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Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis celebrates art, influence of playwright

Carrie Houk (left) and Henry Palkes (right) talked about the  third annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
Carrie Houk (left) and Henry Palkes (right) talked about the third annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis.

The third annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis gets underway later this week in honor of a legendary American playwright, poet and artist who spent many formative years in the Gateway City.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed some of the highlights of this year’s lineup in celebration of Williams.

Set to run May 10 to 19, the festival will include panel discussions, a one-man show and a New Orleans-style parade in addition to the headline event, which is a production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” incorporating original music by locally based pianist and composer Henry Palkes. Every night after the show, attendees can enjoy live jazz music with food and drinks.

Palkes joined the discussion as did Carrie Houk, executive artistic director and founder of the festival.

Houk cleared up the misconception that Williams disliked the city of St. Louis.

“He actually loved St. Louis the city. He didn’t really love what his life was like during the 19 years that he spent here,” Houk said, referring to the difficult life circumstances Williams endured during the time. The one-man show will be about Williams’ exiting of St. Louis and his young adulthood in New Orleans.

Palkes said he is a “very strong admirer” of Williams’ work and musically approached the “Streetcar” production by paying attention to how the scores enhance the plot.

“As the composer of a play or musical, you’re trying to track the characters and the action … by the end of the score, I noticed that the piano was really trying to become a character in the play and almost making commentary on what the state of the different characters were for each cue as they progressed in their arc.”

Related Event:

What: Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis
When: May 10-19, 2018
Where: Grandel Theater (3610 Grandel Square, St. Louis, MO 63103) and other locations

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Evie is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.
Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.

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