOLF will also host five walking tours celebrating the literary and historical delights of the French Quarter, including a Tennessee Williams literary tour, an LGTBQ tour, a Storyville history tour, a cemetery tour, and a Nola drag tour.

The Festival celebrates the literary arts in many forms, with events for readers, writers, theater and music lovers, foodies, history buffs, and more. TWNOLF has a long history of connecting readers to the artists they love. Pulitzer Prize-winning author and past Festival speaker Richard Ford says that "the great allure of the Tennessee Williams Festival is-for me, a writer-to meet serious, man-and-woman-on-the-street book readers, people who go to books for the reason I came to reading long ago: to hear the extra beat to life that literature supplies, and by which it dignifies our trust that life's still worth living. Plus, you get to do it in New Orleans. Who could resist?"

Venues: Most Festival 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, the New Orleans Jazz Museum, Beauregard-Keyes House, Muriel's Jackson Square Restaurant, Beaubourg Theatre, Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House, and Palm Court Jazz Cafe, among others.

Tickets go on sale in February. Ticketing information and a full schedule of events and speakers will be available at VIP Passes are $600; Literary Discussion Passes are $100 ($70 for students); a One-Day Literary Discussion Pass is $40; theater/special events range from $10-$50; Writer's Craft sessions are $25 each; Best Value: Combo Pass $200 (includes all 8 writer's craft sessions and a Literary Discussion Pass); walking tours are $25-$50. Group rates, available on request, are 20% off for groups of 20 or more.

Saints + Sinners Literary Festival, an annual concurrent LGBTQ conference celebrating its 17th year, will feature speakers including Jewelle Gomez, Trebor Healey, Alex Myers, Colm Tóibín, Edmund White, and many others. Visit for more details.

The Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival celebrates the genius of Tennessee Williams 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 13,000+ 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


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