By Lynn Venhaus
The stars have aligned for the triumphant return of the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis with “The Glass Menagerie” in a way you have never seen it before.

Nature cooperated with a bright, full moon in the late summer night sky Friday, and the TWF supplied the wishing and hoping that characterized the playwright during his formative years here.

Now in its sixth year, these special tributes are one I look forward to, a favorite-not-to-be-missed annual events in the city.

The passion and care that goes into each festival’s planning and programming is admirable. And the finest talent comes together to introduce us to, or offer a fresh perspective of, his signature dramas and little-known works.

To understand Williams’ dreams and desires has fueled each production, but this one – his memory play that gives us insight into his family life – is extraordinary.

The fest’s 2021 theme, “The Moon and Beyond,” aptly fits in a pandemic-guided scaled-down event. And this focus gives us an intimate local view that zeroes in on what we should see, hear and feel when we see a Williams play.

Nearly eighty years later where it was imagined, this current presentation of “The Glass Menagerie” is as organic as you will find anywhere, with naturally gifted performers honoring these four characters with a tangible vitality.

There is a brightness, a vigor to the work, as if we are discovering it for the first time. The site-specific location, outdoors behind “The Tennessee,” at 4663 Westminster Place, no doubt played a part in this, for it has become a character, a presence affecting the poignancy.

Bradley James Tejeda as Tom. Photo by ProPhoto STL

But that’s not the only imprimatur.

A young man yearning for adventure looks up at the moon while he’s out on his fire escape in St. Louis, hopeful that one day he would lead the life he dreamt of – but fretful that it would never happen unless he took steps to make it so.

From the time he was 7, Thomas Lanier Williams III lived in an apartment in the Central West End with his shoe company executive father, his Southern belle mother, his mentally fragile older sister and his younger brother Dakin, who later lived in Collinsville, Ill., for many years, and died at age 89 in 2008.

Nicknamed “Tennessee,” Williams eventually took pen to paper, and typed out stories of longing and aspirations, shaping characters from damaged people whose life didn’t turn out like they had planned.

And his stubborn refusal to not accept the status quo or to settle because that’s just the way it is, people kept reminding him – well, that admirable quality served him well.

He would go on many voyages – bur always starting from inside his heart.

What fiction he wrote would take him far, becoming known internationally as one of the world’s greatest playwrights. But here, he struggled to find his voice — returning from college at Mizzou to work at the shoe factory, and 20 years after moving from Mississippi, finally getting out of the city (until buried in Calvary Cemetery after his death in 1983).

He was impacted by his dysfunctional family, and realizing he was an outsider looking in –that hunger to be someone, and to become comfortable in his own skin, drove him during his 71 years.

All of that is apparent in “The Glass Menagerie.”

Knowing that he was fueled by a hope that could not be quelled and a fire that burned inside him to tell stories from a city neighborhood lends both a magical quality and a gravitas to the latest production.

The cast found the truth — Bradley James Tejeda as Tom, Brenda Currin as Amanda, Elizabeth Teeter as Laura and Chauncy Thomas as the Gentleman Caller Jim. All but Thomas reprised their roles from the radio play last fall, directed by Brian Hohlfeld during the “Something Spoken” streaming offering instead of live theater — (ahem, public health crisis you may recall, so they pivoted).

In most productions, the women are portrayed as victims, and their tragic life circumstances influence its staging.

However, director Hohlfeld, who has been part of the TWF since its inaugural year in 2016, has brought out every character’s depth, and so have the actors, who found a rhythm in the words and with each other.

I have previously seen a few dour versions, most of them not very good because they didn’t seem to grasp the multi-faceted nature and emphasized only the melancholy. This cast “gets it.”

The lines are delivered in a conversational manner, and a real bond can be felt between these inextricably linked people, no matter how unhappy or frustrated they appear.

The sad and desperate Amanda clings to her delusions of grandeur like a warm coat, mired in the past and overly concerned about her children’s future. Currin captures all of that, as well as the exasperation with life and her breadwinner son and helpless daughter having notions of their own.

Each character has a different viewpoint on success.

