26th ANNUAL MS DELTA TENNESSEE WILLIAMS FESTIVAL TO FOCUS ON 1957 PLAY ORPHEUS DESCENDING
Kicks off with Elvis Celebration at Cutrer Mansion on Thursday night Grand Opening of Rectory Museum on Friday night
September 26, 2018 – Clarksdale, Mississippi – Coahoma Community College (CCC) announces that the 26th Annual MS Delta Tennessee Williams Festival (MDTWF) will focus on Williams’ 1957 play, ORPHEUS DESCENDING, which is set in a mercantile store in the Clarksdale area and references nearby Moon Lake, the Mississippi River and other local landmarks. The festival will be held October 11 – 13, 2018, at various locations in Clarksdale including the Cutrer Mansion, the Georgia Lewis Theatre at Coahoma Community College and several historic venues in downtown Clarksdale.
Williams both lived in and regularly visited Clarksdale between the ages of 6 and 21, and set some of his most famous plays in the area.
This year’s festival will also include the grand opening of the Tennessee Williams Rectory Museum, a new museum dedicated to the playwright’s time in the Mississippi Delta. The museum is housed in the former rectory of St. George's Episcopal Church, of which Williams' grandfather, the Reverend Walter E. Dakin, was rector from 1917-1932.
The festival officially begins on Thursday, October 11, at 6 pm with a kickoff dinner and dance party at the Cutrer Mansion with food by the Dutch Oven and a performance by the CCC Ensemble Choir. The event will feature a celebration of Elvis Presley because Williams wanted Elvis to play the protagonist Valentine Xavier in the movie version of ORPEUS DESCENDING (the 1960 film entitled THE FUGITIVE KIND).
Local residents who remember Elvis performing at the Clarksdale Civic Auditorium in 1955 will have an opportunity to reminisce, following opening remarks by renowned Williams scholar, Dr. Kenneth Holditch, who attended elementary school with Elvis in Tupelo, Mississippi, and who will also give the festival’s keynote speech the following morning. The Elvis discussion will be followed by an excerpt from the play ORPHEUS DESCENDING directed by Dr. Matt Foss, and featuring visiting actors Matthew Brumlow, Heidi-Marie Ferren, and Elizabeth Thompson.
On Friday, October 12, the literary conference begins at 9:30 AM in the famed New World District at the New Roxy Theatre. Renowned scholars Dr. Kenneth Holditch, Professor Emeritus of the University of New Orleans; Dr. Jack Barbera, Professor Emeritus at the University of Mississippi; Dr. Virginia Craighill, English Professor at the University of the South; Dr. Matt Foss, Assistant Professor of Theatre at the University of Toledo, Dr. Françoise Hamlin, Associate Professor of Africana Studies & History at Brown University; and Dr. Clark White, Professor of Sociology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will lecture and introduce scenes and performances at various locations along the historic tour including Red's Juke Joint, the Grange cemetery, the Riverside Hotel and the Collective Seed and Supply Company. That afternoon, scholars will participate in a panel, "Clarksdale, Cotton, and the Cutrers", including a slideshow and talk on the Cutrer family by Williams documentarian Karen Kohlhaas, at the Cutrer Mansion.
Friday evening will conclude with the grand opening of the Tennessee Williams Rectory Museum at 5 pm. The museum will feature Williams' family, the history of St. George's Episcopal Church, and the St. George's parishioners after whom Williams named some of the most famous characters in American drama, including the Cutrer and Wingfield families.
On Saturday morning, the MDTWF continues its exciting Student Drama Competition on the campus of Coahoma Community College where students from around the state will compete for prizes ranging from $100 to $500 benefiting their high schools. There will also be a talk at St. George’s Church by the Rev. Jason Shelby at 2 pm on Saturday; museum open free to the public 1-3pm; and an open house at the Clarksdale Woman’s Club across the street 1-3pm, followed by Porch Plays—scenes and poems by Tennessee Williams performed on four porches in Clarksdale’s historic district that afternoon. The Porch Plays start at 3 pm at 415 Court Street —a house that Tennessee Williams played in as a boy with his friend Phil Clark, who grew up there.
After co-founding and successfully directing the festival for 25 years on behalf of Coahoma Community College, Clarksdale journalist, photographer and author Panny Mayfield continues to serve as Director Emeritus for the festival while New York theater director, teacher, and filmmaker Karen Kohlhaas and Coahoma County Higher Education Center director Jen Waller are serving as co-directors this year.
The entire festival is free and open to the public with the exception of the dinner on Thursday night at the Cutrer Mansion which is $25. Tickets are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the CCHEC/Cutrer Mansion at 662-621-9344 or 662-645-3555. Reservations for the dinner are requested.
The festival is sponsored by Coahoma Community College, the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Mississippi Arts Commission, Visit Mississippi, Visit Clarksdale and Clarksdale Revitalization, Inc.
For a complete roster of events, please visit www.DeltaWilliamsFestival.com