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Williams Festival Joins Global Celebrations Honoring the Playwright's Centennial Year

Press Release - January, 2011

Coahoma Community College and the Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival

Panny Mayfield, Director

Classic mini-film 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, 2011.

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.

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.

Actor Sherrye Williams becomes Amanda Wingfield from the Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie, during a porch play at the 2010 Williams Festival

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.

Trio 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

Actor 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: www.coahomacc.edu. The 2011 festival will be held October 14-15, 2011.



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