Tennessee Williams Literary Festival has something for everyone

A variety of events is scheduled for locations in and around the French Quarter

“It’s fun. It’s just fun.”

That’s Susan Larson’s opinion of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, and if you’re someone who loves books and authors or live theater or food, you will probably agree. Because, as Larson notes, “There’s a little something there for everyone. It’s all in the mix.”

The festival, Wednesday-Sunday, March 20-24, offers lectures, plays, readings, discussion panels, classes, music, food, a scholar’s conference, book fair and more. It all happens mostly in and around the French Quarter, and attendees can buy a one-day pass, one-event pass or all-inclusive pass. Don’t forget the Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest in Jackson Square where participants re-enact the famous scene in A Streetcar Named Desire in which Stanley Kowalski stands in the street and shouts up to a second floor apartment, calling his wife, Stella. It’s always a crowd pleaser.

“You get a lot of bang for your buck,” Larson said. “There are so many choices.”

Larson is the festival board’s vice president for literary programming and host of The Reading Life on WWNO, 89.9 FM in New Orleans and is the book critic for the television program Steppin’ Out on WYES-TV in New Orleans. She is excited about the literary events, of course, but knows many people also enjoy other aspects of the festival.

“The great thing about it to my mind is the mix,” she said. And most events are relatively inexpensive, including a unique writing class led by Southeastern Louisiana University English professor Richard Louth.

“He does these writing marathons all over the place. He’s such a great teacher. He teaches at Southeastern (Louisiana University). He gets all of his people together and he kinda sets up the rules — there are no rules really — and people go off either in groups or individually. And then they write all over the French Quarter, and they can hang with Richard or not. Then at the end of the time, they all gather together and the people who want to read their work can. It’s kind of a nice kickstart if you have a project in mind or if you just want to get some discipline or if you just want to be in the company of other people writing.

“That’s free,” she added. (There is an admission fee for the reading session.)

The writers are a combination of local and out-of-town writers, said Jessica Ramakrishnan, associate director of programs for the festival. There is a strong Baton Rouge contingent as well.

“We’re doing a panel about New Orleans in the ’20s, and the writers who are going to be on that are John Shelton Reed, who has got a new book out called Dixie Bohemia which is about (the French Quarter in early years) and then we have Alecia Long who I believe is one of yours over at LSU in Baton Rouge, and Kim Marie Vaz who has got a book about the baby dolls. There is a bit of a Baton Rouge angle for you there. So I think that is going to be really an interesting panel there, looking at New Orleans in a very different but still a raucous time and from the literary and social aspects of it. I think that will be fun,” Ramakrishnan said.

“We’re doing a panel on Creole women where we have the poets Mona Lisa Saloy and Ruth Salvaggio and Carolyn Morrow Long who is a nonfiction writer,” Ramakrishnan said. “And then we’re doing a panel on free people of color and we’ll have Leonard Pitts, who won a Pulitzer on that, along with Emily Clark and Carol Gelderman.

“We have a panel called ‘Writing New Orleans, The Most Exotic Place in America’ that’s sort of looking at how people write about New Orleans, how it’s portrayed, does it make a difference if you’re from here, how does that impact the sort of canon of New Orleans at this time of change. We have another panel on literature of exile, refuge and return in the South looking at different waves of immigration to New Orleans and the South in general. That panel should be very, very exciting. We have great panelists, two of whom include John Jeremiah Sullivan — he’s the Southern editor of the Paris Review and he’s from Kentucky. He writes a lot about the South, and he does nonfiction essays for the New York Times as well. It’s a very interesting perspective — also on that panel we have Ayana Mathis whose book Oprah (Winfrey) recently chose for her book club.

“We booked her well before Oprah did. She’s coming and her book is about the great migration,” Ramakrishnan said.

“We have another author who is a professor at MIT, his name is Vivec Bald and he’s got a book about a South Asian community in Treme in the late 1800s which I thought was an interesting undiscovered history.”

