Pick # 3 - Tennessee Williams/New Orleans
              Literary Festival

    2011 marks a banner year for the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival, which celebrates its 25th anniversary on March 23rd through 27th, overlapping with its eponymous playwright's 100th birthday on March 26th. The five-day fête honors the legendary Tennessee Williams, his works, and literary life in the adopted city he called his "spiritual
     The festival features two days of master classes, a roster of lively discussions among distinguished panelists, celebrity interviews, a scholars' conference, and comedy improv and a poetry slam - and of course, theater, food and music events.  Also included in the five days of festivities are a breakfast book club, French Quarter literary walking tours, a book fair, special evening events and parties, and short fiction, poetry and one-act play competitions.
    The lofty list of celebrity participants includes Estelle Parsons, Tony Award nominee for her performance in Williams' play The Seven Descents of Myrtle and well-known for her Oscar-winning role in Bonnie and Clyde.  Also slated to appear are Shirley Knight - Oscar nominee for "Best Supporting Actress" in Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth and star of his one-act play, A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur, at the Hudson Guild Theatre in 1979 - and Zoe Caldwell, who won one of her four Tony Awards for her role in Williams' Slapstick Tragedy in 1966.  New Orleans native Grace Zabriskie, who just released her first collection of poetry, yet is best known for her roles in many popular films and television series - including "Twin Peaks" and HBO's "Big Love" - rounds out the grand group of leading ladies.
    Literary luminaries include Armistead Maupin, whose new "Tales of the City" novel, Mary Ann in the Autumn, debuts in November.  The University of New Orleans theater department will stage The Glass Menagerie with veteran New Orleans actress Janet Shea as "Amanda Wingfield."  
    The theatre department will also mount a production of Outside Sitka, by Josh Billig, the Festival's 2010 One-Act Play Competition winner.  The 2011 prize winner will receive a staged reading during the festival.
     The production company All Kinds of Theatre will present the fifth installment of the wildly popular monologue series, Native Tongues, created and directed by Carl Walker. "Food, glorious New Orleans food" fuels this year's theme, and features the original works of some of the area's sauciest writers.
      The public is invited to get into the act at the festival's riotous closing ceremony: the Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest, in playful homage to the bellowing mates in Williams' masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire.
     Most of the events take place in New Orleans' historic French Quarter.   Select events being staged at Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré, The Historic New Orleans Collection, Hotel Monteleone, Southern Rep Theatre, the Royal Sonesta Hotel, Williams Research Center, Muriel's Jackson Square, the Palm Court Jazz Café, the Windsor Court Hoteml and others.
     A Festival Panel Pass is $75 ($50 for students), a One-Day Pass is $30, and individual theater and special events range from $10 to $100.  Master classes are $25, and walking tours are $25.  
    From personal experience, last year was incredible - and this festival has something for everyone. It's worth every penny.  For more information, call (504) 581-1144 or visit for regular updates and information on how to become a "Friend of Tennessee."

Nick Manix is a professional writer and journalist who splits his time between Central Texas and New Orleans, and is an avid supporter of charities - including The Hill Country Ride, SPCA, Raising Malawi and Amnesty International

(Photos courtesy of Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival - from top:
- Tennessee Williams in 1965, celebrating the 20th anniversary of The Glass Menagerie;
- Estelle Parsons;
- David Melerine, 2010 winner of the Stanley & Stella Shouting Contest; photo by Earl Perry)

Previous Holiday 2010 Picks >