From the exuberance of bright young actors exploding on stage in the Georgia Lewis Theatre to the smooth-edge of professionals unfolding the amazing characters Tennessee Williams created for the world, Clarksdale’s 23rd Williams Festival was a great artistic feast to savor through the Delta’s long winter nights.
Opening with Coahoma Community College fabled concert choir and Susan McPhail’s insightful portrayal of Amanda Wingfield, literary conference scholars explored new dimensions of The Glass Menagerie, and Kenneth Holditch paid homage to Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’s 60th anniversary.
Waiting in the wings were filmmaker Karen Kohlhaas with extraordinary footage documenting the Delta’s immense influence on America’s great playwright followed by acclaimed biographer John Lahr who marched to a different drummer while expanding the glory due Tennessee Williams.
Inside the Cutrer Mansion, the Grande Reception evidenced anyone ever doubting the Delta’s innate ability to recreate magic. With multi-colored paper lanterns festooning the drawing room ceiling, more than 100 guests lined every square inch and became part of the play anchored by Charlie Estess as Tom Wingfield’s absent father.
Magic happened and an unforgettable performance of The Glass Menagerie unfolded via Matt Foss and his Vandal Theatre Lab from the University of Idaho.
Igniting the flame once more as living proof that Tennessee Williams is alive and doing very well in Mississippi were 100 young actors from high schools across Mississippi competing in Saturday’s elite drama competition.
And the “wow” continued touring St. George’s Episcopal Church, its former rectory, the Woman’s Club open house, and everyone’s favorite finale – the porch plays.
The Williams Festival was especially fortunate to have an amazing troupe of volunteers and patrons this year. It showed, and Clarksdale sparkled.
Acclaimed author and theatre critic John Lahr talks about his award-winning biography of Tennessee Williams in Clarksdale's Civic Auditorium
Grande Reception guests inside the Cutrer Mansion become part of The Glass Menagerie cast performed by the Vandel Theatre Lab.
Student actors from Power APAC of Jackson won two first place awards totaling $1,200 for their school drama departments in Saturday’s elite Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival acting competition.
“We had a record number of participants this year, and were delighted to welcome actors from Corinth and Clarksdale High Schools,” commented Kappi Allen, contest director.
Winners in the scene competition were Power APAC, $700, first place; Oak Grove High School (Hattiesburg), $400, second; Clarksdale High School, $200, third; and honorable mention, Corinth.
Monologue competition: Power APAC, Justin E. Bell, $500; Taylor J. White, Power APAC, $200, second; Laural Tannehill, Oak Grove, $100; and Tykala Barnes, Power APAC, honorable mention
Stella Calling Contest winners who each won $100 were Tony Reimonenq of Oak Grove, male; and Antyrecka Butler of Clarksdale High, female.
Julia Hummel of Oak Grove won the best costume award, $100; Tony Reimonenq of Oak Grove won the Judge’s Award, $100; and Deborah Johnson of Power APAC, the Teacher Appreciation Award, $200.
Cash awards benefiting high school drama departments and trophies for individual student winners are underwritten by Coahoma Community College, and the Teacher Appreciation Award is made possible by Dr. Colby Kullman of Ole Miss and Oxford.
The competition was held in the Georgia Lewis Theatre at CCC, and judges were theatre professionals. An acting workshop was directed by New York filmmaker and acting instructor Karen Kohlhaas and Dr. Matt Foss from the University of Idaho.
A luncheon prepared by Chef Brennon Warr and CCC culinary students for all participants took place in CCC’s Gallery.
Taking first place honors and $700 for their scene from the Tennessee Williams play, Night of the Iguana, is Power APAC of Jackson.
All student actors pose for group photo following the announcement of winners