Recommended Theater: 9TH ANNUAL TENNESSEE WILLIAMS ST. LOUIS (The Grandel Theatre and More in Grand Center)

Post image for Recommended Theater: 9TH ANNUAL TENNESSEE WILLIAMS ST. LOUIS (The Grandel Theatre and More in Grand Center)

by Lamont Williams on June 11, 2024

in Concerts / Events,Theater-Regional

“I’m determined to do it–and nothing’s more determined than a cat on a tin roof–is there? Time goes by so fast. Nothin’ can outrun it.” – Maggie, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” Tennessee Williams

This year’s Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis will give center stage to Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by award-winning Michael Wilson at The Grandel Theatre in Grand Center. Also, there is Life Upon the Wicked Stage, three one-act plays with music directed by former St. Louisan Brian Hohlfeld and more. Tickets are on sale through Metrotix. Additional information and Festival event details can be found at


Directed by Michael Wilson
August 8-18, 2024
Grandel Theatre, Grand Central

7:00 pm Thursday-Saturday, 3:00 pm Sunday.

A gut-wrenching display of toxic familial tensions and ladened southern gothic power structures, this piece will serve as the centerpiece of our jaw-dropping 9th Annual Festival. This Pulitzer Prize winning drama follows the story of the Pollitts, a wealthy southern family whose history of greed and deception looms overhead as the imminent death of the family’s patriarch approaches. Siblings and spouses go head to head to secure the Pollitt fortune, weaving an overwhelming web of mistruths. Post-show commentary will be conducted by Resident Scholar Tom Mitchell on Sunday August 12 and Thursday August 15.


“Life Upon the Wicked Stage / Celebrating Grand Center Theatre District – Then and Now” will be the focus for three one-act plays with music directed by former St. Louisan Brian Hohlfeld:

  • “In Our Profession”
  • “The Magic Tower”
  • “The Fat Man’s Wife”

Almost 100 years ago, what we now call Grand Center in St. Louis was the place to go for entertainment. Vaudeville was struggling but still popular…double-features (with live acts in between) played all day at The Fabulous Fox and Missouri theaters…music poured from dance halls and clubs…and the hotels were packed with the touring casts of last year’s Broadway’s hits.

Young Tom Williams soaked it all up.

In celebration of the history and the continuing charm of Grand Center, TWStL will present “Life Upon the Wicked Stage” taking place upstairs at The Curtain Call Lounge just steps from the bustling streets and locations where much of the action takes place.

“Like the rest of the theatre-going public, Tom was intrigued by what went on backstage, a world he would soon become familiar with, and imagined what the lives of the nomadic show-folk must be like. He brings them to life with affection and bemusement in these one-acts all set in the 1930s and portrays the ups and downs of a career in show-biz. In these early plays, Williams, still finding his voice, is clearly influenced by the plots and styles of the movies he would have seen on this very street, bringing the experience full circle,” explains Houk.

The theatrical but intimate setting of the Curtain Call is perfect for a program about show-biz. Like a “mini-jukebox musical,” Life Upon the Wicked Stage features songs from the period to evoke the era of Vaudeville and the type of entertainment Tom would have encountered in his Grand Avenue outings long, long ago…


Presented by resident scholar Tom Mitchell
August 10, 2024
Beginning at 9:00am

The following panels – which will further shed light upon the themes of the Festival – will take place at The Grandel.

Secrets of Tennessee’s Stage Directions at 9:00am

In the scripts for his plays, Tennessee Williams always communicated details about the settings and characters. Although the audience doesn’t read the stage directions, they see the result. This panel will look at what he says about Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and The Magic Tower.

The Wicked Stage: 1930s Theatre and Performances in St Louis at 10:00am

As a young man in St. Louis, Tennessee (then Tom) Williams was drawn to the theatre and to the movies. Grand Avenue at that time was illuminated by movie marquees and enlivened by the people who once lived in the neighborhood. This discussion will provide an overview of the influential entertainments of St. Louis back in the years when Tennessee was still Tom.

“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”: Revision upon Revision at 11:00am

Tennessee Williams disagreed with stage director Elia Kazan about the ending of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” as it was being prepared for its original Broadway production. In the end, the compromise: Kazan called the shots on how the play ended onstage, but Tennessee published his desired ending. The movie version of the play suffered yet even more revisions as the sexual content of the play was tamed for a general audience. This discussion will explore the revisions as well as the impact of such revision on the audience.

