Tennessee Williams Festival: The Magic of Other

Monday March 13, 2017

A rare collection of 19 paintings by playwright Tennessee Williams will be one of many highlights — including four plays, a staged reading, a cabaret, two talkbacks and a bus tour — showcased at the second annual Tennessee Williams Festival, May 3-7, at a variety of venues throughout the Grand Center area. The exhibition, only the second outside of the Key West Historical and Art Society where it is permanently housed, will be held at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art (3663 Lindell Blvd.).

The exhibition, titled Tennessee Wiliams – The Playwright and the Painter, will be displayed from May 5 through July 31, as well as featured in a series of educational seminars for SLU art students.  Last displayed in New Orleans in 2015, the paintings were created long after Williams’ writing career had ended. The collection, currently on loan from Williams’ Key West friend David Wolkowsky, features pastel, expressionist sketches of friends, acquaintances and characters from his plays.

“This remarkable exhibition is a major coup for St. Louis. These nineteen deeply personal paintings illustrate how Williams’ magical poetry brilliantly suffuses every art form he undertakes,” said Carrie Houk, executive artistic director of the festival. “In addition to being one of the most admired playwrights of the 20th century, he was also a very passionate painter, something a lot of his admirers might not know much about. I think painting was a way for him to escape from the harsh realities of day to day life.”

According to Houk, this year’s festival offers more focused programming in that audience members will have the opportunity to see all of the productions, panels and exhibitions within a two-day period (May 3-4). Extended runs will be offered with two of the productions, Small Craft Warnings and Will Mr. Merriwether Return from Memphis? The Festival is producing all of the events this year with the exception of the Miami-based production, Deseo.

In addition, internationally known Williams’ scholars will helm two panels and talkbacks after select performances. The Tennessee Williams New Playwrights Initiative will make its debut this year with Jack Ciapciak’s Naming the Dog, which features Ferguson Millennials attempting to cope with racial unrest and the apparently more consequential task of naming their new puppy.

For fans looking for even more interaction, the ever-popular Tennessee Williams Bus Tour returns for its third season; participants will visit the author’s favorite St. Louis haunts — including the former Wednesday Club where he won his first poetry prize – and culminating in his final resting place at Calvary Cemetery.

All of the festival events will occur in the Grand Center area this year making it easy for audience members to park their car and enjoy the festivities throughout the day and evening. Events will be held at the Curtain Call Lounge, the .Zack, The Stockton House and the St. Louis University Museum of Art. In addition to the festival, the Grand Center area is home to internationally recognized theaters, museums, art galleries and other performance centers. Enjoy food and drinks at some of the highest rated restaurants in the country — all within a few blocks of the festival performances. Learn more about Grand Center here.

Weekend festival passes, individual and panel tickets, as well as Bus Tour tickets will be available March 1. Please visit www.twstl.org for more information.

Following are a few of the festival’s highlights to look forward to:

Bertha in Paradise – May 3 – Curtain Call Lounge

St. Louis Grammy Award winner Anita Jackson, kicks off the festival in a cabaret performance with such songs as “I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl,” “If It Don’t Fit Don’t Force It,” and sharing the sophisticated passion of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”

Deseo —May 3-7 — The Marcelle Theater

Influenced by Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, this original contemporary work adds layers to the original that speak to the realities of Latin American immigrants across the United States, as well as the characteristics of Latin America itself, in its continual attempt to mirror the mores and attitudes of the United States. The production will feature the music of Picadillo, a Cuban-jazz-soul fusion band

Small Craft Warnings — May 3-14 — The .Zack

The Festival will kick-off its performances with Williams’s Small Craft Warnings on May 3 at The .Zack in Midtown. The production bewitches audiences with its fog-enveloped seaside bar, full of characters who are simultaneously alien, yet familiar. Richard Corley, one of the country’s most praised Williams directors, will direct the play with a cast of St. Louis’s top performers.

Will Mr. Merriwether Return from Memphis? — May 3-21 —The Stockton House

Written in 1969, but not produced until 1980 in Key West, this play is one of Williams’ favorites. “Pensive and muted, a violin to Camino Real’s trumpet, Mr. Merriwether laces together reality and fantasy, the romantic spirit and the appearance of actual cultural heroes of the past, such as Van Gogh and Rimbaud” (Time magazine). The play will be directed by St. Louisan Jeff Awada.

Tennessee Williams Tribute: Magic of the Other

This production will feature scenes, songs, and poetry as interpreted by special guests including Ken Page, Lara Teeter, Elizabeth Teeter, Anita Jackson, Michael James Reed, Jeremy Lawrence, and a surprise vocalist from the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Thomas Keith, editor of the continuing series of Williams’ newly collected works, will curate the program.

Content provided by: Mary McHugh

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