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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
inside Clarksdale Station Saturday night; winners repeat
their performances, and enjoy live music by a local blues
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
For reservation information and schedules, visit the website:
www.coahomacc.edu/twilliams or call the CCC Public Relations
Department at 662-621-4157.