Monday, March 29, 2010

Tennessee Williams Festival: Late Night Events

Before the Tennessee Williams Festival, I told myself that I would not attend any late night events - and then I ended up attending every single one of the them! They were too much fun to miss! So I went to four late night events in a row.

Wednesday, March 24
Cocktail contest and rooftop screening of A Streetcar Named Desire
Chateau Bourbon Hotel (800 block of Iberville Street)
Described in my previous post

Thursday, March 25
Literary Late Night - an improvisation troupe & a poetry slam
One Eyed Jack's (600 block of Toulouse Street)
Described below

Friday, March 26
Literary Death Match - four writers read their work & three judges gave humorous commentary
One Eyed Jack's (600 block of Toulouse Street)
Described below

Saturday, March 27
Bedtime Stories - readings of erotica through the ages
Dragon's Den (400 block of Esplanade Avenue)
Described below


Improvisations. The evening began with a warm-up of improvisations by the National Comedy Company. The actors took suggestions from the audience and unspooled improvised scenes based on those suggestions. I don't have much to say about this because I found it only mildly funny.

Poetry Slam. This was the main event. Anyone could sign up to perform in the poetry slam for a $100 prize. We wound up with fourteen performance poets in the preliminary round, of whom five were chosen for a final round. Five judges were selected from the audience and given slates on which to write scores for each poet on a 10-point scale. After each performance, the judges wrote a score and held up their slates to be calculated.

The poetry slam was MC-ed by Chuck Perkins, a New Orleans poet and musician. Chuck Perkins' MC-ing was a performance in itself. He was funny and kept a high energy level. I think the audience was in a high energy mood as well.

Poetry slams can be intimidating events for the performers, but this poetry slam was very friendly. The one poet who appeared nervous was encouraged by the audience. When this poet started snapping his fingers, the audience began clapping in time to help establish a beat - and this helped launch the nervous performer into his poem.

The participating poets did not read or recite their poems - they performed their poems. The poet I thought was the best (and who made it to the finals) was a young intensely expressive African-American woman. Her preliminary-round poem was about living with the knowledge that your parents hadn't really wanted to have you because they were too young and unready for a child. Her final-round poem was about the challenges of living with a name like Chaniqua or Nakeisha or Lashandra.

The actual winner was a young male English teacher from Warren Easton High School. Amazingly, three of the five final-round poets managed to disqualify themselves by going over-time!


This was a nutty and enjoyable event. Four authors read from their work.

  • Amanda Boyden, novelist, Writer-in-Residence at the University of New Orleans, and former trapeze artist
  • Chuck Perkins, the previous evening's MC
  • Arthur Phillips, novelist from New York
  • Michael Patrick Welch, humorous journalist from New Orleans

Three judges provided off-beat commentary.

  • Jeremy Lawrence, actor
  • Carol Sutton, actor
  • Kit Wohl, cook book author

The MC was Todd Zuniga from New York, who founded both Opium Magazine and this very Literary Death Match event, which he conducts in cities around the United States.

To me, the two best contestants were Chuck Perkins and Michael Patrick Welch. Chuck Perkins performed several of his poems, one of which was a very clever poem about street names in New Orleans. Michael Patrick Welch's performance was quite unusual, as I will describe in the following paragraph.

While waiting for the Literary Death Match to begin, I saw a goat being led through the lounge of One Eyed Jack's. Then, when Welch got up to perform, he began with a question: "Did anyone see a goat here earlier?" Several of us raised out hands. Welch then said something like this: "That's my goat, Chauncey Gardener. I had planned to have Chauncey with me on-stage, but he smokes, so the management wouldn't allow it. However, I'm going to read an FAQ that I've written about Chauncey, composed of questions that people frequently ask about my goat and the answers I've come up with." This turned out to be probably the funniest performance of the whole festival. Chauncey, by the way, lives with Welch at Welch's home in the Bywater (the neighborhood behind the Marigny, which is behind the French Quarter).

After all four performances and the judges' commentaries, two finalists were selected. The finalists had to run across the stage, shout STELLA, grab a long-stemmed rose in their teeth, and blow out a candle. The two finalists were Amanda Boyden and Arthur Phillips, and the winner was Amanda Boyden.


This is the event I liked the least. It consisted largely of readings of erotic literature through the ages. Erotic literature isn't that interesting, I found. It's a bit tiresome to keep hearing descriptions of sex. It just wasn't funny enough for a late night event.

However, I did enjoy the three burlesque dances, largely because I had never seen this before. Each dancer performed a strip act, the climax of which was the revealing of the dancer's breasts with only a tasseled nipple covering, followed by a brief period of bouncy dancing that made the breasts jiggle and the tassels swirl.

Unfortunately, this event ended on a note that I didn't care for at all - an excerpt from the so-called novel The Story of O. I found this upsetting, and I will devote my next post to why.


I am delighted that I went to these late night events. Bedtime Stories aside, they were fun, funny, and high in energy.

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