With his literary illusions, Tom can’t seem to find his way – but is about to take a leap of faith. Tejeda brings a restlessness to the role, like he is a trapped animal. But there is also a sweetness in his interactions with his sister.

Elizabeth Teeter, Chauncy Thomas. Photo by ProPhotoSTL

Thomas’ inherent charm adds a palpable compassion to the dinner guest, never pitying Laura but treating her kindly and with respect. He adds a wistfulness to Jim, who is past his high school glory days.

Teeter disappears into the delicate Laura, whose fantasy world is overtaking a daily string of disappointments. She will break your heart as a shy and peculiar girl who couldn’t overcome life’s challenge, but who lights up in conversation with Jim.

When the play premiered on Broadway in 1944, expanding on Williams’ short story “Portrait of a Girl in Glass,” director Elia Kazan noted: “Everything in his life is in his plays, and everything in his plays is in his life.”

And we have been enriched by that authenticity.

Staged outdoors, the set, designed by Dunsi Dai, is minimal, but evocative of the area. He effectively uses windows as an entry to the soul.

The sound design by Kareem Deanes includes period songs played on a victrola – and dealing with the inescapable sounds of the city, including a fire truck and sirens Friday night (Bravo, Chauncy, for not missing a beat).

Lighting designer Catherine Adams shifts between day and night, under serious moonlight, enhancing the atmosphere.

Williams spent his life trying to escape the ghosts of his past, which of course molded him into what he became. By now, the Wingfields are an all-too-familiar American tale tinged in tragedy and regret, but the power of his words remains.

He ultimately discovered, through his artistry, that he wasn’t the only lost star, and the eloquence of his semi-autobiographical work shines through in the backyard that he once called home.

The Tennessee Williams Festival runs Aug. 19-29. The headliner, “The Glass Menagerie,” is presented at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sundays, Aug. 19-22 and 26-29, behind the Tennessee, 4663 Westminster Place. Tickets must be purchased online and are available through MetroTix.com.

“You Lied to Me About Centralia” is a one-act play by John Guare that will be presented at 2 p.m. on Aug. 21 and 22 at The Tennessee.

Free, secure parking is available at Holliday, 4600 Olive, for festival patrons.

Other festival programming includes Scholars’ Panels, Walking Tour of Williams’ St. Louis, Tennessee Williams Tribute: “The Moon and Beyond” hosted by Ken Page, happy hour conversation with Blue Song author Dr. Henry Schvey, Why Did Desdemona Love the Moor reading, and more.

Lead sponsorship of the festival is provided by Emerson. Additional sponsors and the full festival itinerary can be found at twstl.org.

Photo by ProPhotoSTL

Lynn Venhaus has been reviewing professional theater since 2005, and is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle, established in 2012. A longtime journalist, she has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metropolitan area publications since 1978, earning awards along the way for news and features (and an Illinois Press Association award for reviews before they dropped the category). She has taught writing for the media as an adjunct instructor at three local colleges. A graduate of Illinois State University, she has a mass communications degree with a minor in theater. Among her life achievements are sons Tim and Charlie.

The Tennessee Williams Festival returns for its sixth year.  The headliner is a production of one of the playwright’s most important works, The Glass Menagerie, in the Central West End building where Williams lived and where the play was imagined.

“A year ago, we brought Tennessee Williams into your home ….this year we bring you into his!” said Carrie Houk, the festival’s Executive Artistic Director. “In 2020 we were lucky enough to flourish on the radio during a year that was so challenging for live theatre. In 2021, we return with a vengeance with a site-specific production of The Glass Menagerie at the very building in the Central West End where the Williams family settled when they moved to St Louis.”

“If theatre is ritual, our production of The Glass Menagerie is the equivalent of going to Mass in St. Peter’s Square in Rome,” explains Brian Hohlfeld, who is directing this production. “There’s no other city in the world where you can see this play in this venue, amid the same red bricks, alleys, and fire-escapes that inspired Williams to write it almost 80 years ago.  We’ve brought back most of our amazing cast from last fall’s radio version, and our entire team is thrilled and humbled by the opportunity to bring this site-specific production to life.”

