With festivals closing left and right around the state, the Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival is making plans to host this year’s event as an online experience.
Final plans are being made to host the 28th annual Tennessee Williams Festival on Oct. 15- 17.
The Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival (MDTWF) was recognized recently with a Special Achievement Award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters as well as grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission (MAC), Mississippi Humanities Council (MHC) and the Coahoma County Tourism Commission and event organizers didn’t want to quench the spirit and growth of the festival.
“At a time when the arts community is still very much reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are truly delighted to be able to provide grant funding to worthy organizations across the state,” said Malcolm White, executive director of MAC. “We applaud and are proud to support the efforts these organizations have made to keep the arts alive in their communities.”
The festival has been approved for almost $14,500 in grants. The Mississippi Arts Commission approved up to $4,300, the Mississippi Humanities Council approved up to $5,000 and the Coahoma County Tourism Board approved up to $5,175.
The festival was recently awarded a Special Achievement Award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters.
“This will be a unique year,” said Dr. Matt Foss, a theatre professor at the University of Toledo and artistic director for this year’s event. “Rather than see the pandemic as an obstacle, we choose to view it as an opportunity to find innovative ways to share the stories of Tennessee Williams and the Mississippi Delta in a way that will reach more people than ever before.”
Scholarly presentations and performances of Williams’ work will still feature prominently in the festival’s programming along with the annual High School Acting competition. All events will be presented through high-quality online streaming.
“Education and outreach remain a priority for the festival,” said Jen Waller, Director of the Coahoma County Higher Education Center who serves as the festival’s project manager for Coahoma Community College. “We know this crisis is disappointing in so many ways, but it will also help us ultimately become a larger festival with a bigger footprint. I believe it’s all going to work out just fine, and we will learn a whole lot in the process.”
Waller said they are reworking the schedule and it should be finalized by Aug. 15.
This year the primary focus will be Williams’ 1947 play Summer and Smoke, which takes place in Glorious Hill — a fictionalized version of Clarksdale that mirrors the community’s history and makeup.
The primary characters are Alma Winemiller, a nervous, unmarried woman whose father is the Episcopal priest; and John Buchanan Junior, a rather wild, undisciplined young doctor who grew up next door. By the end of the play, John and Alma have in many ways switched places philosophically, and they are both transformed.
Several characters in the play as well as several landmarks were inspired by real people and real places in Coahoma County. This connection to the community is what always makes Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival so popular to locals and tourist alike.
Workshops and learning experiences for students and festival goers will be organized to allow for those participating from home to be fully involved while expanding the festival’s offerings to those who have not been able to visit Clarksdale in person for the festival.
Organizers also hope to be able to offer a socially-distanced community access space at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center, most likely in the Norman Brown Commons Building behind the Cutrer Mansion, so participants can view the live stream from a specific location if they so desire.
An online schedule with access information to the festival streams will be announced soon. Those who are interested in participating in the online festival are encouraged to visit the website https://deltawilliamsfestival.com.
The festival is sponsored by Coahoma Community College with support from the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Mississippi Humanities Council, and the Coahoma County Tourism Commission.
For more information, contact Jen Waller at 662-645-3555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.