Company devoted to Tennessee Williams kicks off with lesser-known drama _lowres

Photo by James Kelley -- Kate Kuen is Myrtle in 'Kingdom of Earth.'

New Orleans celebrates its adopted literary son every year with the Tennessee Williams Festival. But Nick Shackleford and Augustin J. Correro, founders of the new Tennessee Williams Theatre Company, wanted to do more.

Correro introduced Shackleford to the works of Williams five years ago in Richmond, Virginia, where Correro attended graduate school and Shackleford worked in professional theater.

“Now we both love him,” Correro said.

The company that bloomed from that love is dedicated to the work of the playwright.

“The theater (Williams) writes was so daring,” said Correro, “so unique to him. His writing is deep and appealing, and his characters’ lives are so interesting and diverse.”

For their inaugural production, the pair have chosen Williams’ “Kingdom of Earth,” which will be performed at 6200 St. Charles Ave. from July 31 to Aug. 16.

“Kingdom” is a play about two brothers, Lot (played by David Williams) and Chicken (Sean Richmond), and Lot’s new wife, Myrtle (played by Kate Kuen).

“The play is about the struggle between two brothers,” said Correro, who is directing the play. “It’s clear that one is unwilling to let the other have anything.”

“Kingdom” has a timely note, as well, with tensions over possible “mixed-race” heritage. “There is no better time or place for this play,” Correro said.

There’s a sense of universality in Williams’ work, the pair believe.

“The place and situations of his plays are fascinating studies,” Correro said. “You watch them and go, ‘Oh, I know a person just like that.’ Or, ‘Oh, I felt the same way.’ ”

“It’s a very charged play that’s also funny and entertaining,” he said. “It’s not usually given a whole lot of attention. I find that his later plays always get people talking.”

Many people, even if they have never actually seen the plays, are familiar with Williams’ “Glass Menagerie” and “Streetcar Named Desire.” However, that still leaves an entire repertoire virtually unknown, which the founders of TWT want to remedy.

“We feel that Tennessee Williams has been given the Shakespeare treatment — placing all of his plays in a glass case,” Correro said. “We want to bring these plays back for a contemporary audience because there are things in these plays that are still relevant.”

In December, the company plans on showing “Small Craft Warnings,” which, as Correro said, “refers to a weather condition, mainly a nautical term that means small boats should not be out by themselves.” He said: “The play features a group of people stranded in a bar, which at times can relate to New Orleans. There are collections of people stuck in watering holes in New Orleans with their own ghosts and those of others.”

The company is excited to share its love of Williams.

“We want the city to have Tennessee Williams in the same way it has jazz music,” Correro said.

For information, visit the group’s website at twtheatrenola.com.