The festival’s two main performances will be:

Brenda Currin
  • The Glass Menagerie… performed where it was first imagined

This cornerstone of American theatre launched Williams’ career as a playwright, enjoying a lengthy Broadway run and winning the 1945 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play. TWStL’s The Glass Menagerie brings the story of Amanda, Tom, and Laura home to the very apartment building that inspired Williams’ quintessential family drama.

The cast includes: Brenda Currin*, Bradley Tejeda*, Elizabeth Teeter* and Chauncy Thomas*. Performances will take place at 8pm at The Tennessee (4633 Westminster Place, 63108) Thursday, August 19 through Sunday, August 22 and Thursday, August 26 through Sunday, August 29.

*denotes member of Actors Equity Association.

  • “You Lied to Me about Centralia:” by John Guare and based on Tennessee Williams’ short story “Portrait of a Girl in Glass”

Before Williams wrote The Glass Menagerie, he told the story of the dysfunctional St. Louis family in his short story, “Portrait of a Girl in Glass.” Picking up where both the short story and The Glass Menagerie end, John Guare’s adaptation of the story picks up where The Glass Menagerie ends, following the gentleman caller after he leaves the Wingfield home to meet his fiancée at the train station. With Williams’ voice reverberating throughout, “You Lied to Me about Centralia” shines new light on The Glass Menagerie. A conversation with Williams scholar Thomas Mitchell will follow the performance.

The cast includes: Chauncy Thomas* and Julia Crump. Performances will take place at The Tennessee (4633 Westminster, 63108) Saturday, August 21 and Sunday August 22.

Chauncy Thomas

*denotes member of Actors Equity Association.

Other festival programming includes: Scholars’ Panels, Walking Tour of Williams’ St. Louis, Tennessee Williams Tribute: “The Moon and Beyond” hosted by Ken Page, happy hour conversation with Blue Song author Dr. Henry Schvey, Why Did Desdemona Love the Moor reading, and more.

For fans who want to make an evening of it, a special Pre-Theater Garden Picnic will be available at Bowood by Niche (4605 Olive, 63108) from 6-8pm (or until sold out) on performance days. The menu includes a picnic basket for two, filled with a packaged assortment of Niche Food Group snacks and desserts. Three signature cocktails inspired by The Glass Menagerie and featuring local spirits and botanicals will be available for individual purchase. Food and drink can be enjoyed in Bowood’s garden up until performance time.

Free, secure parking is available at Holliday (4600 Olive, 63108)  for festival patrons and for pre-theatre dinner patrons at Bowood by Niche.

Lead sponsorship of the festival is provided by Emerson. Additional sponsors and the full festival itinerary can be found at twstl.org. Tickets can be purchased via Metrotix beginning Sunday, July 18.

About the Festival

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis was established in 2016 by Carrie Houk, the award-winning producer, casting director, actor, and educator.  The Festival, which aims to enrich the cultural life of St. Louis by producing an annual theater festival and other artistic events that celebrate the artistry and life of Tennessee Williams, was named the Arts Startup of the Year Award by the Arts and Education Council at the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards.

In 2014, Houk produced Williams’ Stairs to the Roof with such success that the ongoing annual Festival was established. The inaugural Festival was themed “Tennessee Williams: The St. Louis Years,” followed by “The Magic of the Other” in 2017 and “The French Quarter Years” in 2018. The 2019 festival featured Night of the Iguana and A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur. As the years have passed, the awards have mounted. In the last two years, the St. Louis Theater Circle has given them twelve awards. The Festival has attracted thousands to its readings, panel discussions, concerts, exhibitions, and productions.

About Tennessee Williams

Born Thomas Lanier Williams III in 1911 in Mississippi, Williams moved to St. Louis at age seven, when his father was made an executive with the International Shoe Company (where the City Museum and the Last Hotel are now located). He lived here for more than two decades, attending Washington University, working at the International Shoe Company, and producing his first plays at local theaters. He credited his sometimes difficult experiences in St. Louis for the deeply felt poetic essence that permeates his artistry. When asked later in life when he left St. Louis, he replied, “I never really left.” Most people are familiar with the famous works that have garnered multiple Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards, and Academy Awards, such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer. He also wrote hundreds of additional plays, stories, essays, and poems, many of which are only now seeing the light of day as his estate permits greater access. He is today considered by many leading authorities to be America’s greatest playwright.

