A St. Louis original, the Tennessee Williams Festival, is returning to Grand Center this spring. The third annual event will showcase a play regarded as Williams’ masterpiece—and among the greatest of the 20th century.
The 1947 classic “A Streetcar Named Desire” has been announced as the festival’s 2018 main stage production, directed by Tim Ocel, and starring Sophia Brown and Nick Narcisi as storied characters Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski.
This year’s festival, themed, “Tennessee Williams: The French Quarter Years,” runs May 10 to 19, and will also include a one-man show, two panel discussions, a staged reading and a Stella Shouting Contest.
Festivities will kick-off at 5:30 p.m. on May 10 with a traditional brass band, New Orleans-inspired parade through Grand Center led by Harvey Lockhart and the Point of View Jazz Ensemble from Healing Arts Center. The parade is open to the public.
“Streetcar” opens at 7:30 p.m., also on May 10, at the Grandel Theatre. A unique feature to this production of “Streetcar” is that it will reflect Williams’ original stage direction in terms of the lead characters’ ages. As noted in the original, Blanche is 30 and Stella, 25; productions typically portray Blanche in her mid-40s. “Streetcar” will also feature an original score by local pianist and composer Henry Palkes, whose solo and ensemble performances include concerts throughout the United States, most notably at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. Palkes, the affiliate keyboard artist for the St. Louis Symphony since 1992, is currently performing with the First National Tour of “An American in Paris.”
“Streetcar” performances are scheduled Thursday through Sunday, May 10 to 13; Wednesday and Thursday, May 16 to 17; and Saturday, May 19. The Stella Shouting Contest will follow the May 13 performance. The May 16 performance will be audio-described by Mind’s Eye Radio for the visually impaired. In addition, there will be no performance on Fri., May 18, as the Festival will join St. Louisans in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre.
Other highlights of this year’s festival include:
- Jacob Storms, the 2017 United Solo “Best One-Man Show” award winner, will present “Tennessee Rising,” May 11 to 13, at the .ZACK Theatre. Conceived, written and performed by Storms, the production sheds light on the legendary playwright. Talkbacks with Storms will follow the performances on Friday and Saturday.
- Two one-hour panels – “Tennessee Williams: The French Quarter Years” and “A Streetcar Named Desire”– will be presented at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 12, respectively, on the “Streetcar” set at the Grandel. The panels will be moderated by noted Tennessee Williams scholars David Kaplan and Henry Schvey.
- “Interior: Panic,” Williams’ stunning one-act precursor to “A Streetcar Named Desire,” will be performed with scripts-in-hand under the direction of Tom Mitchell, Head of the Department of Theatre at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The staged reading is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 19, on the “Streetcar” set at the Grandel Theatre.
The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis celebrates the work of the legendary playwright, poet and artist, who lived in St. Louis with his family for almost 20 years. His body of work reflects his two decades as a St. Louisan, including multiple Pulitzer Prizes such as “The Glass Menagerie,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Suddenly Last Summer,” “Camino Real” and “A Streetcar Named Desire,” to name just a few. Williams’ creations range from the famed classics, to adaptations for film and opera, to dozens of newly discovered plays and writings that have been continuously documented, performed and studied around the world. The Festival, founded by St. Louisan Carrie Houk, has attracted thousands to the variety of readings, panel discussions, concerts, art exhibitions, productions and playwright contests that make up the annual event.
Tickets to all festival events are available through metrotix.com. Visit twstl.org or call (314) 517-5253 for additional event information