The NOLA Project Theatre Company performs “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

Magda Jurczik

This week, New Orleans hosts a literary festival paying homage to one of the greatest playwrights of American history: Tennessee Williams. The festival began Wednesday and ends Sunday.

Born Thomas Lanier Williams in 1911, the playwright was a brilliantly honest artist who fearlessly took on the more controversial topics of the time, including drugs and homosexuality. He experienced both consequences and praise for his work, including violent criticisms from peers, blacklisting from the Roman Catholic Church, four Drama Circle Critics Awards and two Pulitzer Prizes.

Williams lived in New Orleans during what was arguably the most creative period of his life. The vibrant, artistic culture of the city had great influence on his writing. This is most apparent in his more famous work, “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which is set in New Orleans.

The literary festival was first established to allow today’s artists to draw inspiration from Williams’ creative legacy. Though all are welcome to attend the festival’s events, the majority of participants are amateur or professional artists and academics.

Beau Bratcher

, managing director of The NOLA Project Theatre

Company, has been involved in the festival for the last several years and greatly values the aspect of artistic collaboration.

“I think it’s fantastic that all literary figures are able to share their abilities with festival participants in the name of Tennessee Williams,” Bratcher said.

The festival has typically featured walking tours, food events, literary panel discussions, theatrical performances and master classes, which offer one-on-one expert tutoring in writing or the arts. There is a strong Tulane presence in this year’s list of speakers, including Sally Asher, Tulane’s public relations photographer, and Tulane alumnus and geographer Richard Campanella. Other speakers include award-winning author Megan Abbott and biographical author Blake Bailey.

The NOLA Project Theatre Company will make its festival debut on Friday, performing Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at Le Petit Theatre. According to Bratcher, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” was chosen for its effective utilization of both company and community members and because it has not been performed at the festival since 1997. 

“Tennessee Williams loved New Orleans,” Bratcher said. “He was really one of the best people to represent the idea of what New Orleans is. He writes the Deep South in such a wonderful way.”