Tennessee Williams Scholars Conference

Williams Research Center at The Historic New Orleans Collection
410 Chartres Street

About the TWSC

Founded in 1995, the Tennessee Williams Scholars Conference is a full day of sessions led by highly acclaimed Williams scholars from across the US and abroad. As part of the Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival, the TWSC coincides with the publication of the Tennessee Williams Annual Review, founded in 1998. The journal’s managing editor, Margit Longbrake, serves as the TWSC coordinator and is a member of the TW Festival Board of Directors.

The day of scholarly presentations, discussions, and a staged reading is held at The Historic New Orleans Collection, a museum, research center, and publisher dedicated to the stewardship of the history and culture of New Orleans and the Gulf South, and a partner organization to the Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival.

The TWSC is open to the public and is for anyone who wants to know more about the life and works of Tennessee Williams.

The 2025 Scholars Conference will be held on Friday, March 28, 2025. 


For an idea of what the conference includes, the 2024 schedule is below:

9:00 – 9:05 AM
Welcome: Margit Longbrake, The Historic New Orleans Collection

9:05 – 9:15 AM
Opening remarks: Bess Rowen, Villanova University

9:15 – 10:30 AM
The Archive, the Motel, and the Con Man: Queering in and with Williams
Scholars track queerness in Williams’s work as it destabilizes ideas, traditions, and places many in the US take for granted: the literary canon, the archive, and even public spaces look different when viewed through the lens of Williams plays.
Moderator: Bess Rowen, Villanova University; Kelly I. Aliano, New-York Historical Society; Stephen Cedars, Graduate Center, City University of New York; Benjamin Gillespie, Baruch College, City University of New York

10:45 AM – 12:00 NOON
Getting the Male: Learning to Read the Semiotics of Men in Williams
Silent, scene-stealing studs? Violent villains in—and victims of—an oppressive society? Radical rewriters of the male-female binary? All of the above? Scholars and directors from the US and Germany look at the challenges Williams’s men characters pose to actors, directors, audiences, and rigid societal structures in the 21st century and ask why it matters.
Moderator: John “Ray” Proctor, Tulane University; Caroline Bühler, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich; David Kaplan, Provincetown Tennessee Williams Theater Festival; Bess Rowen, Villanova University

12:00 – 1:15 PM
Lunch Break

1:15 – 2:45 PM
Williams and the Postwar Broadway and Beyond
R. Barton Palmer, editor-in-chief of the Tennessee Williams Annual Review, engages a quartet of the field’s most distinguished scholars in a lively, thought-provoking discussion of Williams and the postwar Broadway renaissance—and of the surprising legacies of his boldly transgressive work and public persona.
Moderator: R. Barton Palmer, Clemson University (emeritus); Mark Charney, Texas Tech University; Brenda Murphy, University of Connecticut (emerita); Annette J. Saddik, Graduate Center and City Tech, City University of New York; Henry I. Schvey, Washington University, St. Louis

3:00 – 4:15 PM
An Outrage for the Stage: Williams Productions in the 21st Century
Perspectives of the scholar, the playwright, the director, and the performer meet in a kaleidoscopic panel that looks at contemporary stagings of works by and about Williams on two continents. Productions discussed incorporate autoethnography, aesthetics of speed and trash, McCarthyism, 20th-century blues artists . . . and even have the audacity to present Williams’s work as social realism.
Moderator: Annette J. Saddik, Graduate Center and City Tech, City University of New York; John Michael DiResta, Skidmore College; Levi Frazier, Jr., Southwest Tennessee Community College; Joshua Polster, Emerson College; Kerstin Schmidt, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich

4:30 – 5:15 PM
A Staged Reading of Entrances to Heaven
Theater director, actor, and educator Nisi Sturgis and her University of Illinois theater company present a six-person staged reading of Entrances to Heaven, a version of an early, never-produced Williams play born of the playwright’s fascination with the 20th-century troubadour poet Vachel Lindsay. Written less than a decade after Lindsay’s tragic suicide, the play features a young couple whose knife-throwing act is suffering. On a train they meet the ghost of Lindsay, traveling back to his childhood home in Illinois. Lindsay declaims his verse and recounts the difficulties of his later years, inviting audiences to connect him with the wandering poet Val Xavier from Orpheus Descending and other Williams characters forever struggling in a world without a place for them.

Tennessee Williams scholar and professor emeritus Tom Mitchell introduces the piece and offers insights about its history and evolution. 


Row 1: Kelly I. Aliano, Caroline Bühler, Stephen Cedars, Mark Charney, John Michael DiResta, Levi Frazier, Jr.

Row 2: Benjamin Gillespie, David Kaplan, Tom Mitchell, Brenda Murphy, R. Barton Palmer, Joshua Polster

Row 3: John “Ray” Proctor, Bess Rowen, Annette J. Saddik, Kerstin Schmidt, Henry I. Schvey, and Nisi Sturgis