New Orleans has always been home to artists and musicians from all over the world. It’s not hard to see why the creative types are drawn to this city. The colors, the sounds, the way people interact. It all adds up to create a place full of inspiration for all types of artists.
One of those artists is Tennessee Williams, the famous playwright and short story writer whose work dominated the 20th century. Williams was born in Mississippi in 1911, but after college he moved to the city which he considered his “spiritual home.” Much of Williams’s writing takes place in our beloved Crescent City. In 1945, his first big play The Glass Menegerie opened on Broadway and two years later A Streetcar Named Desire won Williams his first Pulitzer Prize. The name of the play is derived from the streetcar line that once wound through the Marigny neighborhood.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Tennessee Williams Festival, the biggest literary festival that takes place in the city. This four-day festival runs from Thursday, March 31st until Sunday, April 3rd and is filled with panels, readings, discussions, film screenings, theater productions and more. Guests to the festival include local writers and artists as well as well-known writers from around the country. Joining the festival this year are popular writers Megan Abbott, Dorothy Allison, Cynthia Bond, Bill Lavender, just to name a few.
Along with all the ways to enjoy the festival as an audience member, there are also many opportunities for writers and different creatives to indulge in the festival and treat it as an educational experience. At the New Orleans Historical Collection, the festival hosts different “master classes” open to any festival-goer who has purchased tickets, and the topics of the classes range from “Memory and Family in Fiction” to “Literary Expression in the Digital Age,” giving writers and non-writers the opportunity to learn something new and take chances.
You can purchase daily passes to the festival or a weekend pass that will allow you entry into all events, minus the special events, such as theater or cooking demos. But, even if you don’t feel like attending the festival all weekend, be sure to stop by Jackson Square on Sunday afternoon, April 3rd, because at 4 pm, men and women will gather to commence the annual “Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest,” where participants will have a shot at shouting the famous character names from A Streetcar Named Desire. Many participants tend to dress up and get really into it, and it is one of those smaller NOLA traditions that you really don’t want to miss.