“We’re always finding new ways to look at New Orleans,” Larson said. “New Orleanians are all fascinated by where we live, so it’s interesting to have this kind of range of how the city is portrayed in the past and in the present. It’s great to see these writers continuing to bring such energy to the subject.”

There is plenty of interaction between audiences and lecturers and panel participants, Larson said.

“One of the remarkable things about this is that when these writers come to New Orleans they’re very accessible. It’s one of those times when you can walk up and have a conversation with Leonard Pitts or have a conversation with Michael Cunningham. You know they hang around, they have a good time. It’s a chance to interact with them directly. We have such an intelligent, sophisticated audience, and the questions that come from the audience — after almost every panel or discussion there is time for that (questions) — it’s kind of thrilling to see what people come up with it,” she said. And the panelists talk to each other too. “The chemistry between the writers is always kind of unpredictable, and it’s kind of fun to see that unfold, to see those creative minds riffing on each other’s words. It’s just wonderful. I always get really inspired by it,” Larson said. “You never know who you’ll meet that will change your life.”

Participants sharing their diverse talents at myriad events include:

  •  Michael Cunningham, the author of the novels A Home at the End of the World, Flesh and Blood, The Hours (winner of the Pen/Faulkner Award and Pulitzer Prize), Specimen Days, and his latest work, By Nightfall. He will judge the Festival’s 5th Annual Short Fiction Contest;
  •   Don Murray, who made his Broadway debut in 1951 opposite Eli Wallach and Maureen Stapleton in Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo, and is perhaps best known for his role in the 1956 film Bus Stop with Marilyn Monroe;
  •  John Patrick Shanley, multiple award-winning playwright/screenwriter/director (Doubt, Moonstruck), who wowed festival audiences in 2010 with his poignant and powerful tribute to Tennessee Williams;
  •  Leonard Pitts, best-selling author, columnist and 2004 Pulitzer Prize recipient for commentary;
  •  Douglas Brinkley, prolific non-fiction author and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair, whose most recent book, Cronkite, traces Walter Cronkite’s story, drawing on unprecedented access to the esteemed broadcast journalist’s private papers as well as interviews with his family and friends;
  •  John Shelton Reed, acclaimed Southern sociologist whose 19th book, Dixie Bohemia: A French Quarter Circle in the 1920s, takes readers to the heart of the place that inspired a host of literary legends and other creative souls;
  •  Maureen Corrigan, a book critic for the Peabody Award-winning NPR program Fresh Air; author of a memoir, Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading; and at work on a book about the enduring greatness of The Great Gatsby;
  •  Silas House, bestselling author and playwright, whose work, which deals mostly with the plight of the rural place and its people, has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, and Oxford American, and his commentary regularly featured on NPR’s All Things Considered;
  •  John Jeremiah Sullivan, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and the southern editor of The Paris Review. He writes for GQ, Harper’s Magazine, and Oxford American and is the author of Blood Horses and the much-heralded new work, Pulphead;
  •  Dwight Garner, a senior writer and book critic for The New York Times, whose essays and journalism have also appeared in Slate, Harper’s and Oxford American, among other places. He is at work on a biography of James Agee;
  •  Zachary Lazar, novelist (Sway) and memoirist (Evening’s Empire: The Story of My Father’s Murder), whose writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, BOMB, among others; and
  •  Ayana Mathis, whose debut novel, The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, was recently selected by Oprah Winfrey for her Book Club 2.0.

