Marker to be unveiled at Cutrer Mansion Oct. 17.
The 2019 Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival (MDTWF) will launch next week with the unveiling of a Mississippi Writers Trail Marker for great American playwright, Tennessee Williams.
The ceremony for the Clarksdale marker will take place at 4 p.m. Thursday Oct. 17 at the Cutrer Mansion. The unveiling will feature remarks by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Beth Henley, of Jackson, who wrote Crimes of the Heart. It will also include a soul-stirring performance by the Coahoma Community College Choir. Scholars and dignitaries from around the state are expected to attend. The event is free and open to the public.
“We are pleased to celebrate the importance of this great American playwright, Tennessee Williams, and his Mississippi Delta roots, and we’ve been doing it now for 27 years,” said Dr. Valmadge Towner, President of Coahoma Community College. “It is amazing that this internationally known writer created some of his most memorable characters and scenes based on real people and places right here in Coahoma County. We think it is worth remembering and celebrating.”
The Mississippi Writers Trail is an initiative of the Mississippi Arts Commission, in partnership with Visit Mississippi, the Community Foundation for Mississippi, Mississippi Book Festival, Mississippi Humanities Council, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, and Mississippi Library Commission. The trail will span the state and highlight notable places which helped shape some of the world’s most acclaimed authors’ lives and influenced their renowned works.
Schedule of Events
On Thursday Oct. 17 at 6 pm, the festival will host a Delta Lawn Party on the grounds of the historic Cutrer mansion. There will be live music by Terry "Big T" Williams and the Family Band, a "Taste of the Delta" dinner featuring local ethnic cuisines, and scenes from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof performed by Oxford theater artists Alice Walker and Johnny McPhail, accompanied by musician Wendy Garrison.
Friday and Saturday will be filled with performances of Williams’ scenes and historical events at site-specific locations taking place throughout downtown Clarksdale.
The theme of the Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival this year is focused on the playwright's sister Rose Williams and important women in Clarksdale's history.
On Friday, Oct. 18 events include site specific performances with the participation of visiting artists and scholars: A keynote speech by renowned Williams scholar Dr. Kenneth Holditch; Williams performer and scholar Jeremy Lawrence discussing his book on Rose Williams at the Clarksdale Woman's Club; a slide show on Clarksdale women from Williams' boyhood years who appear to be featured by Williams in his plays; a performance by visiting actors of an unpublished Williams play fragment The Front Porch Girl with special permission of Williams' estate; site-specific scene performances from Williams' play Spring Storm in Clarksdale's Carnegie Public Library where the scenes are set; a performance of Clarksdale publisher and women's suffrage activist Minnie Brewer on the steps of the former Brewer home; and a performance from Beautiful Agitators, by the theater company Storyworks: a scene in the former Illinois Central Depot waiting room between Civil Rights activists and Clarksdale residents Vera Mae Pigee and her daughter Mary Jane Pigee, played by local actors Tarra Rhymes-Slack and Aallyah Wright.
The day will conclude with a wine and cheese party at the Tennessee Williams Rectory Museum featuring new displays of letters written by Tom and Rose Williams 1920-1922 from that very rectory.
Then Saturday, Oct. 19 begins with two educational events: the Tennessee Williams scene and monologue competition for high school actors, which will be held in the George Lewis Theatre at Coahoma Community College; and new to the festival this year is a Tennessee Williams acting class for visiting college students and their professors taught by acting teacher and Williams scholar Karen Kohlhaas. Then Father Jason Shelby will speak on Williams at St. George's Episcopal Church. There will also be free visiting hours at the Tennessee Williams Rectory Museum. The Clarksdale Woman's Club, which is located right across the street from the church, will host a reception with home-made refreshments; and the afternoon will feature Porch Plays performed by local and visiting actors, culminating in Jeremy Lawrence's performance of his one man show on Tennessee and his sister Rose Williams, "My Sister Was Quicker at Everything Than I". The festival will conclude with an after-party at Ground Zero Blues Club.
All Friday and Saturday performances, museum hours, and scholar's events are free and open to the public. There is a charge for the Delta Lawn Party which includesd dinner and music on Thursday October 17 and a cash bar at the Ground Zero after-party.
For a complete, regularly updated schedule of events and Delta Lawn Party tickets please visit www.DeltaWilliamsFestival.com
The festival is sponsored by Coahoma Community College, the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Mississippi Humanities Council, Visit Clarksdale and Clarksdale Revitalization.