Tennessee Williams St. Louis Returns With 9th Annual Festival This August

The festival runs August 8-18.

By: Apr. 09, 2024
Tennessee Williams St. Louis Returns With 9th Annual Festival This August
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Tennessee Williams St. Louis will return to year-round programming with its 9th Annual Festival, running August 8-18.

“The last eight seasons HAVE gone by so fast - it is hard to believe how much we have grown,” explains Carrie Houk, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis’ Executive Artistic Director. “This year we happily return to our home - Grand Center.  In addition to bringing you the play you have all been waiting for, we celebrate Grand Center Theatre District with a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants!  As Mrs. O’Fallon exclaims in The Magic Tower - “You show people!  Always putting on an act!” That’s what we do and we cannot wait to share our wares with you.”

This year’s TWStL will give center stage to Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by award-winning Michael Wilson at The Grandel Theatre in Grand Center August 8-18.

 “I am thrilled to return to St Louis - the city which had such a profound impact on the life and work of Tennessee Williams - for its 9th Annual eponymous Festival to direct its centerpiece production, an all-new revival of his Pulitzer Prize winning and arguably most popular play, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. “ – Wilson, Director 

Michael Wilson is an American stage and screen director working extensively on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and at the nation's leading resident theaters. He made his screen directorial debut with the 2014 Lifetime/Ostar television film adaptation of Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful, which was nominated for two 2014 Emmy Awards and six 2015 NAACP/Image Awards. On Broadway, Wilson directed the 2013 Tony Award-winning revival of The Trip to Bountiful starring Cicely Tyson. Other Broadway productions include the 2012 Tony nominated revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man (starring James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Candice Bergen); the Tony nominated Best Plays Dividing the Estate; and Enchanted April. Internationally, he directed both parts of Tony Kushner's Angels in America for the 1995 Venice Biennale. He directed the acclaimed Los Angeles premiere of the musical Grey Gardens: starring Betty Buckley and Rachel York for CTG/Ahmanson Theater at the Music Center. 

This Pulitzer Prize winning drama follows the story of the Pollitts, a wealthy southern family whose history of greed and deception looms overhead as the imminent death of the family’s patriarch approaches. Siblings and spouses go head-to-head to secure the Pollitt fortune, weaving an overwhelming web of mistruths.

Post-show commentary will be conducted by Resident Scholar, Tom Mitchell, on Sunday August 12 and Thursday August 15.

“Life Upon the Wicked Stage / Celebrating Grand Center Theatre District - Then and Now” will be the focus for three one-act plays with music directed by former St. Louisan Brian Hohlfeld:

  • “In Our Profession”
  • “The Magic Tower”
  • “The Fat Man’s Wife”

Almost 100 years ago, what we now call Grand Center in St. Louis was the place to go for entertainment. Vaudeville was struggling but still popular…double-features (with live acts in between) played all day at The Fabulous Fox and Missouri theaters…music poured from dance halls and clubs…and the hotels were packed with the touring casts of last year’s Broadway’s hits.

Young Tom Williams soaked it all up.

In celebration of the history and the continuing charm of Grand Center, TWStL will present “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” taking place upstairs at The Curtain Call Lounge just steps from the bustling streets and locations where much of the action takes place.

“Like the rest of the theatre-going public, Tom was intrigued by what went on backstage, a world he would soon become familiar with, and imagined what the lives of the nomadic show-folk must be like. He brings them to life with affection and bemusement in these one-acts all set in the 1930s and portrays the ups and downs of a career in show-biz. In these early plays, Williams, still finding his voice, is clearly influenced by the plots and styles of the movies he would have seen on this very street, bringing the experience full circle,” explains Houk.

The theatrical but intimate setting of the Curtain Call is perfect for a program about show-biz. Like a “mini-jukebox musical,” “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” features songs from the period to evoke the era of Vaudeville and the type of entertainment Tom would have encountered in his Grand Avenue outings long, long ago…

Director Hohlfeld has been writing for feature films and television animation for over 35 years, with projects at Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothers, Tri- Star, Columbia, Disney, and Hasbro Studios. As a producer and writer, he has been nominated for four Daytime Emmy Awards and twice for a Humanitas Award, winning once for the Disney Jr. show he created My Friends Tigger and Pooh. Hohlfeld started his career in St. Louis as an actor and playwright with the Theatre Project Company and the St. Louis Rep. For the St. Louis Tennessee Williams Festival, he directed the memorable on-site production of The Glass Menagerie as well as several one-acts onstage and as part of the radio series “Something Spoken,” in collaboration with Classic 107.3.

The following panels - which will further shed light upon the themes of the Festival - will take place at The Grandel.

  • Tennessee Williams in the Mississippi Delta
  • The Wicked Stage: 1930s Theatre and Performances in St Louis
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Revision upon Revision

Other Festival events include:

  • Reading of “Stella for Star” an adaptation of the first award-winning story by the young Tom

Williams curated by TWSTL Scholar Tom Mitchell

  • A Walking Tour: Grand Center Theatre District, Then and Now... led by Mitchell
  • Late Night Open Mic “Life Upon the Wicked Stage”
  • Tennessee Williams Tribute Reading : A Celebration of Tennessee Williams
  • Pool Party July 7 at the home of Bill Donius and Jay Perez honoring board member and continued supporter, John Russell.

On May 15th at 7:30pm, a fundraiser cabaret performance of Grande Dames: A Celebration of the Diva with Amy Jo Jackson and Musical Director Brian Nash, back by popular demand, at The Curtain Call Lounge.  An additional public performance will take place May 16 at 7:30pm honoring board member Jill McGuire. This cabaret will feature an eclectic array of divas of the stage and screen (both real and fictional) like Fanny Brice, Norma Desmond, Stevie Nicks, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, and more! NYC based Jackson is a recipient of the 2022 Bistro Award for The Brass Menagerie and along with Nash they received the 2023 EST/Sloan Commission for Grace/Bliss and were a 2022 finalist for the Jonathan Larson Grant.

“Festival audiences are in-store for our best programming ever!” exclaims Board Chair Ted Wight.  “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is one of Tennessee William’s most popular plays that will delight the audience with intriguing theater.”

Tickets are on sale through Metrotix. Additional information and Festival event details can be found at twstl.org.


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