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See & Do

A Place Made for the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival

At the 2016 Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival, expect theater, speeches, panels, walking tours and more to celebrate the playwright.

new orleans festival
The Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest in Jackson Square. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

The arts and New Orleans are undeniably connected at the hip. First Opera in North America? New Orleans. Birthplace of American music? New Orleans. Spiritual home and muse for a many a writer? You guessed it, New Orleans.

One such writer who was deeply moved by the energy of the city was Tennessee Williams, who after having only been in town for three hours proclaimed New Orleans as the “place I was made for.” Thankfully for us, New Orleans helped give birth to some of Williams’ greatest works, including the famed play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

A behind-the-scenes view of the Stella! shouting contest. (Photo: Ride Hamilton)

To celebrate Tennessee Williams’ work and to help inspire others to create, a group of friends got together and created the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival (March 30-April 3), which is now celebrating its 30th anniversary.

The literary festival, also known as TW Fest, serves up a diverse set of activities unlike any other festival I know. Walking tours, master classes for aspiring writers, countless panels, live theater, and special meal-centric, literary celebrations.

The festival’s literary walking tour is designed to let you become one with Tennessee Williams’ life in the French Quarter. Participants will see at least eight of his residences in the Quarter and look inside the places that served as his inspiration.

Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival at a Glance

Justin Torres at a recent TW Fest Master Class. (Photo: Olivia Moran)

Master Classes

The TW Fest master classes are sure to help your latest writing project, whether it be a blog post or the next great American novel. Accomplished authors reveal crucial skills in these classes, such as honing your critical perspective for your next interview in “A Joy Ride to the Heart of the Subject”; letting your latest essay’s setting shine with “Sense of Place: Essence of Essay Writing”; or exploring the myriad of options for self-publishing in the age of the internet with “Literary Expression in the Digital Age.”

The wide-ranging panels at TW Fest cover just about every literary topic imaginable, from hard-hitting options like “Crime Fiction as Social Commentary,” which examines how social issues have impacted the work of four top authors and why they write about them, to the more exhibitionist panels like “Dirty Laundry: Southern Writers on Memoir,” which seeks to discuss the joys and challenges of spilling all the beans and airing out the closets.

With almost 30 different panels, you’re sure to find at least a few that fit your literary interests. And to get a sense of your panel leaders, browse the full list of speakers at the Tennessee Williams Festival.

new orleans festival
The Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest in Jackson Square. (Photo: Cheryl Gerber)

Theater Productions

Perhaps you like a bit more action in your festival? Not a problem as TW Fest has you covered with entertaining theater productions, including For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls, a light-hearted take on Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, featuring The NOLA Project, and Orpheus Descending, which is Williams’ reimagining of the classical Orpheus myth.

Tennessee Williams.

Special Events

TW Fests’ numerous special events bring together literary genius and one of New Orleans’ other great talent, food. Grab breakfast and discuss Go Set A Watchman at the Breakfast Book Club at Muriel’s, or learn all about the origins of Creole food and the French Market in Tujague’s: The French Quarter’s Neighborhood Restaurant while grabbing lunch (and a few cocktails) at the historic Tujague’s Restaurant. Of course, you can’t forget the famous Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest, which is free and open to the public.

With so much to do, I’m not sure that the TW Fest’s five days are going to be enough to get it all in! Get a preview of the type of shouting competition you’ll find at the festival in the GoNOLA TV episode below.

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