Imagine “The Glass Menagerie” performed where it first began.

A site-specific production at the historic “Tennessee,” the Westminster Place apartment  in the Central West End where it all began, will be part of the 6th annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis this summer. Brian Hohlfeld will direct.

The event will include the TW Tribute: St. Louis Woman, Scholars Panels, and a Workshop/Reading of “Why Does Desdemona Love the Moor,” which will be presented prior to its Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival engagement, to be directed by Thomas Mitchell.

Author Henry Schvey will sign his book, “Blue Song: St. Louis in the Life and Work of Tennessee Williams.” The event will feature a conversation with Schvey, a professor of drama and comparative literature at Washington University. He wrote the 2011 book, “Tennessee Williams at 100: From Washington University to the Wider World.”

Tennessee Williams Scholar Thomas Mitchell will lead a Tennessee Williams Walking Tour of the Central West End. From 1918 to 1922, Williams lived with his family at 4633 Westminster. He attended Soldan High School. He later moved to University City and studied at Washington University.

An opening weekend Block Party is also planned.

Additional productions, events and full casts will be announced at the beginning of July.

Certified with Missouri Arts Safe, the entire festival team is fully vaccinated.

About the Festival

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis was established in 2016 by Carrie Houk, the award-winning producer, casting director, actor, and educator.  The Festival, which aims to enrich the cultural life of St. Louis by producing an annual theater festival and other artistic events that celebrate the artistry and life of Tennessee Williams, was named the 2019 Arts Startup of the Year by the Arts & Entertainment Council.

In 2014, Houk produced Williams’ “Stairs to the Roof” with such success that the ongoing annual Festival was established. The inaugural Festival was themed “Tennessee Williams: The St. Louis Years,” followed by “The Magic of the Other” in 2017 and “The French Quarter Years” in 2018. The 2019 festival featured “Night of the Iguana” and “A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur.” As the years have passed, the awards have mounted. In the last two years, the St. Louis Theater Circle has given them 12 awards. The Festival has attracted thousands to its readings, panel discussions, concerts, exhibitions, and productions.

About Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams

Born Thomas Lanier Williams III in 1911 in Mississippi, Williams moved to St. Louis at age seven, when his father was made an executive with the International Shoe Company (where the City Museum and the Last Hotel are now located).

He lived here for more than two decades, attending Washington University, working at the International Shoe Company, and producing his first plays at local theaters. He credited his sometimes difficult experiences in St. Louis for the deeply felt poetic essence that permeates his artistry. When asked later in life when he left St. Louis, he replied, “I never really left.”

Most people are familiar with the famous works that have garnered multiple Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards and Academy Awards, such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer.

He also wrote hundreds of additional plays, stories, essays, and poems, many of which are only now seeing the light of day as his estate permits greater access. He is today considered by many leading authorities to be America’s greatest playwright.

By Lynn Venhaus

It’s one thing to see a play; it’s another thing just to listen. A whole new world opens in your imagination, and the cultural icon Tennessee Williams is perfectly suited for such an experience.

To make its three remarkable radio presentations accessible, the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis has been extended through Nov.21-22, and you will be captivated by these three works anew. They are free to listen to at www.1073.org and www.twstl.org.

Williams has such a distinctive voice, and you hear his words interpreted with devotion and insight. The performances by the all-star cast assembled this year brings the works to a new level.

Through this fresh and innovative way, the festival continues to pay homage to St. Louis’ greatest playwright, who lived here during his formative years and was greatly influenced by this region.

All three works are richly rewarding aural and theatrical experiences:

Bradley James Tejeda

“The Glass Menagerie,” a beautifully rendered two-hour production of Williams’ most personal play and one of his greatest and most famous, now through Nov. 22.

