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Here are a few reasons to book over to the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival

He gave Marlon Brando something to shout about and Elizabeth Taylor something to purr about. He took the majestic homes, hangouts and sweaty charm of New Orleans and created a perfect literary vision.

The city that Tennessee Williams called his spiritual home has returned the admiration each year with The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival (March 28-April 1). This year marks the 15th year of the festival, which spans five days and features international and regional scholars, writers and performing artists.

Started in 1987 by a group of writers, educators, arts administrators and community activists, the festival saw an attendance of just 500 people in its first year. Interest grew over the years, and last year, the festival boasted an audience of more than 8,000.

The popularity of the festival has attracted celebrity guests participating in discussion groups and dazzling audiences with their interpretive readings of Williams' work -- this year the festival welcomes Stephanie Zimbalist and John Goodman. Throughout the five days, fans of the literary world can attend panel discussions, theatrical performances, a one-act play competition, lectures, literary walking tours, musical performances and a book fair.

With so much to see and do, the festival can seem a bit overwhelming. While we recommend the entire festival (call 523-2222 for more information or visit the festival Web site at for a complete schedule), the following list represents some of the fest's best. Thursday, March 29

3:30 p.m. Philip Caputo: Journeys as a Muse for Fact and Fiction (The Historic New Orleans Collection)

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Philip Caputo will discuss the lure of distant landscapes, how foreign cultures and terrain feed the literary imagination and how rhythms of speech and folkways of daily life give a writer raw materials for stories, novels, articles and essays.

7 p.m. Festival Opening Night Gala

(Le Petit Theatre)

Join the Tennessee Williams Festival for this opening-night staged reading with John Goodman and Stephanie Zimbalist.

Friday, March 30

Daily tours

This year the festival offers a truly unique collection of walking tours in and around the French Quarter. Visit the homes and hangouts of the infamous author at the Tennessee Williams Literary Walking Tour. Learn about slavery, Creoles and Mardi Gras Indians during the African Legacy Tour. Educate yourself about some of the places that helped create the sounds of jazz on the Cradle of Jazz tour. Learn about the people and events that shaped history and culture in the city on The Gay Heritage Tour. And take a light-hearted look at Louisiana's notorious history of scandal and corruption on The Scandal Tour.

10 a.m. Ignatius Redux

(Le Petit Theatre)

John Kennedy Toole's biographer, Rene Nevils, and his longtime associate Patricia Rickels discuss the life and art of the unforgettable man who gave us A Confederacy of Dunces.

11:30 a.m. Cast on a Hot Tin Roof

(Club Shim Sham)

The Free Associates return with their popular hit that blends the Southern Gothic style of Tennessee Williams with improvisation. Repeat performance at 1 p.m.on Saturday.

3 p.m. Roads Not Taken

(Club Shim Sham)

This highly successful performance is created by unpublished scenes from working versions of Williams' 1947 masterpiece A Streetcar Named Desire. Repeat performance at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday.

8 p.m. Tiger Tail

(Le Petit Theatre)

One of Tennessee Williams' lesser-known works, this play is a comic boilermaker of acrimony, lust and recrimination set in the Mississippi cotton backlands. Repeat performance at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Saturday, March 31

10 a.m. Voices of the South

(Bourbon Orleans Grand Ballroom)

Discussion panel with authors whose books are featured in the literary series Voices of the South, a republication of out-of-print contemporary classics of Southern literature. Panelists include Shirley Ann Grau, Elizabeth Spencer, Christine Wiltz and moderator Mary McCay.

10 a.m. Native Tongues

(Club Shim Sham)

Panel discussion with the writer-director-actor team from Native Tongues about creative collaboration. Panelists are Patty Friedmann, Fredrick Barton, Charlotte Lang, Carl Walker and moderator JoAnn Sealy.

11:30 a.m. Interview with Michael Cunningham

(Le Petit Theatre)

Winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize and PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Cunningham discusses his career as a writer and offers insight for future writers.

11:30 a.m. Canonizing Tennessee

(Bourbon Orleans Grand Ballroom)

Mel Gussow and Kenneth Holditch, co-editors of the two volumes of Williams' dramas for the Library of America, discuss how they decided what works to include to create an outline to the writings and life of Williams.

11:30 a.m. Voudou -- Religion or Magic?

