September 18, 2018 10:44:42 AM
Remembering a successful Tennessee Williams Tribute
I just last week was in Columbus as the featured guest of the 17th Annual Tennessee Williams Tribute. It was heart warming to see that this important festival in the hometown of America's greatest playwright continues to entertain, inform and inspire.
Events began on Friday, September 7th, at the beautiful Three Sisters Pie Company. This intimate venue was the perfect site for talented local readers to share poems, not only by Williams but also their original work. The quality of the writing and the performances was remarkable, and host CJ Salazer did a remarkable job. The poetry event was followed by the Annual Stella Shouting Contest. Hosted by Gloria J. Herriott at her beautiful store, Hollyhocks, contestants ranged from toddlers to adults. Shouters called out "Stella" to a local woman dressed in a red vintage slip perched on the ornate wrought iron New Orleans style balcony above the entrance of the store. Judges for this event even included Columbus Mayor Robert Smith. Noah Taylor was this the winner of the event.
A free showing of the classic film, "A Streetcar Named Desire" followed at the Rosenzweig Arts Center. Saturday morning began with a free breakfast and a lively discussion hosted by arts writer Christopher Blank. The 2018 Scholars Award was presented to Dr. Stuart Noel, founder of the Truman Capote Literary Society and instructor at Georgia State University. Four scholars honored in earlier years were in attendance which resulted in a very entertaining and lively discussion. Dr. Noel's good friend, Princess Tina Radziwill, also contributed to the event, sharing stories of her mother, Lee Radziwill, and their very good family friend, Truman Capote.
The breakfast ended in time to allow people to head over to the beautiful historic home, Whitehall, owned by Dr. and Mrs. Joe Boggess, to watch scenes from Tennessee Williams plays performed on their lovely front porch. Local actors, overseen by Laura Beth Berry, gave wonderful performances. A free showing of the movie "Boom" was shown once again at the Omnova Theatre. This rarely-seen film starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Noel Coward based on Williams play "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore," was both entertaining and bizarre.
The Moon Lake Gala on Saturday night was the highlight of the Festival. The entertainment in the began with a powerful scene from a recent production at Le Petit Thetre du Vieux Carre in New Orleans of "A Streetcar Named Desire." This was followed by my own production of "Truman Talks Tallulah and Tennessee," which tells the story of the wild friendships between Capote, Tallulah Bankhead, and Williams. The packed house gave the evening's entertainment a rousing standing ovation. Sunday morning, a special sermon was delivered by the Very Reverend Anne Harris at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. This church was the place Tennessee Williams was baptized by his grandfather, Reverend Walter Dakin of St. Pauls Episcopal Church. A final festival event allowed people to tour two beautiful apartments, owned by Ruth Berry, which have been renovated in downtown Columbus's historic buildings.
My only wish list for future festivals would be to have some events happen, as they did in years past, on the beautiful W campus, perhaps including a full length Tennessee Williams play.
This was a Festival that the whole town of Columbus can be very proud of. My congratulations to Jerry Fortenberry, Marthalie Porter, Dr. Keith Gaskin, Christopher Blank, and all the terrific volunteers for their splendid work in carrying on this festival founded by Brenda Caradine and others over 17 years ago.
New York City
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