“You Lied to Me About Centralia,” a delightful one-act by playwright John Guare, who imagines what took place after The Gentleman Caller left the Wingfields to meet his fiancé, Betty, now through Nov. 21.

“Glass,” an intriguing new play by Michael Aman that imagines the actress playing Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie” clashing with Tennessee when it opens in Chicago before it heads to Broadway, now through Nov. 21.

As always, stay after for a few moments to listen to Williams’ scholar-in-residence Tom Mitchell for his insight into each work. It’s interesting and informative, and really adds to the festival’s mission. They want us to know Williams intimately, and it shows. You can also take an audio tour of Williams’ St. Louis and hear education panels on his work.

The fifth annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis was going to take us to Italy this spring, showcasing “The Rose Tattoo” and other nuggets from Williams, who was happy soaking up European la dolce vita in a good stretch of his chaotic life.

Then the pandemic hit. The coronavirus public health crisis forced our regional theaters to cancel. Instead, Artistic Director Carrie Houk pivoted with two different sets of programming on radio, partnering with Classic 107.3 FM.

First, this summer, a divine series of Williams’ richly textured one-acts that showcased his yearning and his desire to fit in, all in his distinctive word play. The images of his characters with their fanciful stories were vivid, as were the Southern locations. The attention to detail was strong and the acting talent sublime.

All those engaging qualities have returned with “En Evant!” which means “forward.” We’re moving on, and Houk has discussed the fragility accompanying this year strengthening us in different ways. Williams was a fragile soul, but he also had a strength about him, so necessary to survive in his personal world. A previous season was built around “The Magic of Others,” and this year’s fest also has that aspect – the outsider, the guy not like the others.

In the memory play “The Glass Menagerie,” precious Laura, who is based on Tom’s fragile sister Rose, has too many self-doubts and anxieties to fit in, although she tries. Her inner world is soothed by glass figurines.

Glass – who knew 70 some years later this family’s themes of wanting to be normal, wanting to feel something, and not wanting to be mired in the past, in the fanciful world their mother has clung to all these years, would take on more significance throughout the decades

Elizabeth Teeter

The remarkably poised Elizabeth Teeter, showing her emotional range, will break your heart as Rose.

Brenda Curran is a sympathetic Amanda, although truly a pathetic maternal figure in the pantheon of great mother roles.

She contrasts well with Teeter and Bradley James Tejeda as the protective Tom (Tennessee’s alter-ego).

Tejeda, who is also in “Glass” and was in several of the one-acts this summer, is pitch-perfect in his Williams’ roles. He’s the MVP of 2020. It is a perfect match, like Olivier and Shakespeare, and his vocal work is outstanding. I could listen to him read the phone book.

But that just-right comfortable Southern drawl enhances the character’s development as he draws us in to what Tom is going through – or in “Glass,” what Tennessee is. He’s bursting to get out of town to begin the life he imagines for himself.

He smoothly presents these lived-in characters so we can identify right away. And Williams, ultimately a tragic figure in his own life, is so transparent about his thoughts and feelings that we have an instant attachment.

Chaunery Kingsford, who was in the stunning “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 2018, plays the Gentleman Caller with the right mix of concern and confusion.

Directed by Brian Hohlfeld, a St. Louis native who knows how creative passions will take someone away for their journey, understands the Wingfields. His version is a tidy two hours and hits all the feelings, emphasizing what isn’t said is as potent as what is.

This play takes on new meaning every time I dig in, and it’s never the same experience. If you haven’t read it since high school, listen here – it’s transformative.

Chauncy Thomas

Home, that running Williams’ theme, is used by Guare in “You Lied to Me About Centralia,” featuring the tremendous power of Chauncy Thomas as Jim and Julia Crump as Betty. Julia, who played this part when the TWFest produced it for the Grand Center Theatre Crawl several years ago, is well-suited to play Williams’ roles. She’s convincing as driven Betty, who is immediately defensive for taking a trip to Granite City to see an uncle. She has ulterior motives, which she spills during her conversation with Jim. Chauncy, one of the most powerful actors on stage during his years in St. Louis, exercises a new muscle here – only his voice, and it’s no less effective.

