Williams Festival Joins Global Celebrations Honoring
fest being planned around March 26, 2011 birthday
CLARKSDALE – The Mississippi
Delta Tennessee Williams Festival will be joining
global celebrations honoring the centennial year
of America’s great playwright in 2011 and the 19th
edition of its own annual festival October 14-15,
Sponsored by Coahoma Community
College since 1993, the Clarksdale festival will
be featured in a Public Television documentary being
aired in Europe during the week of the playwright’s
March 26th birthday.
Classic photo of the playwright at his typewriter,
is the signature of Clarksdale’s Mississippi Delta
Tennessee Williams Festival
The playwright was born in Columbus, and later spent
his childhood in Clarksdale where he, his mother,
and sister Rose lived with their grandparents, Rose
and Walter Dakin, in the rectory of St. George’s
Episcopal Church. Rev. Dakin served as rector in
Clarksdale for 16 years.
Years later, the playwright transformed many scenes and real Clarksdale residents including “Brick, Blanche, and Baby Doll” into legendary characters and
settings for his great Delta plays.
Recorded during the 2010 festival by veteran filmmaker Herbert Krill of Vienna, the European documentary will feature interviews, live performances by actors and scholars
focusing on the playwright’s great Delta plays, students in drama competitions, and local influences incorporated into signature theater legends.
The 2010 festival showcased
a screening of the movie, The Loss of a Teardrop
Diamond, adapted from a Williams screenplay
written in 1957 and filmed in 2009 by director Jodie
Markell. Actor Bryce Dallas Howard starred in the
role of Fisher Willow.
Sherrye Williams becomes Amanda Wingfield
from the Tennessee Williams play,
Menagerie, during a porch play at the 2010
According to Williams Committee
members, the movie earned standing ovations and
was so successful, its return is being planned during
the Williams birthday week in addition to a mini-film
festival of classic films - Cat on a Hot Tin
Roof, Summer and Smoke, Orpheus
Descending, and Baby Doll set in Clarksdale
and the Mississippi Delta.
During the centennial week, members of the local Tennessee Williams Festival will be assisting with events of the annual Delta Literary Tour of Clarksdale sponsored by the
University of Mississippi ‘s Center for the Study of Southern Culture.
Speaking at a luncheon in
the Cutrer Mansion March 23, 2011 will be Williams
scholar Kenneth Holditch of New Orleans, who delivers
the keynote address here each October.
Visitors will tour St. George’s Episcopal Church, the historic district where the playwright spent his childhood, downtown Clarksdale,
and will be treated to a porch play starring Oxford actors Alice Walker and Johnny McPhail, Williams festival favorites.
inside St. George’s Church with stained glass
panels in background
Rev. Jason Shelby (right), current rector
of St. George’s Episcopal Church, visits with
Tennessee Williams scholar Kenneth Holditch
of New Orleans and filmmaker Jodie Markell
of New York following an organ recital at
the 2010 Williams Festival in Clarksdale
Johnny McPhail of Oxford is filmed portraying Big Daddy,
the legendary Delta planter from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
for a European documentary to air in March on Public Television
during the centennial Tennessee Williams tribute
Walker and McPhail have been applauded
for their roles together as Maggie the Cat and Big Daddy from
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
However, Walker also portrays
Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire,
and McPhail as the traveling salesman in The
Last of My Solid Gold Watches.
Clarksdale has become a research
center for actors and directors preparing for Tennessee
Williams dramas including Golden Globe nominee Ruth
Wilson who portrayed Stella in a major 2009 West
End production of Streetcar; actor Frances O’Conner
of London playing Maggie from Cat; French actors
preparing for Orpheus Descending, and more.
Making a January 2011 research
trip here is director Eda Holmes who is directing
a March production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
for the prestigious Shaw Festival in Canada.
Plans for the 19th annual October Festival
will be announced on the website:
The 2011 festival will be held October 14-15, 2011.