Tennessee Williams Tribute returns to The W
Mississippi University for Women will once again be taking part in the festivities honoring Columbus’s own Tennessee Williams.
The Tennessee Williams Tribute (TWT) hosts an annual celebration featuring events centered around the famous playwright culminating in the performance of one of Williams’s plays by local performers.
The W will host the performances of the winning plays in the national 10:4:TENN contest at 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8 in the upstairs theater in the Cromwell Communications Center. The event is free to attend.
The contest was established five years ago by associate professor of literature and philosophy Kris Lee and TWT.
“Williams is our native son, and his legacy is profound; so joining forces, as it were, in regards of promoting his reputation through a playwriting contest, made sense. Having that as a continual focus and goal has laid solid groundwork that has deepened the partnership between The W and TWT, and by extension, both the university and the city,” Lee said.
The contest sees interested candidates submit 10-minute plays inspired by Williams, the south or the southern experience. These plays must follow the parameters set by the competition guidelines including a having a maximum of five characters and being unpublished, to name a few.
There are also a few restrictions on who can enter. Anyone is permitted except for current members of TWT and current W faculty or staff that are directly affiliated with the 10:4:TENN contest. Graduates of The W must also wait five years before entering.
According to Lee, there has been a steady increase in the number of submissions each year, with an average of 20-30 being the norm.
“The number of submissions rises each cycle which helps afford us more opportunities with how and where we promote the contest,” Lee said.
The submissions pass through a series of evaluations, first by students in the creative writing MFA program and then a series of judges until the final three are selected.
The plays are then brought to life by The W theatre program.
“We’ve been working with TWT in some form or another for as long as it’s been around. It is a natural partnership since we both share a love for theatre and live performance and realize how important Tennessee Williams is to the development of American Theatre. The performances will be staged readings, directed by the faculty of the Theatre Department and performed largely by W students,” said David Carter, chair of the department.
In addition to the performances, the winning plays are also published in “Ponder Review,” the MFA literary journal.
The collaboration between The W and TWT is one that those close to it hope to see continue and even expand.
“We are extremely excited to start to combine downtown Columbus and The W. We’ve been trying to do that for a while. I feel like downtown as a whole and The W have seen the need of creating an opportunity for the students, both The W and Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, to have some variety in their options and be able to experience what Columbus has to offer,” said Salem Gibson, executive director for the Columbus Arts Council, one of the organizations responsible for bringing the TWT to Columbus.