KEY WEST, Florida Keys — For more than 30 years, internationally renowned playwright Tennessee Williams lived and wrote theatrical masterpieces in Key West. Fans can celebrate his extraordinary talent and life with a series of cultural events throughout March, the Pulitzer Prize winner’s birthday month.
The Key West Art & Historical Society, operator of the Tennessee Williams Museum at 513 Truman Ave., spearheads the annual Tennessee Williams Key West Festival. Born March 26, 1911, Williams helped shape the island’s rich literary culture, writing pivotal works including “Night of the Iguana” and The Rose Tattoo” in Key West after becoming a resident in 1949.
Events are to begin Friday, March 1, with a VIP guided tour of the museum led by curator Dennis Beaver. Among the museum’s extensive collection are personal photographs, first-edition books, plays, an intricate artist-crafted replica of Williams’ Key West home and a typewriter he used while living on the island.
Festival activities include Waterfront Playhouse’s one-night-only staged reading of his “Ten Blocks on the Camino Real,” short story and poetry contests, a cocktail-making class, a plein air painting challenge that recalls the playwright’s artistry, and a “Rose Tattoo” garden party and museum fundraiser Sunday, March 3, at the Key West home of Beaver and Bert Whitt.
To commemorate Williams’ creative legacy, Key West’s Tropic Cinema, 416 Eaton St., is to show five films adapted from his plays. Four are scheduled on Monday nights in March: “The Rose Tattoo” (filmed primarily in Key West), “Baby Doll,” “Period of Adjustment” and “The Fugitive Kind.” In addition, Tropic Cinema plans a free outdoor screening of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Festival attendees can explore Key West sites associated with Williams on a historic walking tour and an excursion dubbed “A Trolley Tour Named Desire,” both led by Beaver. Other events include a “Happy Hour with the Historian” lecture by Cori Convertito, Ph.D., about the playwright’s life in the island city, and “The Tennessee Williams Soundtrack,” an evening of song featuring local performers Bobby Nesbitt and Carmen Rodriguez.
Activities are to conclude with a free-admission “birthday party” at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 26 — the 113th anniversary of Williams’ birth — at the Tennessee Williams Museum. Attendees can anticipate champagne, birthday cake, the announcement of the short story and poetry contest winners, and winners’ readings of their work.
Festival information and tickets: kwahs.org/museums/tennessee-williams/twfestival
Tennessee Williams lived in this house on Duncan Street in Key West for over 30 years, helping to shape the rich literary culture of the island city.
The Tennessee Williams Museum is filled with collections of Williams' personal photographs, first-edition books and more. Photo: Carol Tedesco
Festival attendees can explore Key West sites associated with Williams on an excursion dubbed A Trolley Tour Named Desire. Photo: Old Town Trolley Key West