64 Parishes

Spring 2023

Scandals in Bohemia

Celebrating twenty years of SASFest, creating a fringe fest, and a new twist on a favorite tradition

Published: February 28, 2023
Last Updated: June 1, 2023

Scandals in Bohemia

Tennessee Williams and New Orleans Literary Festival

Timothy Cummings, Incident at the Carousel Bar, 2023. Acrylic on canvas.

When Mardi Gras ends every year, leaving behind piles of beads and the fading notes of marching bands, New Orleans takes a deep collective breath, a last bite of king cake, and attempts to take a respite from revelry. But festival season arrives in March, and in this city, there truly is no rest for the weary. The Tennessee Williams and New Orleans Literary Festival certainly takes its role in this seriously by hosting panel discussions; writer’s craft sessions; literary walking tours; culinary, cocktail, and music events; and plenty of Tennessee Williams. The award-winning festival has grown into a springtime tradition for theatre lovers, readers, writers, and those who love New Orleans’s culture.

TWFest was never designed to be a typical book festival but instead embodies the spirit of Tennessee Williams and the bohemian nature of our city. As it has grown over the decades, the festival has added events to meet the desires of its diverse audiences, and this year TWFest will promote artists whose work exists beyond the boundaries of traditional theatre. Inspired by Williams’s love of the bohemian lifestyle of New Orleans, TWFest has created the Last Bohemia Fringe Festival, featuring nightly productions at the Twilight Room, March 23–25.

Also created to meet a specific need, the Saints and Sinners LGBTQ+ Literary Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary March 24–26. With panel discussions, master classes, readings, book launches, and social events, SASFest gives LGBTQ+ readers, writers, and literary professionals vital time as a community. What began as an initiative to disseminate information about HIV/AIDS through the LGBTQ+ literary community has grown into an internationally recognized event, impacting the lives of thousands.

A big change for TWFest this year is an awareness and fundraising initiative tied to the Stella Shouting Contest, which for over thirty years has brought huge crowds to Jackson Square as the closing event. Participants reenact the famous scene from A Streetcar Named Desire, in which Stanley Kowalski, having just drunkenly fought with his wife Stella, yells up at her, begging her to forgive him. The contest is fun and lighthearted, but behind that scene is the more serious nature of Stanley’s brutish behavior. This year TWFest is using the Stella Shouting Contest to bring attention to domestic violence and will host an online fundraiser culminating in the contest, which will take place the Sunday before the festival, March 19, as a kickoff event instead of a finale. The festival then continues with opening night on March 22, a production of Tennessee Williams scenes featuring some of New Orleans’s most talented actors and directed by festival theatre chair Beau Bratcher. TWFest, SASFest, and the Last Bohemia Fringe Festival will combine to make March 19–26 a week of literary revelry and celebration of the written word not to be missed. Full details and tickets at tennesseewilliams.net and sasfest.org.