The Tennessee Williams/ New Orleans Literary Festival will be happening for the 32nd time this year from March 21-25. The festival honors both Tennessee Williams and the literary community in New Orleans. The mission of the festival is “to serve the community through educational, theatrical, literary, and musical programs; to nurture, support, and showcase regional, national and international writers, actors, musicians, and other artists; to honor the creative genius of Tennessee Williams, who considered this city his spiritual home.” Over the course of five days, more than 130 writers, actors, and musicians will present or perform at the festival. There will be plays, panels, and classes, along with a variety of other activities throughout the five days. Here are some of the things the festival offers.
The festival, first and foremost, offers the most to writers and fans of literature. From the Writer’s Craft Series to the literary panels and writing contests. The Writer’s Craft Series is a set of eight classes that writers and literature lovers can take on March 22nd and 23rd of the festival. Each craft session is an hour and fifteen minutes long and features a renowned writer talking about a specific element of writing. One of the courses offered is from author Zachary Lazar, author of the book Vengeance. He will discuss the various ways that writers move from reality to fiction, using the work of Lucia Berlin, an author famous for doing the same with her short story collection, as a way to navigate into the topic (as well as his own work.) Other craft classes are on compassion and personal narrative (led by Lara Naughton) and “How to Start a Novel You Can Actually Finish” with Jennifer Haigh. Tickets for this event are $25 a piece or you can get them as a part of the Combo VIP person. The Writer’s Craft Series will be held at The Historic New Orleans Collection (533 Royal Street) in the French Quarter.
There are also over 25 literary panels from March 23 through March 25. The panels often feature a few authors along with a moderator, who will lead a conversation on a specific topic. Panels are $10 per a single discussion, $40 for a day pass, or included in the literary Combo Pass or VIP pass All panels will be held in the French Quarter, with a lot of them being at the Hotel Monteleone (214 Royal Street). Panels include “Celebrating the Life and Work of Tom Dent” which will feature Kalamu ya Salaam, editor of the new published New Orleans Griot: The Tom Dent Reader, Dr. Jerry W. Ward Jr., who wrote an afterword for the collection, and Abram Himelstein, who published the book with the University of New Orleans Press. Some other panels are “Never Behind Us: Going to the Past for Great Fiction” and “Human Rights: The Struggle Continues,” both of which feature numerous authors who write and specialize on the topics.
The festival also includes writing contests for Fiction, Poetry, Very-Short Fiction (which is a new contest), and One-Act Plays. Al the contests feature cash prizes, publication in local magazines and public readings/performances.
The festival also does its due diligence in honoring its namesake by producing and featuring a lot of plays. Full productions are staged by local companies such as Southern Rep, Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, and The Tennessee Williams Theater Company. One-Act plays, staged readings, and other events will happen during the festival. Plays include Williams classics such as “A Streetcar Named Desire” as well as staged readings of originals such as “Dear Mr. Williams” by Bryan Batt. Ticket prices for these events will vary.
The festival also features a variety of miscellaneous events, such as the always popular “Stella” shouting contest that happens outside in the French Quarter. Another popular event is the New Orleans Writing Marathon led by founder Richard Louth. This starts in the morning on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. People will meet up at the Hotel Monteleone’s Queen Anne Ballroom on the aforementioned days, and then take off in groups to write in different locations in the area, from cafes to bars to parks. At the end of the festival, at 230 in the afternoon on Sunday, people who participated will be invited to read from what they’ve written that weekend.
No matter what brings you to the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, you are going to have a good time, learning about the city, its writers, and part of what makes these two get along so well. You can grab a program at the festival, or find the program and more information online at tennessewilliams.net.