The 2020 Tennessee Williams Festival is on, online and on target for another great year of Southern culture honoring one of Clarksdale’s most famous native sons.
This year’s Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival is set for Oct. 15-17, and while coronavirus concerns have prompted the festival to focus heavily on virtual presentations, the annual Clarksdale event has stepped up their lineup and 2020!
This marks the 28th year for the nationally acclaimed festival.
New this year will be digital "Porch Play" which will stream on Saturday afternoon Oct. 17.
Event organizers and festival co-directors Matt Foss and Jen Waller are finishing the online plan ensuring that this year’s festival is both safe and accessible to as many people as possible.
This year’s partial schedule of events are:
WED., OCT. 14
6:30—8:30 PM (ONLINE)
Tennessee Williams & Practical Aesthetics Acting Workshop with KAREN KOHLHAAS
This free online workshop for college level actors is taught by master acting teacher and Williams documentarian Karen Kohlhaas who will guide participants through Williams’ texts using Practical Aesthetics acting technique.
THUR., OCT. 15
3:00 PM—3:30 PM CST
Welcome and Introduction (LIVE STREAM)
This opening ceremony introduces this special “online” version of the festival. Information and instructions will be shared for the week’s events as well as introductions to all the special programming.
3:30 PM—4:30 PM
Tennessee Williams and the Mississippi Delta with KAREN KOHLHAAS
The festival WELCOME will include a presentation by Williams documentarian Karen Kohlhaas on historic Clarksdale and how it inspired Williams’ fictional town of Glorious Hill, in our featured play, Summer and Smoke.
4:30 PM—5:30 PM
Presentation with DR. VIRGINIA CRAIGHILL, professor of English at the University of the South at Sewanee, home of the Tennessee Williams Center.
BREAK FOR DINNER
7:00 PM—8:00 PM
ONLINE PERFORMANCE | PART ONE - Summer and Smoke
For the first two nights of the festival, we offer a selection of scenes from Williams’ 1947 play Summer and Smoke featuring actors from around the country.
FRI., OCT. 16
9:00 AM—10:00 AM
Keynote Address by DR. KENNETH HOLDITCH
Williams’ scholar and long-time festival favorite, Holditch kicks off Friday’s events with a talk about his extensive experience and knowledge of Tennessee Williams and his plays focusing on this year’s feature play, Summer and Smoke.
10:30 AM—12:00 PM
The Poetry of Place with DR. ANN FISHER-WIRTH, professor of poetry at the University of Mississippi and will lead this special presentation and workshop as an interactive presentation on the Poetry of Place.
BREAK FOR LUNCH
1:00 PM – 2:00 PM
Black Voices of Mississippi by PROFESSOR LEVI FRAZIER
Continuing the conversation on the writing of place, Professor Fraizer, along with an ensemble of Southwest Tennessee Community College students will share the work of Black writers Richard Wright, Etheridge Knight and Endesha Ida Ma Holland.
2:15 PM—3:30 PM
Storyworks Theatre Company
StoryWorks Theatre is a groundbreaking theatre company created by Jennifer Welch that transforms investigative journalism into theater and audio dramas. They do this by adding history and storytelling to create high impact, original work.
4:00 PM—5:00 PM
A Mississippi Delta Concert
MUSIC AND TENNESSEE WILLIAMS
No discussion that focuses on Clarksdale would be complete without highlighting its singular impact on the American Music landscape. For the first time, the music featured in many of Tennessee Williams’ plays, along with arrangements and songs of some of his original lyrics will be aired in a special online concert.
BREAK FOR DINNER
7:00 PM—8:00 PM
ONLINE PERFORMANCE | PART TWO - Summer and Smoke
Part Two continues the story of Williams’ 1947 play Summer and Smoke featuring actors from around the country.
SAT., OCT. 17
9:00 AM—12:00 PM
Student Drama Competition
TENNESSEE WILLIAMS MONOLOGUES & SCENES
Long a highlight of every festival, this year’s Student Drama Competition will feature scenes and monologues that the students have submitted in advance from home.
BREAK FOR LUNCH
1:00 PM—2:00 PM
Writing about Place
Presentation with DR. DERRICK HARRIEL, Associate Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi.
2:15 PM—3:15 PM
Special Insights on Summer and Smoke
Presentation and discussion with THOMAS KEITH, the Tennessee Williams editor-at-large at New Directions Publishing Company who has acquired introductions for the reissues of Williams’ plays by such notable authors as Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, John Patrick Shanley, John Waters, and Tony Kushner. Keith will give special insight into our featured text, Summer and Smoke
3:30 PM—5:30 PM
DIGITAL PORCH PLAYS
Traditionally, performers from around the country showcase parts from Tennessee Williams plays from the porches of homes in Clarksdale’s historic district where he walked and played as a child visiting his grandparents.
SUBMIT YOUR OWN DIGITAL PORCH PLAY:
This event will showcase individuals, families and artists of all kinds and from all over the world who submit a special hello or short performance of Williams’ work from the safety of their own porch.
5:30 PM—7:00 PM
AFTER PARTY, Live from Clarksdale concert.
Featuring Live Music from the Mississippi Delta with musicians and place to be announced.
The following is a list 2020 presenting artist and scholars. The list will be updated.
Professor Emeritus of theatre at Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa. He’s a teacher, actor, director, playwright, screenwriter, and author.
Karen Bohm Barker
A retired theatre professor with roles including Mary Tyrone in Long Day's Journey Into Night and Amanda Wingfield in Glass Menagerie. She lives in Iowa with Jeff, her husband of 45 years.
