Saturday, March 24, 2012

Writers flock to New Orleans

Guide from Southern Rep in '40s attire, pointing out Stanley's house
As almost everyone knows, Tennessee Williams lived a bohemian life in New Orleans where he wrote "A Streetcar Named Desire," the steamy story immortalized as both play and film, starring Marlon Brando and Vivian Leigh. Who played Stella? Who knows.

In any case, every year, New Orleans celebrates this event with a weekend of literary events. The festival usually passes me right by, but for one reason or another, I connected with a local writer who was presenting and I decided to attend a couple of the lectures and perhaps pick up a few tips.

I heard a panel of authors share their experiences writing memoirs and was among 100 or so wannabe writers who listened to Amy Hempel talk about short story writing in standing room only.

Friday night, I attended a fabulous performance of "A Streetcar Named Desire" staged in a warehouse that was once a rum factory on Elysian Fields and took a walking tour of the neighborhood where the story was set. We saw the building where the Kowalskis would have lived, which was nowhere near the nightclubs, the Three Deuces bar and the place where they would have purchased their liquor - an essential element. Only United Hardware Story remains - in business since the 1940s.

Williams took a bit of literary license with the details. Blanche would never have found her sister's home had she taken the directions Williams suggested - the streetcar named Desire to Cemeteries and transfer to Elysian Fields, her final resting place.

Southern Rep put a slightly different spin on the story and new interpretation of the characters, but things still turned out badly for Blanche.

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