The 7th Annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis Aug. 18-28
The Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis (TWStL) returns for its seventh year, giving center stage to a newly reimagined and sensual Fellini-esque production of William’s romantic Sicilian love story The Rose Tattoo, directed by David Kaplan and performed in the Big Top in the Grand Arts Center.
“This year we celebrate the resilience of love, passion, community, art and the human spirit” said Carrie Houk, TWStL Executive Artistic Director. “How delightful to be moving into the light of 2022 with productions embracing the magnificence of those who ventured from abroad to begin anew. Saluti and avanti!”
The Rose Tattoo tells the story of love, death, and resilience in a downtrodden but hopeful 1940’s immigrant Sicilian community. Serafina delle Rose clings madly to her Italian identity, to the fanciful memory of her murdered husband, and to her free-spirited daughter. Will she find love with the banana truck driver? Are all the rose tattoos a sign?
Introducing the theme of an Italian circus, Kaplan’s take on Williams’ classic features aerialists, animals, singers and musicians. He surrounds Serafina with a dozen circus performers – including a ringmaster, a strongman, trapeze artists, and clowns – who perform the full text of the play.
“This St. Louis Rose Tattoo is performed in a circus as a circus, the better to share what Williams called his ‘limitless world of the dream,’” said Kaplan. “Live goats, accordions, impassioned acting, a play that celebrates the wisdom of desire. What’s not to like?”
Other festival events will occur on the Italian Hill, a St. Louis cultural gem of a location:
—The St. Louis Neighborhood Plays, a series of Williams’ one-acts, directed by Robert Quinlan (Associate Artistic Director Illinois Shakespeare Festival). “Tennessee Williams captured the dreams and struggles of an eclectic collection of St. Louisans in several early one-act plays, to be presented “promenade-style” at the Marketplace on The Hill,” said Quinlan.
—thought-provoking Panels, hosted by TWStL scholar-in-residence Tom Mitchell, including The St. Louis Neighborhoods of Tennessee Williams, Tennessee Williams and his Significant Others and For the Love of Italy. From Mitchell: “It is surprising to see how much Tennessee Williams wrote about the neighborhoods of St. Louis where he grew up in the 1920s and 30s. His stories and plays reveal much about the city and about the playwright.”
—Screenings of iconic films based on Williams’ works, to include “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (adapted from a Williams novella and featuring Vivien Leigh and Warren Beatty) and Boom (adapted from The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore and featuring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton).
Other events to be held at various locations on The Hill:
Tennessee Williams Tribute: Selections from Williams’ Italian-inspired writing
Walking Tour of The St Louis Hill
Bocce Ball Competition
La Dolce Vita Pool Party
Additional events and locations to be announced in the coming weeks!
The full festival itinerary can be found at twstl.org. Tickets can be purchased via Metrotix beginning in July.
About the Festival
In 2014, award-winning producer, casting director, actor, and educator Carrie Houk produced Williams’ Stairs to the Roof with such success that the ongoing annual Festival was established. The inaugural Festival in 2016 was themed “Tennessee Williams: The St. Louis Years,” followed by “The Magic of the Other” in 2017 and “The French Quarter Years” in 2018. The 2019 festival featured performances of Night of the Iguana and A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur. In 2021, the Festival spotlighted The Glass Menagerie and You Lied To Me About Centralia. The Festival has attracted thousands to its readings, panel discussions, concerts, exhibitions, and productions.
The Festival, which aims to enrich the cultural life of St. Louis by producing an annual theater festival and other artistic events that celebrate the artistry and life of Tennessee Williams, was named the Arts Startup of the Year Award by the Arts and Education Council at the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards. TWStL has garnered 12 awards from the St. Louis Theater Circle in the last two years and was recently nominated for four St. Louis Theater Circle awards for 2021’s The Glass Menagerie, which was performed where it was first imagined, at the very building in the Central West End where the Williams family settled when they moved to St Louis.
About Tennessee Williams
Born Thomas Lanier Williams III in 1911 in Mississippi, Williams moved to St. Louis at age seven, when his father was made an executive with the International Shoe Company (where the City Museum and the Last Hotel are now located). He lived here for more than two decades, attending Washington University, working at the International Shoe Company, and producing his first plays at local theaters. He credited his sometimes-difficult experiences in St. Louis for the deeply felt poetic essence that permeates his artistry. When asked later in life when he left St. Louis, he replied, “I never really left.” Most people are familiar with the famous works that have garnered multiple Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards, and Academy Awards, such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer. He also wrote hundreds of additional plays, stories, essays, and poems, many of which are only now seeing the light of day as his estate permits greater access. He is today considered by many leading authorities to be America’s greatest playwright.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.