‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ centerpiece of Tennessee Williams Festival May 10-19

Tennessee Williams: The French Quarter Years is this year’s theme

Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis’ production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” opens at 7:30 p.m., on Thurs., May 10, at the Grandel Theatre. Highlights to this year’s production include original music composed by St. Louis-based Henry Palkes, a diverse and young cast under the direction of Tim Ocel, a Stella Shouting Contest emceed by Ben Nordstrom, and a New Orleans-style parade through Grand Center led by Harvey Lockhart.

“Streetcar” performances are scheduled Thursday through Sunday, May 10-13; Wed. and Thurs., May 16-17; and Sat., May 19. Nordstrom and “Streetcar” cast member Lana Dvorak (Stella) will kick off the Stella Shouting Contest immediately following the May 13 performance. The Wed., 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.

Tickets to the Festival are available at MetroTix.com. Visit www.twstl.org, or call 314-517-5253, for additional event information.

The French Quarter-themed Festival will also include a one-man show titled, “Tennessee Rising”; two panel discussions; and a staged reading, “Interior Panic,” an early version of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The staged reading will feature introductory remarks by noted Tennessee Williams scholar Thomas Mitchell.

Opening night 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 sax player and educator Harvey Lockhart and the Point of View Jazz Ensemble from Healing Arts Center. The parade is free and open to the public.

Sophia Brown (Stella) and Nick Narcisi (Stanley) will be joined by fellow “Streetcar” cast members Lana Dvorak (Stella), Spencer Sickmann (Mitch), Amy Loui (Eunice), Isaiah Di Lorenzo (Steve), Jesse Munoz (Pablo), Jacob Flekier, Thomasina Clarke, David Wassilak, Maggie Winiger, and Isabel Pastrana.

Rehearsals begin next week at the Theodore Link Auditorium in the Central West End. Formally the Wednesday Club, the location is where Tennessee Williams’ company, The Mummers, performed during his years in St. Louis.
In addition to Tim Ocel and Henry Palkes, the creative team includes James Wolk (Set Design), Sean Savoie (Lighting), Michele Siler (Costumes), and Amanda Werre (Sound).

Leadership support for the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis is generously provided by Nancy and Ken Kranzberg, Mary Strauss, Emerson and Edward Jones. The Festival is also funded in part by the Missouri Arts Council and the Missouri Humanities Council.

About the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis

Since its inception three years ago, the Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis has embraced the work of the legendary playwright, poet and artist, whose works include 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’ work reflects the nearly 20 years his family lived in St. Louis, and his 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. For more information, please visit www.twstl.org, or email info@twstl.org.

Schedule

Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis Kick-off: New Orleans-Style Parade
Thurs., May 10 – 5:30 p.m.

Parade is free and open to the public; kicks off from steps of the Grandel Theatre

The traditional brass band, New Orleans-inspired parade through Grand Center will be led by sax player and educator Harvey Lockhart and the Point of View Jazz Ensemble from Healing Arts Center.

Main Stage Production

“A Streetcar Named Desire”
May 10-19
Grandel Theatre

Specific dates:
May 10 – 7:30 p.m.
May 11 – 7:30 p.m.
May 12 – 7:30 p.m.
May 13 – 3 p.m.
May 16 – 7:30 p.m. (Mind’s Eye audio description for visually impaired)
May 17 – 7:30 p.m.
May 18 – No performance (100th anniversary of the St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre.)
May 19 – 3 p.m. (Stella Shouting Contest to follow performance)

The Dark Room at the Grandel will feature late night jazz following each evening performance.

“A Streetcar Named Desire,” one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved plays in the history of American theater, is the story of a troubled former schoolteacher, Blanche DuBois, after she leaves a small town in Mississippi and moves in with her sister (Stella) and her sister’s husband (Stanley) in New Orleans. With her flirtatious Southern-belle attitude, Blanche upends the precarious relationship between her sister and brother-in-law, leading to even greater conflict during her brief stay.

Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama (1948), the original Broadway cast included Jessica Tandy, Marlon Brando, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter. Two years later, Laurence Olivier directed the London premiere starring Vivien Leigh and Bonar Colleano. In 1951, the movie “A Streetcar Named Desire” won four Academy Awards with the reprisal cast of Brando, Hunter, Leigh and Malden. Opera, ballet and TV adaptations of the play are continuously produced worldwide.

One-Man Show by Jacob Storms
“Tennessee Rising”
May 11-13
.ZACK Theatre

May 11 – 8 p.m. (Talkback with Jacob Storms following the performance)
May 12 – 2 p.m. (Talkback with Jacob Storms following the performance)
May 13 – 1 p.m.
|Tickets: $25

To the masses he is a legend in the pantheon of the American stage and screen who seemingly appeared out of nowhere, fully formed in 1945.

But just how did this young poet, Thomas Lanier Williams III, born in Columbus Mississippi, raised in St. Louis, go on to become the playwright who created Amanda and Laura, Stanley Kowalski and Blanche DuBois, Maggie The Cat, Big Daddy and his greatest, most unexplored role, Tennessee Williams?

This is what “Tennessee Rising” sheds light upon.

Panel Discussions
“Tennessee Williams: The French Quarter Years”
May 12 — 10 a.m.
Grandel Theatre
Tickets: $10

Moderator David Kaplan, curator and co-founder of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival, has staged Williams’ plays worldwide, including a collection of one-acts at the Stockton House for the 2016 Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis. A collection of his essays written during the last decade was published in 2015, “Tenn Years: Tennessee Williams On Stage.” He is also the author of “Tennessee Williams in Provincetown” and the author of two series of theater textbooks: “Five Approaches to Acting and Shakespeare,” “Shamans, and Show Biz” (Hansen Publishing Group). He is the editor of “Tenn at One Hundred,” a comprehensive look at Williams’ evolving reputation (www.davidkaplandirector.com/bio/).

“A Streetcar Named Desire”
May 12 — 11 a.m.
Grandel Theatre
Tickets: $10

Moderator Henry Schvey, professor of Drama and Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis since 1987, has lectured on Tennessee Williams both in the U.S. and abroad, and has published numerous essays on Williams. He is currently working on two projects: one about Tennessee Williams’ conflicted history with St. Louis, and the other a study of Williams’ paintings and their relationship to his plays. His most recent publication is a study of the influence of D.H. Lawrence upon Williams titled, “After the Fox” (Tennessee Williams Annual Review, 2018). His coming-of-age memoir, “The Poison Tree,” was published in 2016.

The Dark Room’s Jazz Brunch
Sun., May 13 – 11 a.m.

Patrons who show their matinee ticket will receive a free drink. Dizzy Atmosphere (Django Reinhardt-style jazz) will perform.

Staged Reading
“Interior: Panic”
May 19 — 11 a.m.
Grandel Theatre
Tickets: $25

“Interior: Panic” is Williams’ stunning one-act precursor to “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

As he did with many plays, Williams experimented with various approaches in style, setting, and characterization.  Blanche, Stanley, and Stella have different names but similar relationships. In this short version, Williams focuses on Blanche/Shannon’s disordered mental state: hearing voices, imagining dangers, fabricating reality. Set in a rundown, shotgun cottage in New Orleans, the play features weird voices and disturbing images. “Interior: Panic” seems to be the playwright’s expression of his sister Rose’s psychic deterioration.  Director Tom Mitchell, Associate Head of the Department of Theatre at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will introduce the little-known Williams gem performed with scripts-in-hand on the set of “Streetcar.”

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