The multi-award-winning Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis proudly announces its Fifth Annual Festival for Thursday, May 7 through Sunday, May 17, 2020, headlining The Rose Tattoo.  A preview performance of the play is set  for Thursday, May 7, with May 8 as the official opening night. There will be more than a dozen separate elements, scheduled so that attendees may attend every one during  the eleven-day run, all held in the Grand Center Arts District and on The Hill.

The theme of the 2020 Festival is “Tennessee Williams & Italy.” Williams frequently traveled to Italy, recalling in his Memoirs: “As soon as I crossed the Italian border, my health and my life seemed to be magically restored. There was the sun and there were the smiling Italians.” He wrote to his grandfather, “It is difficult to tear myself away from Italy which is the nearest to heaven that I have ever been, the people so friendly, gentle and gracious and the days so tranquil and sunny.”

In that spirit the Festival will mount a stunning production of The Rose Tattoo, set in a resilient community of Sicilian immigrants on the Gulf Coast near New Orleans.

Executive Artistic Director Carrie Houk has consulted extensively with our region’s Italian-American community to ensure their engagement and to provide authenticity.

Festival highlights include:

▪  Williams’ Tony award-winning masterpiece The Rose Tattoo, which is currently enjoying a triumphant revival on Broadway. The Rose Tattoo will be staged at The Grandel Theatre.

▪   A new collection of Williams’ one-act plays, The St. Louis Rooming House Plays, will provide an immersive experience in Grand Center’s historic Stockton House, where audience members will move from room to room and play to play. Previous versions of this remarkable theatrical experience have been some of the hardest-to-get tickets in town.

▪  An academic series, “Tennessee Williams and his Midwest Experiences,” will bring noted scholars and historians from around the world to discuss how Williams’ life in the Midwest influenced his later life and his works. As audience members will see, his life events in the Midwest permeate his works, and are even directly relevant to his Italian experiences.

▪  A variety of special events including: Tennessee Williams Bus Tour; La Dolce Vita Pool Party at the Last Hotel (formerly the International Shoe Company where Tennessee Williams worked); a staged reading of Glass (which imagines what transpired between Tennessee Williams and lead actress Laurette Taylor on the opening night of The Glass Menagerie) by Michael Aman; Amor Perdido, composed of Williams works that are new to the stage, from the University of Illinois; screenings of Italian-themed The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone and Boom; “TW Jam”, a late-night jam of poetry, monologues   and music; “Tennessee Williams Tribute” at Guido’s on The Hill; the “Williams Playwriting Initiative;” panels, parties, conversation, and much more.

“We are proud that, in five years, the Tennessee Williams Festival has become one of St. Louis’ most widely attended and anticipated cultural events,” said Houk, the Festival’s founder. “Last year, our attendance soared and we were showered with awards. In our fifth season, we aspire to go even further.”

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.

Tickets will go on sale March 1 through Metrotix and at the Fox box office.

For more information, including parking, food, hotels, etc., please contact Helene Estes at [email protected] For media inquiries, please contact Marla Stoker Ballenger at [email protected] or at (314)-997-5525.

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 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 has nominated them for seven more awards this year. The Festival has attracted thousands to its readings, panel discussions, concerts, exhibitions, and productions.

Tennessee Williams

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.

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