Julia Crump

Directed by Rayme Cornell, this play illuminates the themes of “The Glass Menagerie” in a fascinating way. Just think about how a step or two in another direction could change your life.

“Glass” is interesting in its exploration of personalities and artistic temperament. With Kari Ely playing the diva Laurette Taylor taking on the role of Amanda Wingfield, you can picture her condescending looks and withering stares. And then Tejeda gets in the skin of burgeoning artist Tennessee Williams. This duet is directed by Gary Wayne Barker, a solid veteran on the St. Louis scene.

Ely, an accomplished actress in St. Louis, is flamboyant as a near-has been who wants to be famous again. Will playing Amanda produce the results she seeks? Will Williams get what he wants with his first feature-length play? All conjecture, of course, but Ely and Tejeda are convincing playing these desperate people – one on the way up and one on the way down. This one-act is 90 minutes.

Kari Ely

The vocal work here lulls us into a comfortable place. It’s fun to hear these journeys as these performers create pictures in our minds.

One of the most soothing voices is contributed by Ken Page, who is a masterful speaker. He is the festival’s host and introduces each show with his silky vocals.

So, tune in, turn up the volume, and let the magic of theater take you to new (and old) places.

Presenting sponsor is Emerson.

Donations are appreciated.

By Lynn Venhaus

One of Tennessee Williams’ most humorous one-act plays, “A Perfect Analysis Given By a Parrot,” will be the next radio play presented by the Tennessee Williams Festival St, Louis on “Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air.”

It will first air on Saturday, Aug. 8, at 5 p.m. on 107.3 FM. You can listen live or you can listen later through several platforms. It is archived at the station’s website and there is an encore Aug. 13 at 10 p.m. They are available for nearly two weeks before the next one. This third show is sponsored by the Jane and Bruce Robert Foundation.

This one is a charmer. I enjoyed the production when it was first presented during the inaugural TWSTL in May 2016. It was staged at the Curtain Call Lounge, with this same cast, under the direction of Brian Hohlfeld.

Kelley Weber

Intrigued by the title? Set at a dive bar in St. Louis, “A Perfect Analysis Given By A Parrot” follows Flora and Bessie, two proud members of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Sons of Mars, who have traveled from Memphis for the annual convention. All Flora and Bessie want is a good time, but they have been ditched by the conventioneers they have followed. Unfamiliar with the territory, they wonder into a place intent on whooping it up. While drinking fishbowls of beer and listening to sentimental tunes, the pair begin a light-hearted conversation, then loosen up as old memories are stirred. The women, whose relationship could be considered “frenemies,” assess each other’s lives, revealing loneliness and longing.

As I recall, Rachel Tibbetts and Kelley Weber were very good as the two aging Southern Belles, and Bob Harvey, always fun to watch, was the waiter. Always a twinkle in his eye.

This should be a delightful radio play, to hear Williams’ distinctive wordplay, with an amusing display of merriment. Everyone so far has been an excellent listen and so different. This summer series celebrating Williams’ one-act plays is produced by Carrie Houk, artistic director, and programmed every other Saturday. Each episode is introduced by Ken Page, in his signature silky style. Don’t forget to stay afterwards to listen to University of Illinois professor Tom Mitchell provide insights about Williams’ work.

Nisi Sturges as Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore

“The Lady of Larkspur Lotion” was the first, on July 11, sponsored by Mary Strauss, which was terrific in establishing the time, place and characters. Set in a seedy New Orleans boarding house, a delusional long time tenant Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore is convinced that she owns a Brazilian rubber plantation. Shades of Blanche DuBois! (a prototype for sure). The landlady, Mrs. Wire, has always humored her, but when Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore can’t make her rent, the two women start to argue. As if the walls could talk, a young writer steps in, and his dreams are part of the fantasies of those living in this cockroach-infested place.

Williams’ yearning, his desire to fit in, his characters with their fanciful stories — all there. You create these Southern places in your head. The images are vivid, and the production values strong. Nisi Sturges, sublime in last year’s “The Night of the Iguana,” played Mrs. Hardwicke-Moore with impeccable Southern airs, while Rayme Cornell was various degrees of stern as the landlord and Bradley Tejeda intriguing as the mysterious writer (He could have had his own one-act. Maybe he did?).