SCHEDULE

Wednesday, March 20

  • 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.: A Tennessee Williams Songbook: Only a Paper Moon, at The Old U.S. Mint. $100.
  • Thursday, March 21
  • 9 A.M.-10:15 a.m.: Write Your Own Success Story: Cornell Landry: The Art of Self-Publishing, at The Historic New Orleans Collection. $25 or included in Master Class series registration or All-Access Pass.
  • 11 A.M.-12:15 p.m.: A Sense of Time and Place in Literary Fiction: Zachary Lazar: Mapping and Timing Narrative Space, at The Historic New Orleans Collection. $25 or included in Master Class series registration or All-Access Pass.
  • 1:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m.: Resurrect the Past: Susan Straight: Mining History for Your Book, at The Historic New Orleans Collection. Price: $25 or included in Master Class series registration or All-Access Pass.
  • 3 P.M.-4:15 p.m.: A Whole New World: Moira Crone: Shaping Speculative Fiction, at The Historic New Orleans Collection. $25 or included in Master Class series registration or All-Access Pass.
  • 6:30 p.m.–8 p.m.: Those Rare Electrical Things Between People: Readings of Three One-Act Plays by Tennessee Williams, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $35 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.: “Mold” by John Biguenet, at Southern Repertory Theatre at the Contemporary Art Center, 900 Camp St. $20-$35 or included in All-Access Pass.

Friday, March 22

  • 9 A.M.–10:15 a.m.: How to Get Successfully Published: Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry AKA The Book Doctors, at The Historic New Orleans Collection. $25 or included in Master Class series registration or All-Access Pass
  • 9:15 a.m.–9:30 a.m.: Tennessee Williams Scholars Conference: Introduction and Announcements, at Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. $20 (Scholars Conference Pass) or included in All-Access Pass
  • 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m.: Tennessee Williams Scholars Conference: Presentation of Abstracts with Audience Discussion, at Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. $20 (Scholars Conference Pass) or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 10 A.M.-11:15 a.m.: Imitating Life: The Family in Fiction, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass or Day Panel Pass
  • 10 A.M.–NOON: Tennessee Williams Literary Walking Tour, tour meets in the Hotel Monteleone Lobby, Heritage Tours. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 11 A.M.-12:15 p.m.: Your Manuscript’s Greatest Champion: Danielle Evans & Ayesha Pande: The Author-Agent Connection, at The Historic New Orleans Collection. $25 or included in Master Class series registration or All-Access Pass.
  • 11:15 a.m.-noon: Tennessee Williams Scholars Conference: “Tom and Tennessee in Europe, 1928 & 1948,” at Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. $20 (Scholars Conference Pass) or included in All-Access Pass
  • 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: New Orleans in 1920s: Bohemians, Baby Dolls, and Storyville, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass ($500), Festival Panel Pass ($75), or Day Panel Pass ($30).
  • 1 P.M.-2:15 p.m.: The Art of the Debut: Writers on their First Books, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass or Day Panel Pass.
  • 1:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m.: Scenes from a Screenwriter’s Notebook: John Patrick Shanley: Big Screen Stories, at The Historic New Orleans Collection. $25 or included in Master Class series registration or All-Access Pass.
  • 1:30 p.m.-2:45 p.m.: Tennessee Williams Scholars Conference: “Tennessee Williams and the Cold War,” at Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. $20 (Scholars Conference Pass) or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 2 P.M.-4 P.M.: Tennessee Williams Literary Walking Tour, tour meets in the Hotel Monteleone Lobby, Heritage Tours. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 2:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m.: Creole Women, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass or Day Panel Pass.
  • 2:30 p.m.–3:30 p.m.: “Auto-Da-Fe” by Tennessee Williams, at Hermann-Grima House, 820 St. Louis St. $25 or included in All-Access Pass
  • 3 P.M.-4 P.M.: Tennessee Williams Scholars Conference: “Scenes from an Early ‘Battle,’” at Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. $20 (Scholars Conference Pass) or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 3 P.M.-4:15 p.m.: The Playwright’s Craft: Marsha Norman: Writing for the Stage, at The Historic New Orleans Collection. $25 or included in Master Class series registration or All-Access Pass
  • 4 P.M. -5:15 p.m.: Free People of Color, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass or Day Panel Pass.
  • 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m.: Restaurant Scoop from the Virtual Gourmet: John Mariani, at Windsor Court Hotel, 300 Gravier St. $40 or included in All-Access Pass
  • 7 P.M. -8:30 p.m.: “The Gnädiges Fräulein,” at Napoleon’s Itch, 734 Bourbon St. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.: “Mold” by John Biguenet, at Southern Repertory Theatre at the Contemporary Art Center, 900 Camp St. $20-35 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 8 P.M.–10 P.M.: Literary Late Night: The MelaNated Writers Collective Presents The Literary Jook Joint, location to be announced. $15, included in All-Access Pass.
  • 8 P.M.–9:15 p.m.: A Tennessee Williams Songbook: Only a Paper Moon, at Hotel Monteleone Queen Anne Ballroom. $38 or included in All-Access Pass.

