Woman Wins Tennessee Williams "Stella" Shouting Contest

stella contest new orleans

Kim Foley MacKinnon

The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival in New Orleans wrapped up its 25th anniversary yesterday, as it always does, with the crowd-pleasing "Stella!" shouting contest in Jackson Square, and for the first time ever, a woman won.

Based on the iconic scene from Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire," 25 men and women channel their inner Marlon Brando, who played Stanley in the movie version, by shouting "Stanley!" or "Stella!" for actors who pose above on a balcony.

Creativity is the name of the game at this contest, which is less about prizes and more about bragging rights. Among the five finalists chosen for a final round, three were women, one of whom dressed as a man; one guy brought his kids, who called out "Mommy"; and one buff man ripped off his white tank top and threw it into the audience.

The winner, Elena Passarello, a creative writing professor from Grand Rapids, Michigan, chose to play the role as written and yelled Stella. Passarello told AOL Travel News she was "really surprised" to win – she almost didn't go throughout with it – and was thrilled to learn she was the first woman to claim the title.

Judges included "Young & The Restless" actor and Louisiana native Christian LeBlanc; acclaimed actress Shirley Knight, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her work in Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth"; and Jeremy Lawrence, who performed his one-man play called "Tom and Rose: My Sister Was Quicker At Everything Than I" twice during the festival.

The five-day event, jam-packed with literary theater events, coincided with what would have been Williams' 100th birthday, March 26. Many famous faces were out in great numbers to celebrate Williams and his works. John Waters, Dorothy Allison, Carroll Baker, Bryan Batt, Zoe Caldwell, Robert Olen Butlet, Rex Reed, John Connolly and Armistead Maupin were just a few of the actors, authors and friends of Williams on hand.

Williams, who wrote "A Glass Menagerie" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," among many others, is considered by many to be America's best playwright.

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