Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tennessee Williams alive in New Orleans

Stanley look-alike after losing the shouting contest, but still smiling
Preeminent American playwright, Tennessee Williams, who died in 1983 at age 71, lives on in New Orleans, his adopted city, which annually celebrates his works with a five-day Tennessee Williams Festival.

Performances, discussions, walking tours, parties and an opening night gala are some of the events. An all-access festival pass for full emersion costs $500. Most famous for penning "The Glass Menagerie" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," based in the City that Care Forgot, Williams is also esteemed for his flamboyant lifestyle, so in keeping with New Orleans.

This year marks the 25th festival, 100th anniversary of the playwright's birth and the death of the "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor was central to Saturday's panel discussion, "Tennessee Williams and Company: His Essential Actors."

Sunday, however, dozens of contenders vied publicly for the top prize in Jackson Square during the annual "Stella" shouting contest.

From the Times-Picayune...
A popular highlight of the Tennessee Williams Festival has become the annual "Stella!" shouting contest in Jackson Square. Inspired by the iconic scene from Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire," men and women gather each year to compete by calling for Stella or Stanley who oversee the festivities on a nearby balcony.

This year, contestants pushed the envelope with some creative takes on the classic scene. Second-place winner Greg Saurage of Folsom shouted with the help of his wife and children, all in white T-shirts. Nari Tomassetti of New Orleans donned men's clothes and facial hair and shouted until a "police officer" carried her away; Tomassetti carried away third place.

The winner this year, however, featured a piercing cry by Elena Passarello of Grand Rapids, Mich., who decided to defy gender expectations and call to Stella instead of Stanley. Passarello left with a trophy, a dinner cruise on the Mississippi, bowling passes from Rock-N-Bowl, and a gift pack from Belladonna Day Spa.

Contest winner

On the balcony this year, festival President Janet Duval played the contestant's Stella while Matt Payne stood as Stanley. Contest judges included actress Shirley Knight and "The Young and the Restless" star Christian LeBlanc. Regions Bank sponsored the contest.

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