Little Theatre, Big Happenings
The Bay St. Louis Little Theatre celebrates Tennessee Williams March birthday with a hilarious Stella Yelling contest and a series of original one-act plays for budding playwrights. Stanley and Blanche would love it. And so will you.
- story by Lisa Monti, photos by Ellis Anderson
“We decided that first year we owned the building that we would start the tradition. Now it’s in its 10th year, all because of the community’s support,” said Cheryl Grace, the theater’s director. “They just support us in everything.”
The signature “Stella” yelling from Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” is the basis for the contest that attracts Stanley Kowalskis of all ages. The audience, many seated in lawn chairs outside the theater, chant to bring namesake character out onto the theater’s actual balcony. Amy Coston, the original and only Bay St. Louis Stella, will reprise her role for the 10th time. “It’s her only acting gig of the year,” Grace said.
In previous years, anyone who wanted to compete just stepped up and paid the $10 entry fee. This year, the contest will be split into two categories: one for adults and a another for kids 12 and under.
The deadline to sign up is 30 minutes before the 4 p.m. contest, to allow for spectators who inevitably get caught up in the moment. “Some people come in costumes and others sign up at the last minute because it looks like so much fun,” Grace said.
Grace expects 25 or 30 contestants again this year. Winners have come from Oklahoma, Texas and Meridian, Miss. “We’ve had tons of contestants come from New Orleans, which has its own contest. Last year we had a gentlemen from Japan compete. It’s amazing,” Grace said.
A panel of judges from the community rate the yellers on their believability, originality, enthusiasm and appearance. First place winners in both categories will receive a large trophy along with bragging rights and cash. The adult winner gets $150 and the young winner will receive $50. Second and third place winners also will be rewarded with cash prizes. Silver Slipper Casino sponsors the contest every year.
In the early days of the Williams tribute, the Little Theatre presented one of his plays but organizers recently decided instead to try to discover the next Tennessee Williams in the state through its Mississippi Writes Original competition.
“Last year for the first time we asked for submissions of one-act plays by only Mississippi writers,” Grace said. The Mississippi-centric works are chosen for production based on their insight, creativity, craft and engagement. Each play runs approximately 20 minutes and has minimal production requirements.
This year four winning playwrights will sit in the front row of the theater and see their plays come to life on stage. “At the end of every show, we do a ‘Chat with the Cast’ and allow audience members to enjoy wine and cheese while asking the writers and actors questions about the show. It’s an amazing evening,” Grace said.
All five plays will be performed March 23, 24, 25, 30 and 31.
Stella Yelling contest
Saturday, March 31
In front of Bay St. Louis Little Theatre
398 Blaize Avenue
Free to the community
$10 contestant fee
Mississippi Writes Original
One-act plays and Chat with the Cast
March 23, 24, 30 and 31, 8 p.m.
March 25 2 p.m. matinee
Regular ticket fees
Bay St. Louis Little Theatre
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