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15th Annual Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival

Tennessee Williams Festival draws international attention

European filmmaker to record event for centennial documentary

Herbert KrillCLARKSDALE - Next weekend’s Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams is drawing international attention with Austrian filmmaker Herbert Krill recording its two-day program for a documentary marking the playwright’s 100th birthday in March 2011.

 The 45-minute documentary will air on Public Television in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, says Krill, who plans to be in Clarksdale Oct 15-16 for the 18th annual celebration.

 A veteran filmmaker for the past 30 years, Krill says, “The main question the documentary will pose is how relevant and topical is T.W. today.”

 “Given that so many German and Austrian theatres are currently staging plays by T.W. and that so many issues he touched are still ‘hot’ today, the answer will be an emphatic ‘yes,’” continues the filmmaker.

   Although the German-language film will be geared to a Central European audience, Krill says he will create a version with English subtitles to screen at American festivals.

   In 2009 two Williams dramas dominated London’s West End theatres with sold-out productions of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and A Streetcar Named Desire.

 In August 2009 the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) aired its Radio 2 documentary recorded at Clarksdale’s Williams Festival to an audience of 13 million.

   Already booking reception reservations for the 2010 festival are fans of the playwright from Oxford, England, St. Augustine, Kansas, California, Michigan, and Tennessee.

 Tom “Tennessee” Williams was born March 26, 1911, in Columbus. When he was a toddler, his family moved to Clarksdale where his grandfather, the Rev. Walter Dakin, was rector of St. George’s Episcopal Church for 16 years.

 When the U.S. Postal Service unveiled its Tennessee Williams postage stamp during the 1995 festival in Clarksdale’s historic district, keynote speaker Kenneth Holditch labeled Williams as America’s premiere playwright.

 “He produced dramas that have become staples in world theatre and some of the most memorable characters since Shakespeare – Blanche DuBois, Big Daddy, Maggie the Cat, and Amanda Wingfield,”said the speaker.

 “He spent his most formative years in Clarksdale in the Mississippi Delta which supplied him with more stories and characters than any other place on earth,” Holditch continued.

 The 2010 festival opens Friday morning at Coahoma Community College’s Whiteside Lecture Hall with Holditch presenting another keynote address. This one explores the screenplay, The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond.

 With its 1920-era setting in the Mississippi Delta and Memphis, the movie was filmed and directed in 2009 by Memphis native Jodie Markell from a screenplay written in 1957.

Later before the movie is screened at the Delta Cinema in downtown Clarksdale, Markell will talk about her own experiences filming with actors Bryce Dallas Howard, Ann Margaret, and Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn.

Performing scenes from several of the playwright’s great Delta plays in Whiteside Hall following the keynote address will be veteran New York theatre professionals Erma Duricko, Timothy Brown, and Marissa Duricko of Blue Roses Productions, and Jeff Glickman from the Pensacola Little Theatre.

 Offering insights and commentary on their readings and the movie, the festival’s panel of scholars headed by English professor Colby Kullman, moderator, includes professors Ann Fisher-Wirth and Ralph Voss; theatrical producer Robert Canon; creative writer and John Grisham fellow Anna Baker; and film critic and screenwriter Coop Cooper.

 The literary conference will also present a paper by graduate student Robert Rae exploring Delta Italians in the Williams drama: Orpheus Descending.

Friday night’s “Meet and Greet” celebrity reception at the historic Clark House will showcase  the gourmet Southern cuisine of CCC Chef Robert Rhymes and his culinary students; live drama, music by Daddy Rich, Jeff Glickman, and the award-winning Coahoma Men’s Ensemble singing gospel and soul selections and directed by Kelvin Towers.

   The elite Student Drama Competition takes over Saturday morning in the Civic Auditorium with fledgling Mississippi actors presenting monologues, scenes, and Stella shouts for $3,000 in prize money donated by Coahoma Community College for their school drama departments.

 Erma Duricko will conduct an acting workshop, and Jodie Markell will talk about careers in theatre and movies.

Opening Saturday afternoon’s events will be an organ recital at St. George’s Episcopal Church presented by Jay Westerfaul, the new church organist.

Visitors are invited to tour the church office and former rectory – a National Literary Landmark – and also to attend an open house with refreshments hosted by the Clarksdale Women’s Club across the street.

 Porch plays with audiences seated in lawn chairs in the historic district where Tom Williams spent his childhood will begin at 2:30 p.m. and continue through 4:30 p.m., and a barbecue supper will be served at 5 p.m. in the Civic Auditorium.

 Student Competition winners will present their monologues and scenes followed by commentary from the festival’s theatre professionals, and exchanges among all groups.

The Eddie Lee Coleman Blues Band will kick off the finale dance.

The festival is free and open to the public thanks to funding from Coahoma Community College, the Mississippi Arts Commission, the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Rock River Foundation, the Coahoma County Tourism Commission, Chamber of Commerce, Clarksdale Revitalization, Inc., area patrons: Fiser Insurance Agency, and the Hal Fiser Agency, and an army of volunteers.

Reservations are required for the Friday luncheon ($12); Friday night reception ($25) and Saturday barbecue, ($12). For schedules, reservation forms, and more information, view the festival website: www.coahomacc.edu/twilliams or call CCC public relations at 662-621-4157.

 

The Tennessee Williams Festival is sponsored by Coahoma Community College