(House of Blues)

Presentation on one of oldest spiritual practices in existence today, its origins in West Africa, its links to Christianity and sorcery, the truth and lies about this ancient faith. Panelists include Rod Davis, Sallie Ann Glassman, Ava Kay Jones and moderator Jessica Harris.

1 p.m. Louisiana Renaissance

(Le Petit Theatre)

Panelists discuss the resurgence of the arts in Louisiana and what it means. Guests are Jason Berry, Tim Gautreaux, John Scott, Michael White and moderator Lolis Eric Elie.

2:30 p.m. Novelists on the Edge ­ and Beyond

(Le Petit Theatre)

Philip Caputo, Valerie Martin and Barry Unsworth discuss what drives them to choose subjects and other matters as seen in their fiction.

2:30 p.m. Risky Business: Writing About Politics and Politicians

(Bourbon Orleans Grand Ballroom)

Panel of writers and journalists discusses the balancing act of covering the political beat. Panelists are Douglas Brinkley, James Gill, Elizabeth Taylor and moderator Michael Sartisky.

2:30 p.m. Night Waltz -- The Music of Paul Bowles

(The Cabildo)

This documentary film offers a rare glimpse into the work of Paul Bowles, composer of music for the concert hall, opera, ballet, theater and cinema.

Sunday, April 1

10 a.m. The Holocaust in Politics and Memory

(Bourbon Orleans Grand Ballroom)

Guest panel of a courageous activist and two renowned scholars discuss the connection between the memory and politics on events in history. Panelists are Ann Levy, Adam Nossiter, Lawrence N. Powell and moderator Eugenia Patru.

10 a.m. Staged Reading of the 2001 Festival One-Act Play Competition Winner

(Children's Corner, Le Petit Theatre)

Reading of the winning entry in the 2001 Festival's national One-Act Play competition.

10 a.m. New Orleans Cooks & Books: At the Table with Tennessee

(Storyville District Jazz Cafe)

A discussion of the dining styles during Tennessee Williams' time. This event also features a tasting of culinary delights by some of New Orleans' best chefs. Panelist are JoAnn Clevenger, John Mariani, Rex Reed and moderator Jessica B. Harris.

11:30 a.m. A Conversation with Barry Unsworth

(Le Petit Theatre)

Discussion with the author of New York Times best-seller, Losing Nelson.

12:30 p.m. Oscar and Adonis by Matthew Wells

(Children's Corner, Le Petit Theatre)

Performance of the winner of the 2000 Festival One-Act Play competition by the University of New Orleans Department of Drama and Communications.

1 p.m. Voyeurism in the Arts: The Secret Bond Between Writer and Audience

(Le Petit Theatre)

Wally Lamb, Rex Reed and Kenneth Holditch discuss the use of voyeuristic elements in writing and how it brings the audience into the fold of the story.

1 p.m. MedeaMorphosis: Greek Tragedy to Go

(Club Shim Sham)

The Free Associates' full-tilt send-up of the classic Greek tragedies, complete with egomaniacal heroes, jealous gods and a self-righteous Greek chorus.

1:30 p.m. Drummer and Smoke: Satchmo in New Orleans

(Palm Court Jazz Cafe)

Panel discussion on the music and style of Louis Armstrong followed by a musical performance. Guests include Tad Jones, Jack Stewart, Michael White and moderator Bruce Raeburn.

2:30 p.m. Capturing the Face of Louisiana

(Bourbon Orleans Grand Ballroom)

A look at how photographers train their thematic lens and the sources of inspiration behind their selection process. Panelists are Philip Gould, Herman Leonard, Michael P. Smith and moderator Nick Spitzer.

4 p.m. Stanley and Stella Shouting Contest

(Jackson Square)

Watch as contestants bellow their way to the finals by drawing on their inspirations for Stanley and Stella from Williams' most famous scene.

4 p.m. Cocktail Hour: Poetry & Jazz at the Palm Court

(Palm Court Jazz Cafe)

Day of music that concludes with a performance of blues and jazz poetry accompanied by sultry jazz vocals and guitar. Poets are Terrance Hayes and James Nolan with musicians Kim Prevost and Bill Solley.

6 p.m. Tea with Tennessee

(Courtyard, Le Petit Theatre)

This 15th anniversary event salutes the author's birthday with tea, cake and toasts to close the festival weekend.


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