Saturday, March 23

  • 8 A.M.-9:30 a.m.: Breakfast Book Club, at Muriel’s Jackson Square Restaurant. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 10 A.M.-NOON: Tennessee Williams Literary Walking Tour, tour meets in the Hotel Monteleone Lobby, Heritage Tours. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 10 A.M.-11:15 a.m.: A Reading from the Poetry and Fiction Contests with Judges Michael Cunningham and Ava Leavell Haymon, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass), or Day Panel Pass.
  • 10 A.M.-11:15 a.m.: Tennessee Williams and Southern Gothic Tradition, at Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass), or Day Panel Pass.
  • 10 A.M.–11:15 a.m.: Keeping It Real for Young Audiences, at Muriel’s Jackson Square Restaurant. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass), or Day Panel Pass.
  • 11:30 a.m.-12:15 a.m.: Breaking News: A Conversation with Douglas Brinkley, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom.
  • INCLUDED IN: All-Access Pass, Literary Panel Pass, Student Panel Pass, Teacher/Senior Citizen Literary Panel Pass, One Day Festival Panel Pass, Single Panel Ticket (only available on site) $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass), or Day Panel Pass.
  • 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Telling Tennessee’s Story, at Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass), or Day Panel Pass.
  • 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m.: Diversifying Your Career: It’s No Longer a Mystery, at Muriel’s Jackson Square Restaurant. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass), or Day Panel Pass.
  • 1 P.M.–2:15 p.m.: Courage In Journalism, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass), or Day Panel Pass.
  • 1 P.M.-2:15 p.m.: Conversation with Don Murray, Interviewed by Foster Hirsch, at Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass), or Day Panel Pass.
  • 1 P.M.-2:15 p.m.: Pitchapalooza, at Muriel’s Jackson Square Restaurant. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass), or Day Panel Pass.
  • 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.: Sipping on a New Orleans Afternoon, at Arnaud’s French 75 Bar, 813 Rue Bienville. $30 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 2 P.M.-3:30 p.m.: “The Gnädiges Fräulein,” at Napoleon’s Itch, 734 Bourbon St. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 2 P.M.-4 P.M.: Tennessee Williams Literary Walking Tour, tour meets in the Hotel Monteleone Lobby, Heritage Tours. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 2:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m.: Writing New Orleans: the Most “Exotic” Place in America, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass or Day Panel Pass.
  • 2:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m.: “They Told Me to Take a Streetcar”: Revisiting a Classic, at Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass or Day Panel Pass.
  • 4 P.M.-5:15 p.m.: The South: Literature of Exile, Refuge, and Return, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass or Day Panel Pass.
  • 4 P.M.-5:15 p.m.: Make This Place Your Own: Poetry Readings, at Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass), or Day Panel Pass.
  • 6 P.M.-7:15 p.m.: There’s No Way We Can’t Finally Win, at Hotel Monteleone, Vieux Carre Room. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.: “Mold” by John Biguenet, at Southern Repertory Theatre at the Contemporary Art Center, 900 Camp St. $20-35 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 8 P.M.-9:30 p.m.: Tennessee Williams in Others’ Words, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $35 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 8 P.M.-10 P.M.: Literary Late Night: New Orleans Nocturnes, at Hotel Monteleone, Vieux Carre Room. $20 or included in All-Access Pass.