“This Property is Condemned” was the second one, on July 25. Rising star Elizabeth Teeter, a fine young performer who has appeared in three Broadway shows and starred as Dorothy in the Variety Club’s enchanting “The Wizard of Oz,” played Willie with the right amount of bravado and wistfulness. Tony Merritt II, a Webster Conservatory student, was strong as Tom. It was directed by Tim Ocel, who has beautifully helmed some of the mainstage shows and is guiding five of this summer offering.

Elizabeth Teeter


You might recall “This Property is Condemned” as a 1966 movie starring Natalie Wood and Robert Redford. They play town flirt Alva and out-of-town railroad employee Owen respectively, who meet in Ogden, Miss., during the Depression. Alva dreams of getting out of the two-bit town.

The play, however, is told by Alva’s sister, Willie, who meets a guy, Tom, on the abandoned railroad tracks, and tells the story in flashback — about Alva, her mom, Owen and other characters. Williams’ frequent themes — grass is always greener, exaggerated grandiosity— are there, as are his finely drawn female characters.

Tony Merritt

What makes these radio plays – only about 20 minutes each – so special is that Williams’ voice is so recognizable in each of these one-act plays. He wrote many of them during his formative years here in St. Louis, and it’s interesting to see the progression of his work. What a bright, brilliant mind early on whose life influenced all his writings, from start to finish.

Don’t miss these little gems, featuring some of the best and brightest talents using another ‘muscle’ — their voice. For Aug. 8, if you are unfamiliar with Rachel Tibbetts, she is one of the best and most versatile actresses in town, and veteran actress/teacher Kelly Weber won a St. Louis Theater Circle Award last year for another Tennessee Williams one-act, “A Lovely Sunday in Creve Coeur.”

And it’s just fun to catch the names of the local landmarks.

Rachel Tibbetts

Next up: “Hello from Bertha” Aug. 22 5 p.m., streaming until Sept. 4, one of the “Rooming House Plays” that I adore.
Starring: Anita Jackson, Donna Weinsting and Maggie Wininger, directed by David Kaplan, sponsored by John Russell

“Summer at the Lake,” Sept. 5, streaming until Sept. 18
Starring: Donathan Walters, Rayme Cornell, Kelley Weber; directed by Tim Ocel, sponsored by Mary Strauss

“Mr. Paradise,” Sept. 19, streaming until Oct. 2
Starring: Elizabeth Teeter, J. Samuel Davis, directed by Tim Ocel, sponsored by Terry Schnuck

Anita Jackson. Photo by Ride Hamilton

Listen online through:

Live: https://classic1073.org/listen/

Classic 107.3 Apple app: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/classic-107-3/id635075917

On Radio.com: Android or Apple app https://www.radio.com/classic1073/listen

On demand with SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/raf-stl

For more information: www.twstl.org/something-spoken

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis (TWSTL) will increase its reach this summer with a new radio show. “Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” is set to launch on July 11. The program will air every other Saturday at 5 p.m. on Classic 107.3 FM. The festival decided to embark on this new venture because “It is important now to unify, elevate and enrich humanity during this very challenging year,” explains Carrie Houk, Executive Artistic Director of TWSTL.

Each episode of “Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” will consist of fully produced Williams’ one-act plays along with interviews with scholars, directors and actors. Specific details of each broadcast will be posted on the websites of both Classic 107.3 (classic1073.org) and TWSTL (twstl.org).

Ken Page

Broadway legend and St. Louisan Ken Page will narrate and noted Williams scholar Tom Mitchell will offer commentary on each episode. Performers will include: Nisi Sturgis; Rayme Cornell; J. Samuel Davis; Bob Harvey; Anita Jackson; Tony Merritt II; Elizabeth Teeter; Bradley Tejeda; Rachel Tibbits; Donathan Walters; Kelley Weber; Donna Weinsting and Maggie Wininger.  Brian Hohlfeld, David Kaplan and Tim Ocel will be directing.

