KEY WEST, Florida Keys — Tennessee Williams first visited Key West in 1941, subsequently buying a house where he resided until his death in 1983. Fans of the Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright can celebrate his legacy Feb. 28 through April 9 with cultural and creative events on the island he called home.
Highlights are to include a March 26 “birthday party” recognizing the 107th anniversary of Williams’ birth, film screenings and play presentations, contests for writers and artists, a poetry reading and curator-led tours of the Tennessee Williams Museum at 513 Truman Ave.
During his residence in Key West, Williams completed “Summer and Smoke” and wrote “Night of the Iguana” among other works. The Academy Award–winning film adaptation of his play, “The Rose Tattoo,” was shot on the island in 1954.
Events are to begin Wednesday, Feb. 28, with a reception at the home of Dennis Beaver and Bert Whitt, founders of the Tennessee Williams Key West Exhibit that expanded into the museum.
Beaver is also to lead multiple curator tours of the museum, introducing attendees to its collection of personal photographs, rare memorabilia, video footage and other items that chronicle Williams’ years in Key West.
Some tours feature Beaver’s insights into the filming of “The Rose Tattoo,” which is to be screened Monday, March 19, at Key West’s Tropic Cinema, 416 Eaton St. Film adaptations of other Williams plays also are scheduled for Monday night showings.
Aspiring writers hoping to emulate the playwright’s talent can enter the celebration’s poetry and short story contests. Entries must reference Williams’ life in Key West and can be submitted through March 7.
The playwright’s own poetry takes center stage at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 4, when members of the Key West Poetry Guild read from his work at the Key West Public Library, 700 Fleming St.
In addition, visual artists can celebrate one of Williams’ favorite pastimes by competing in a plein-air painting challenge set for Saturday, March 3.
Contest winners are to be announced, and the winning poems and a short story excerpt read, at the birthday reception set for 5-7 p.m. Monday, March 26, at the Tennessee Williams Museum. Attendees also can enjoy birthday cake and view the paintings created during the challenge.
The Williams celebration concludes with the presentation of two of the playwright’s rarely performed one-act plays. “Green Eyes” and “The Traveling Companion” are to be staged at 8 p.m. Sunday and Monday, April 8-9, at The Studios of Key West, 533 Eaton St.
Event information, tickets and contest entry: kwahs.org/events/tennessee-williams-birthday-celebration
Key West visitor information: fla-keys.com/keywest or 1-800-LAST-KEY
Burt Lancaster, Anna Magnani's secretary, Tennessee Williams and Magnani on the porch of the Key West home known as 'The Rose Tattoo House.’ Image: Monroe County Public Library