Sunday, March 24

  • 10 A.M.-NOON: Tennessee Williams Literary Walking Tour, tour meets in the Hotel Monteleone Lobby, Heritage Tours. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 10 A.M.-11:15 a.m.: I Remember Tennessee, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass, or Day Panel Pass.
  • 10 A.M.-11:15 a.m.: Sparkle and Polish: Creating Successful Short Fiction, Hotel Monteleone, Royal Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass, or Day Panel Pass.
  • 11 A.M.-12:15 p.m.: Staged Reading of the 2013 Festival One-Act Play Contest Winner, at Hotel Monteleone, La Nouvelle Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass, or Day Panel Pass.
  • 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: Influences, Mentors, & Proteges: Three Contemporary American Playwrights, at Hotel Monteleone, Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass, or Day Panel Pass.
  • 11:30 a.m.–12:45 p.m.: Day of Music at the Palm Court Jazz Café — Drummer and Smoke: Discussion and Music Centered on the Book “Ernie K-Doe: the R&B Emperor of New Orleans,” at Palm Court Jazz Cafe, 1204 Decatur St. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass, or Day Panel Pass.
  • 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: Telling the Truth, But Better: the Art of Creative Non-Fiction, at Hotel Monteleone, Royal Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass, or Day Panel Pass.
  • 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: At Tennessee’s Table, at The Pelican Club Restaurant, 312 Exchange Alley. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • NOON-1:15 p.m.: “Jumpers” by Jessica Alexander, at Hotel Monteleone, La Nouvelle Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass, or Day Panel Pass.
  • 1 P.M.-2:15 p.m.: Reading in the Digital Age, at Hotel Monteleone, Royal Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass, or Day Panel Pass.
  • 1 P.M.-2:15 p.m.: Day of Music at the Palm Court Jazz Café — Drummer and Smoke: Phil Melancon Performs with Wanda Rouzan and Leah Chase, at Palm Court Jazz Cafe, 1204 Decatur St. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass, or Day Panel Pass.
  • 1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.: “Auto-Da-Fe” by Tennessee Williams, at Hermann-Grima House, 820 St. Louis St. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 2 P.M.-3:30 p.m.: “The Gnädiges Fräulein,” at Napoleon’s Itch, 734 Bourbon St. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 2 P.M.-4 P.M.: “Mold” by John Biguenet, at Southern Repertory Theatre at the Contemporary Art Center, 900 Camp St. $20-35 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 2 P.M.-4 P.M.: Tennessee Williams Literary Walking Tour, tour meets in the Hotel Monteleone Lobby, Heritage Tours. $25 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • 2:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m.: Conversation with Michael Cunningham, at Hotel Monteleone Queen Anne Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass, or Day Panel Pass.
  • 2:30 p.m.-3:45 p.m.: Writing Marathon Wrap-Up with Richard Louth, at Hotel Monteleone, Royal Ballroom. $10 (Single Ticket Event: only available on site), or included in All-Access Pass, Festival Panel Pass, or Day Panel Pass.
  • 4:15 p.m.-6 p.m.: Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest, at Jackson Square. Free and open to the public.
  • 7 P.M.-8:15 p.m.: A Tennessee Williams Songbook: Only a Paper Moon, at Hotel Monteleone Queen Anne Ballroom. $38 or included in All-Access Pass.
  • ALL-ACCESS PASS IS $500, FESTIVAL PANEL PASS IS $75, DAY PANEL PASS IS $30. OTHER PASS OPTIONS INCLUDE STUDENT/TEACHER/SENIOR CITIZEN FESTIVAL PANEL PASS, $60; THEATER TICKET, $5-$35; MASTER CLASS FULL SERIES PASS, $175; INDIVIDUAL MASTER CLASS TICKET, $25; SCHOLARS CONFERENCE PASS, $20; LITERARY WALKING TOURS, $25; SINGLE EVENT TICKET, $10; AND INDIVIDUAL SPECIAL EVENT TICKET, $10 TO $150 ACCORDING TO EVENT. FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT EVENTS ARE INCLUDED IN EACH PASS AND TO BUY TICKETS ONLINE, VISIT HTTP://www.tennesseewilliams.net/festival/tickets.