“The peak of my virtuosity was in the one-act plays.

Some of which are like firecrackers on a rope.” – Tennessee Williams

“Williams felt that one-acts were his strongest format,” Houk points out. “He started out in St. Louis writing one-act plays, and one of his biggest breaks was winning a competition sponsored by the Group Theater in New York—the first time he signed his name as ‘Tennessee’ rather than ‘Tom.’  He wrote more than 70 throughout his career—sometimes edgy, often experimental, and always infused with his unsurpassed poetry.  Many of them have been presented at the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis.”

“Something Spoken: Tennessee Williams On the Air” will be sponsored by Mary Strauss, Jane and Bruce P. Robert Charitable Foundation, Ted Wight, John Russell and Terry Schnuck, with more patrons to be announced in the coming weeks.

TWSTL’s reboot of their Fifth Annual Festival this fall will focus on Williams’ youth and time spent with The Mummers, an offbeat St. Louis theatre company that tried out a number of his early plays and is immortalized in Williams essay “Something Wild.” As long as conditions remain safe to produce, “Tennessee Williams: Something Wild” will run October 22 through November 1 at The Link Auditorium (thelinkauditorium.org), formerly The Wednesday Club and the theatre where The Mummers performed. 

About the Festival

Star on Walk of Fame in the Delmar Loop

The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis was established in 2016 by Carrie Houk, the award-winning producer, casting director, actor, and educator.   The Festival, which aims to enrich the cultural life of St. Louis by producing an annual theater festival and other artistic events that celebrate the artistry and life of Tennessee Williams, was named the 2019 Arts Startup of the Year by the Arts & Entertainment Council.

In 2014, Houk produced Williams’ Stairs to the Roof with such success that the on- going annual Festival was established. The inaugural Festival was themed “Tennessee Williams: The St. Louis Years,” followed by “The Magic of the Other” in 2017 and “The French Quarter Years” in 2018. The 2019 festival featured Night of the Iguana and A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur. As the years have passed, the awards have mounted. Last year’s St. Louis Theater Circle gave them eleven nominations and seven awards, and this year’s seven nominations garnered four more awards. The Festival has attracted thousands to its readings, panel discussions, concerts, exhibitions, and productions.

Lead sponsorship of the festival is provided by Emerson.  The Festival is also funded in part by Mary Strauss, Ken and Nancy Kranzberg, The Whitaker Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, the Missouri Arts Council, Missouri Humanities Council, Trio Foundation of St Louis and the Arts and Education Council.

About Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams drawing by Al Hirschfeld

Born Thomas Lanier Williams III in 1911 in Mississippi, Williams moved to St. Louis at age seven, when his father was made an executive with the International Shoe Company (where the City Museum and the Last Hotel are now located). He lived here for more than two decades, attending Washington University, working at the International Shoe Company, and producing his first plays at local theaters. He credited his sometimes difficult experiences in St. Louis for the deeply felt poetic essence that permeates his artistry. When asked later in life when he left St. Louis, he replied, “I never really left.” Most people are familiar with the famous works that have garnered multiple Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards and Academy Awards, such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer. He also wrote hundreds of additional plays, stories, essays, and poems, many of which are only now seeing the light of day as his estate permits greater access. He is today considered by many leading authorities to be America’s greatest playwright.

About Classic 107.3

Classic 107.3, “The Voice for the Arts in St. Louis”, broadcasts at 107.3 FM and on KNOU 96.3 HD2 with a mission to support the cultural landscape in the St. Louis region through programming and outreach efforts. Classic 107.3 plays a variety of music from classical to jazz, opera to blues, Broadway and more, and features local programming including the “Slatkin Shuffle”, hosted by conductor Leonard Slatkin, and Musical Ancestries™, designed to educate school-aged children about world music. In addition, the station airs interviews with artists, musicians, creators and performers, bringing their stories and events to the attention of the St. Louis community. Classic 107.3 is a non-profit station, receiving support from listeners as well as organizations like PNC, the William T. Kemper Foundation and others. More information, as well as live streaming, archived interviews, and podcasts can be found at www.classic1073.org.