- Associated Press - Monday, June 30, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A dormant St. Louis theater slated to soon reopen is being considered for a festival celebrating playwright Tennessee Williams, who spent much of his childhood in the city.

Williams was born in Mississippi but moved to St. Louis as an 8-year-old when his father had a job transfer. He attended both Soldan and University City high schools as well as the University of Missouri in Columbia and Washington University in St. Louis - though he left both of those colleges short of graduation - before moving to New Orleans, the setting of his most famous play, “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (bit.ly/1jCEl8B ) reported that the little-known Williams play “Stairs to the Roof” opens in November at the renovated Boo Cat Club in a building that had been home to the St. Louis Artists’ Guild. Organizers of a similar Williams’ festival in Cape Cod, Massachusetts will meet with arts leaders considering a possible St. Louis celebration at the restored theater.

Ken Kranzberg, chairman of the Grand Center arts organization, called St. Louis a natural fit for a Williams’ festival, despite his reported disdain for the city.

“St. Louis is the culturally richest city in America, per capita,” he said, “and it makes a lot of sense to have a St. Louis Williams festival - even though he doesn’t seem to have liked it here. Maybe Shakespeare didn’t like Stratford-on-Avon.”

A St. Louis festival would add to the already crowded calendar of Williams tributes: the Provincetown festival on Cape Cod; a Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival; and a newer festival in his birthplace of Columbus, Mississippi.

“Every Williams’ festival has its own character,” said Jef Hall-Flavin of the Cape Cod event, noting that the more established events also feature plays by Williams’ colleagues as well as visual art, music and dance productions.

By most accounts, St. Louis exerted a strong influence on Williams. It’s the setting of “The Glass Menagerie” as well as a city where he became involved in community theater. And while the city where “Stairs to the Roof” takes place is not named, the plot strongly hints at his time in St. Louis. The play’s hero, Ben, worked unhappily as a factory clerk after his father pulled him out of the University of Missouri - exactly as Williams experienced.


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, https://www.stltoday.com

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