• Fest Features

Tennessee Williams, who would have been 104 on March 26, thus enjoys centenary status in the pantheon of playwrights. He also gives his name to one of the city’s most anticipated festivals, which keeps him very much alive in memory.

A plethora of activities surrounds the fest, the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival, which occurred over a four-day period, mostly in the French Quarter.

The Hotel Monteleone was the host hotel and it was there, on a Thursday evening, the actual date of his birthday, that “Williams Birthday Bash” beckoned for scenes and monologues from the TW oeuvre. They were coordinated and moderated by Ruby Lou Smith and featured Festival board President Janet Daley Duval, Lucy Faust, Bacot Wright, Michael Santos, Joel Vig, Aimee Hayes, and spouses Keir Dullea (who appeared as Brick in a Broadway revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 1974) and Mia Dillon. They performed a scene from “Cat,” playing Big Daddy and Big Mama.

Post performances, the audience queued up for birthday cake.

The following evening, and with special thanks to Priscilla Lawrence and Kathy Slimp, a cocktail buffet took place at The Historic New Orleans Collection on Royal Street. Held in the luscious Counting House courtyard, the party honored the 2015 speakers and donors of the Festival’s 29th anniversary. Chez Nous Catering provided the extensive buffet in the Collection’s gallery, where the Festival’s eight master classes occurred.

Notables from THNOC included Priscilla Lawrence, executive director, and spouse John, director of Museum Programs and TW/NOLF board member; manager of administrative services Kathy Slimp; and senior curator Mark Cave.

From the Festival came Janet Duval and husband Judge Stanwood Duval, executive director Paul J. Willis, founders/former board Presidents Errol and Peggy Scott Laborde, David and Marsha Johnson, author Zachary Lazar, Maureen and Bill Detweiler, Jayetta Slawson, Miranda Restovic, Judy and Allain Andry, Kathy and Edmund Schrenk, Albert Carey, Ruby Tremont, and Susie Hoskins, who played host at her art-filled home in the fall for the fest’s patrons.

Also, within the Tenn throng were John Patrick Shanley, who scripted the play “Doubt,” as well as the above actors Keir Dullea, Mia Dillon, and Joel Vig.

The latter’s one-man show, “Truman (as in Capote) Talks Tennessee,” was staged at the Monteleone, where Williams stayed occasionally and Capote claimed he was conceived.

Literary luminaries at the Collection’s soiree included spouses Connie Booth and John Lahr, whose award-winning biography of Tennessee Williams was hailed by actress (and former New Orleans part-time resident) Helen Mirren as “a masterpiece about a genius”; memoirist Amy Dickinson of the “Ask Amy” syndicated column; TW Scholars Conference director Robert Bray; TW scholar Annette Saddick; and Butch and panelist moderator Bev Marshal.

And, all with titles (in many cases before and after their names), Connie Atkinson, Molly Mitchell, Lolis Eric Elie, Randy Fertel and nephew Rien (both writers), Katy Simpson Smith, Molly Crabapple, Laila Lalami, Saeed Jones, and dozens more. Chatter about the fest was robust, with some of it directed to the sold-out “Hotel Plays,” one acts held on various days and times at the Historic Hermann-Grima, and to the opening fundraiser at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art with cuisine by John Besh. It was titled “Tennessee & Toussaint: Soul of New Orleans Gala” with Allen Toussaint at the baby grand and, easel does it, a featured collection of the playwright’s paintings.

  • Legacy Levity

Guests stepped into a decorative scheme of chic black and white as they entered The Cannery for the annual St. Mary’s Dominican Legacy Gala. The décor, from table coverings to auction displays, gave a nod to Dominican’s signature black and white, as did the centerpieces of white roses. Splashes of color came from lighting on the stage in shades of red, purple, blue and chartreuse.

Among the event’s headliners were school president Cynthia Thomas, Patrick Suffern from the DHS board of directors and wife Monique; James P. Raymond Jr. of the foundation that bears his name and wife/Dominican parent Anne Raymond — the James P. Raymond Jr. Foundation and First NBC were the donors in the “Legacy” category, the highest one for giving; and from First NBC, parents Ernest and Joan Harrison.

Also noted were parents Craig and Sheri Cheramie, Sharon and Mark Rodi, and scores more from the sponsor roster. The party flow was quite comfortable. In the principal room, food was served and the band played, but those wanting a quieter area moseyed to side rooms with furniture. In one of them, an amazing dessert bar produced a good bit of sweet-tooth traffic.

Toulouse Gourmet Catering purveyed, setting up Friday-in-Lent specialties, such as the passed truffled mac ‘n’ cheese, smoked salmon canapes, and fried crab balls, along with the buffet’s enticements. Quite a few of the gala-goers were there earlier for the patron party, where the St. Mary’s Dominican High School Jazz Ensemble offered the musical menu.

Much of the evening’s excitement was generated by the auctions, silent and live. Patrick Thompson and Gerry Thompson spearheaded that activity through Thompson Auction Service LLC, “online and in person management.” Susan Adam, the Cheramies, and Sharon Rodi were among the “silent” winners. For the live portion, Mark Romig stepped forward as auctioneer. Donors included Maers and Goldman, the school itself (reserved parking on campus), Ralph’s on the Park, and Dianne Bernasconi. Nancy and Jon Glueck, John Donahue, Michael Gilbert, and the Rodis (again!) placed top bids.

The school has been a tradition in Sharon Rodi’s family: “Our granddaughters are fifth generation Dominicanites,” said Sharon, who added, “The Legacy Gala was exceptional. It was a wonderful venue and had a great cause and incredible auction items.”

Another highlight of the bash was the band. “Get ready” asserted the Benchwarmers, who then launched into “Brick House.” People packed the floor to dance.

  • Emerald Gala

It was a gem of a gala! On a recent Saturday evening, and with Dr. Fred and Shannon Cerise as the presenting sponsors, Archbishop Chapelle High School held its annual Emerald Gala promising — and delivering — dinner, music by Witness, auction ado and raffles. There was also a special presentation of the 2015 Deus Providebit Award to Mr. Joe Dempsey, who was accompanied by his wife, Rae.

Within the “Emerald” social faceting were 300 people for the patron party with music by the Rummell-Chapelle Jazz Band and the 400 gala-goers. They all milled about an area decorated in green and white with black drapery and illuminated auction boards in the Chapelle gymnasium. They crossed their fingers, too, for luck at the car raffle for a 2015 Toyota Camry donated by the Ray and Jessica Brandt Family Foundation, and at the auction boards. The live one marqueed 11 items including art, sports goodies, trips and a yellow Labrador puppy.

Around and about were advisory board Chairwomen Erin Caruso and husband Joseph, the above Brandts, Dr. Fred Cerise with sister Cissy Laforge and their mother Audrey Cerise, Eric and Kelly DeRoche, Mike Mitternight and Jere, Dr. Cherie Drez Bragg and husband Dr. Jim, Mike and Kim Sorensen, Cynthia Mathes Molyneux, Mariela Troxclair Twiggs, Jeffery and Pamela Reid, Mike Calamari and daughter Victoria Calamari Lombard, Trisha Voltz Carlson and Mike, Cindy and Rob Wooderson, and Robin and Tony Schlosser.

When the band really got going, and the crowd heeded its call, it became a real Witness to joyful boogieing.