Reading of “Stella for Star” an adaptation of the first award-winning story by the young Tom Williams at noon

Adapted by Joi Hoffsommer and Christine Sevec-Johnson, performed with scripts in hand. “Stella for Star” is a short story about the woman Jonathan Swift named “Stella.” Swift was the 18th century English satirist who wrote Gulliver’s Travels and played an influential role in politics of his time. Stella was influential as well, and the story deals with the way in which she haunted Swift’s thoughts and memories. It is an early example of Tennessee Williams’s fascination with intriguing female characters. He received first place from the St. Louis Artists’ Guild, a prize awarded by Josephine Johnson: another significant female. At the time of Williams’s award, Johnson, from Kirksville and a student at Washington University, had just won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction – the youngest recipient in the prize’s history.


A Walking Tour: Grand Center Theatre District, Then and Now… led by Mitchell

Sunday, August 11 at 10:00am
Meeting place: Front of Grandel Theatre

The St. Louis City arts area now known for the Grandel Theatre, the Fabulous Fox Theatre, and Powell Hall, in the 1920s and 30s was home to an even more vibrant theatre and movie scene. The district was also the center of radical young artists. This walking tour will view the neighborhood through the eyes of the young man who was beginning to imagine himself as  Tennessee Williams.


  • Late Night Open Mic “Life Upon the Wicked Stage”
  • Tennessee Williams Tribute Reading : A Celebration of Tennessee Williams

Pool Party July 7 at the home of Bill Donius and Jay Perez honoring board member and continued supporter, John Russell. Get Ready for the Red Hot Season with the 3rd annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis Pool Party! Sunday, July 14th | 3:00PM – 6:00PM | 8 Kingsbury Place | St. Louis, MO 63112. Rain or Shine Bring a Towel! Enjoy yummy food, cocktails, + meet the cast from TWSTL Festival. Pool Chic attire- with a splash of red. Tickets: $150 or $250 for Two. RSVP by July 1st.

On May 15th at 7:30pm, a fundraiser cabaret performance of Grande Dames: A Celebration of the Diva with Amy Jo Jackson and Musical Director Brian Nash, back by popular demand, at The Curtain Call Lounge. An additional public performance will take place May 16 at 7:30pm honoring board member Jill McGuire. This cabaret will feature an eclectic array of divas of the stage and screen (both real and fictional) like Fanny Brice, Norma Desmond, Stevie Nicks, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, and more.

“The last eight seasons HAVE gone by so fast – it is hard to believe how much we have grown,” explains Carrie Houk, Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis’ Executive Artistic Director. “This year we happily return to our home – Grand Center. In addition to bringing you the play you have all been waiting for, we celebrate Grand Center Theatre District with a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants! As Mrs. O’Fallon exclaims in The Magic Tower – “You show people!  Always putting on an act!” That’s what we do and we cannot wait to share our wares with you.”

About the Festival

In 2014, award-winning producer, casting director, actor, and educator Carrie Houk produced Williams’ Stairs to the Roof with such success that the ongoing annual Festival was established. The Festival, which aims to enrich the cultural life of St. Louis by producing an annual theater festival and other artistic events that celebrate the artistry and life of Tennessee Williams, was named the Arts Startup of the Year Award by the Arts and Education Council at the 2019 St. Louis Arts Awards. In its eight iterations since 2016, the Festival has attracted thousands to its readings, panel discussions, concerts, exhibitions, and productions, has reached hundreds of young people through its educational programming, and has garnered 13 awards from the St. Louis Theater Circle and was recently nominated for a  St. Louis Theater Circle awards for Outstanding Performer in a Drama, Female or Non-Binary Role for 2023’s Suddenly Last Summer.

About Tennessee Williams

Born Thomas Lanier Williams III in 1911 in Mississippi, Williams moved to St. Louis at age seven, when his father was made an executive with the International Shoe Company (where the City Museum and the Last Hotel are now located). He lived here for more than two decades, attending Washington University, working at the International Shoe Company, and producing his first plays at local theaters. He credited his sometimes-difficult experiences in St. Louis for the deeply felt poetic essence that permeates his artistry. When asked later in life when he left St. Louis, he replied, “I never really left.” Most people are familiar with the famous works that have garnered multiple Pulitzer Prizes, Tony Awards, and Academy Awards, such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer. He also wrote hundreds of additional plays, stories, essays, and poems, many of which are only now seeing the light of day as his estate permits greater access. He is today considered by many leading authorities to be one of America’s greatest playwrights.

Leave a Comment