4th Tennessee Williams Fest STL Is A Massive Success
Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis produced its 2019 festival in the Grand Center Arts District to much critical acclaim and record-breaking attendance. Running May 9 through May 19, with multiple offerings across various venues, the Festival breathed new life into the work and legacy of St. Louis' own, Tennessee Williams.
The Festival's main stage offering, The Night of the Iguana, was an achievement in all areas. Under the direction of last year's St. Louis Theatre Circle Award winner for Outstanding Direction, Tim Ocel, the design team created a raw and enticing environment evocative of a desperately sequestered escape. The company of actors were an ensemble in the truest sense, led by the intricate, conflicted, and tender work of James Andrew Butz, Nisi Sturgis, Lavonne Byers, and Harry Weber. Audience and critical reception was extremely favorable with Calvin Wilson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch praising it as "...a brilliant production." Students from Grand Center Arts Academy were treated to a free performance of the show. Building on the success of 2018's award-winning production of A Streetcar Named Desire, ticket sales were the highest of any production in the Festival's history, playing to over 1,000 patrons in only eight performances.
The Festival was proud to present the world-premiere, one man show, Dear Mr. Williams, in the Curtain Call Lounge on May 10 and 11. Written and performed by "Mad Men" star, Bryan Batt, and developed and directed by Broadway's Michael Wilson, the achingly funny and personal story charmed audiences and critics alike. Rob Levy of BroadwayWorld.com called it, "...mesmerizing."
The rarely seen gem, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, was a delight. Audiences enjoyed the many autobiographical elements sprinkled throughout the story. St. Louis theatre star, Kari Ely, directed a hilarious company of actresses hell-bent on eliciting laughs and pathos. The Grand Hall, upstairs at the Grandel, provided a wonderfully cozy environment for the Festival to work its magic, which Richard Green of TalkinBroadway.com described as, "...comical...a contagious intensity of desire."
Festivities were rounded out with unique one-time only events such as panel discussions, a tribute reading featuring Williams' source material and personal letters, and a bus tour of landmarks and sites important to his life.
Plans are already underway for next year's Festival, which will run May 7-17, 2020 in the Grand Center Arts District. Executive Artistic Director, Carrie Houk, says, "What a thrilling year the Tennessee Williams Festival St Louis is enjoying! We continue to win high praise from the critics and our audience response has never been stronger. My deepest appreciation to all who have embraced Williams beautiful works so strongly and for making this dream a beautiful reality. Just fantastic!."
Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis strives to enrich the cultural life of St. Louis by producing an annual theater festival and other artistic and educational events that celebrate the art and influence of Tennessee Williams. TWSTL was founded in 2016 and is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.