A Chicago trained actor, now based in Los Angeles, returning to the festival after playing "Tom" in The Glass Menagerie in 2015 and "Val" in Orpheus Descending in 2018 – Recipient of the 2014 Equity Joseph Jefferson Award (Actor in a Principal Role) for his portrayal of country music legend "Hank Williams Sr." in Lost Highway
Dr. Virgina O. Craighill
A professor of English at the University of the South at Sewanee, home of the Tennessee Williams Center. This is Virginia’s third year to participate as a scholar in the MDTWF.
Assistant Director of Community Partnerships and lead theater instructor for the Delta Arts Alliance in Cleveland, Mississippi – Charles also serves as the Production Manager for StoryWorks.
A video editor who has been working in digital and performative mediums for years. He recently served as an editor for the Toledo Museum of Art, Montana Shakespeare in the Park, and Mixed Blood Theatre.
Actor; the last and the longest reigning Miss USO; performed leading roles in NY and London. Favorites include: Frances Abbott in In the Belly of the Beast, dir. Adrian Hall; Lena in Misalliance, dir. Ethan McSweeny; and Puck in the Award-winning PBS broadcast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
A professor of English at the University of Mississippi who teaches poetry workshops and seminars, 20th-century American literature, and a wide range of courses in environmental literature.
Dr. Matt Foss
Artistic Director, MS Delta Tennessee Williams Festival this year. MFA in acting, Chicago’s Roosevelt U; PhD in theatre studies and directing, Wayne State U, Detroit. Recent credits: Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Oracle Theatre, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, American Blues Theatre, The Jewish Ensemble Theatre & Tipping Point Theatre.
Levi Frazier, Jr.
A poet, short story writer, award winning playwright and an associate professor at Southwest Tennessee Community College in Memphis. He and his wife, Deborah, are also co-founders
of Blues City Cultural Center in Memphis.
A Los Angeles based multi-disciplinary artist born in Mumbai, India. She is known for her critically acclaimed solo-show Muthaland, which was Jeff Award-nominated for best New Work and best Solo Performance.
Teaches in the English and African American Studies programs at the University of Mississippi where he also directs the Master of Fine Arts in creative writing program. His poems and essays have been published widely.
Professor emeritus, U of New Orleans, w. expertise in Southern Lit. Editor, Tennessee Williams Journal; co-editor, w. Mel Gussow, of Library of America edition of Williams’ writings & other publications on Williams. One of 3 initial consultants who helped Coahoma Community College establish the MDTWF in 1992, and has been greatly involved ever since.
Consulting Editor for New Directions Publishing, a freelance editor, and has taught acting and theater at The Lee Strasberg Institute, Atlantic Theater Company, Ohio University, and is currently at Pace University. For New Directions, Keith is the Tennessee Williams editor-at-large.
Founding member, theater director, and senior teacher at New York's Atlantic Theater Company. Filmmaker, finishing a feature documentary on Williams in the Mississippi Delta; curator, Tennessee Williams Rectory Museum in Clarksdale. Karen served as the Artistic Director of the MS Delta Tennessee Williams Festival in 2018 and 2019.
A NYC based actor, playwright, and singer-songwriter, she is a company member at the Mountain Playhouse and a member of Actor’s Equity Association. She has a BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
A retired special education teacher living in Oxford, Mississippi, who discovered a love for acting six years ago when she was cast in A Walk in the Woods opposite Nick Nolte. Susan, and her husband Johnny McPhail, also an actor, have not missed a MS Delta Tennessee Williams Festival in Clarksdale in over ten years.
A Chicago based artist and producer who supports access and connections to local art with technology and data. He is the Programs and Theater Manager at Arts + Public Life, an initiative with the University of Chicago and the Founder of Chicago Arts Access at freetix.org.
A junior majoring in Theatre at the University of Toledo, he was in 3B Productions' Mama Mia in Spring of 2019 and Hairspray in the Summer of 2018.
A radio host, editor, and producer currently employed at Toledo, Ohio's local NPR station, WGTE Public Media. She hosts multiple classical music programs such as Morning Classics and Evening Classics while producing the award-winning arts and culture radio series, The Rough Draft Diaries.
Christopher L. Tucker
An actor, singer, comedian, and Arts Educator living in New York City. Originally from Detroit, MI, he studied at Wayne State University’s BFA Acting program as well as the Moscow Art Theatre School in Russia.
Cora Vander Broek
An actor last seen as “Jules” in Tracy Lett's Linda Vista on Broadway. Select credits include work on the stage and in television and she was recently named “Actor to Watch” by the Chicago Tribune.
Director of the Coahoma County Higher Education Center/Cutrer Mansion in Clarksdale and is on staff at Coahoma Community College. She has served as the Project Director of the MS Delta Tennessee Williams Festival for 3 years.
Documentary artist, creator of groundbreaking documentary theater co. StoryWorks, that transforms investigative journalism into theater. 2017 recipient of the Midwest Innocence Project’s Sean O’Brien Freedom Award; named a 2019 Preserver of Mississippi Culture by the Miss. Humanities Council.
An education reporter for Mississippi Today, a digital, nonprofit newsroom. She is a weekly news co-host on WROX Radio (97.5 FM), fellow/playwright for StoryWorks, and co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.
Assistant Dir. StoryWorks' 2019 Wade Through the Waters; acted in 2017's Beautiful Agitators, focused on the life of Vera Mae Pigee and the Civil Rights Movement in the MS Delta. Artist-in-Residence teaching theatre to students across the MS Delta through Delta Arts Alliance.
The Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival is sponsored by Coahoma Community College, the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Mississippi Humanities Counci