BBC Producer to Air Documentary at Williams Festival

Award-winning celebration opens Oct. 16-17

Beaming over the concert at St. George’s Episcopal Church in 2008 and returning to the 17th Tennessee Williams Festival Oct. 16-17 are (from left) David Williamson, church organist; BBC producer Carmel Lonergan; the Rev. Bo Keeler, deacon; and Broadway stars Tammy Grimes, a multiple Tony Award winner, and veteran actor/director Joel Vig.

CLARKSDALE – Broadway stars, regional artists, scholars and fledgling actors from high schools across Mississippi are waiting in the wings to take center stage Oct. 16-17 at the 17th annual Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival.

The award-winning festival celebrates America’s great playwright in his childhood home where he transformed many of its citizens and sites into the Mississippi Delta world of Blanche, Brick, and Baby Doll.

Linking a sense of place to the celebration are porch plays in the historic district where “Tom” Williams spent his childhood, a posh Friday night reception in recently renovated Clark House, historic home of Blanche Clark Cutrer; an organ recital at St. George’s Episcopal Church where the playwright’s grandfather served as rector for 16 years; and Saturday’s coffee and dessert at the Cutrer Mansion, “Belle Reve” from A Streetcar Named Desire.

“It’s exciting to be returning to Clarksdale and Mississippi,” comments BBC producer Carmel Lonergan who recorded a documentary at last year’s festival titled Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

It aired August 4 to an audience of 13 million listening to BBC’s Radio 2, the most popular station in the UK.

Lonergan will present excerpts from the documentary during the festival’s literary conference at Coahoma Community College and talk about its impact in the UK.

“For me, the documentary transports listeners to Clarksdale and gives them an insight into who Tennessee was,” says Lonergan.

Dr. Vivian Presley, CCC president, adds, “We are excited over the wonderful BBC documentary and especially welcome Carmel back on campus; it has brought acclaim to our festival and contributed to our prestigious Partner Award from the Mississippi Humanities Council.”

Featured in the presentation are conversations with Clarksdale residents Robin Cocke, Louise McGee; scholars Kenneth Holditch, Margaret Bradford Thornton, and Ralph Voss; actors Johnny McPhail, Jeff Glickman and students competing in CCC’s acting contest; celebrity musician Charlie Musselwhite and many more.

Voicing similar remarks of praise about returning to their Mississippi home are Broadway stars Tammy Grimes and Joel Vig. The pair will present a signature Williams centerpiece on stage at Oakhurst Middle School Friday evening.

The 2009 festival explores influences of the Delta on the playwright’s works with particular emphasis on Spring Storm, his early play considered a precursor of Orpheus Descending.

Holditch, who is delivering the keynote address Friday morning, says the play offers an opportunity to view the author’s early characters that reach legendary status later as Maggie from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Amanda Wingfield from The Glass Menagerie, Blanche DuBois and Stella from A Streetcar Named Desire, and Val Xavier from Orpheus Descending.

Bringing these characters to life during the literary conference at CCC’s Whiteside Hall are east coast director/actor Erma Duricko portraying Heavenly Crutchfield from Spring Storm with actor Tim Brown of New York City as Arthur and actor Jeff Glickman of Pensacola as Heavenly’s boyfriend Dick.

Later at Oakhurst Duricko and Brown will perform scenes from Summer and Smoke and Eccentricities of a Nightingale, and Glickman will become Jake from 27 Wagons Full of Cotton..

On other stages including front porches in the historic district, Oxford actor Johnny McPhail will present The Last of My Solid Gold Watches, portraying a traveling salesman in Clarksdale’s Alcazar Hotel.

Portraying the character Amanda Wingfield, Clarksdale actress Sherrye Williams performs a scene from the Tennessee Williams play, ‘The Glass Menagerie’ outside the historic porch of Fran and Tom Ross. The U.S. Postal Service unveiled the Tennessee Williams stamp on the porch during the 1995 Williams Festival in Clarksdale.
Other actors include Oxford actors Alice Walker and Janna Montgomery; Clarksdale actors Sherrye Williams and Glynda Duncan.

Eminent scholars and theatre professionals speaking in the festival’s literary conference include English professors Annette Saddick of the New York City College of Technology (CUNY); Ralph Voss of the University of Alabama; Colby Kullman, Ann Fisher-Wirth, and Travis Montgomery of the University of Mississippi; editor Thomas Keith of New Directions Publishing of New York and theatre director David Kaplan of New York City,
curator of the Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival.

The Clark House reception will feature gourmet cuisine by Chef Robert Rhymes and his CCC Culinary Arts students who are also preparing a seated luncheon Friday in CCC’s Gallery on campus.

Actor/guitarist Jeff Glickman will perform the Blues Ballads of Tennessee Williams at the Friday night reception. The CCC Men’s Ensemble will present gospel and do-whop numbers, and impromptu scenes from student/professional actors are expected and welcome.

The student acting competition offering $2,500 in cash prizes for winning schools presenting monologues and scenes from Williams dramas takes place Saturday morning
in CCC’s Georgia Lewis Theatre.

Student actors are honored at the festival finale/barbecue supper/dance
inside Clarksdale Station Saturday night; winners repeat their performances, and enjoy live music by a local blues band.

Produced by Coahoma Community College since 1993, the festival is open to all and free with the exception of meals that require reservations. It is funded by grants from CCC, the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Rock River Foundation and local contributors.

For reservation information and schedules, visit the website: www.coahomacc.edu/twilliams or call the CCC Public Relations Department at 662-621-4157.

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