There are some plays and films that seem to be the industry standard to which all other plays and films are compared. They contain iconic characters that are revered from generation to generation. As a Pulitzer Prize-winning play and an Academy Award-winning movie, A Streetcar Named Desire is definitely a legendary title. Even those who have never seen it could probably quote it without even realizing it.
So how do a cast and director breathe new life into a well-known classic?
“When I picked up the script to read it a few months ago, I was knocked out by how truly great the story was,” said Director Amy Lane. I think you tackle an iconic play the same way you tackle any play...tell the story, be honest with the characters, let the language shine.”
“It’s best to bring as fresh a perspective as possible to every role,” said Teri Fender who plays Blanche DuBois. “I can’t help but think that Tennessee Williams would far prefer that his plays feel organic and new each time they’re performed, as if they are brand new paths to be traveled, rather than simply repeating what’s been done so well before.”
What approaches do actors take to give iconic characters a fresh outlook?
“The key to taking on a role of this size and stature in any play is to bring your own ideas and instincts to the table and use everything you have to make it your own,” said Fender. “The second you start trying to do what someone else has done just because it worked for them, is the second you’ve failed as an actor because you’ve essentially removed yourself from the equation.”
“It is my goal to be as honest to the piece as possible without trying to emulate or give the audience a ‘Marlon Brando’ reading,” said Chad Cunningham who plays Stanley Kowalski. “I want those who are familiar with Streetcar to discover something new, and I want those who aren't to make their initial experience memorable.”
“I really just am trying to come at the character from her point of view on everything,” said Leanne Hill Carlson who plays Stella Kowalski. “In her circumstances, how does she feel when a particular event happens? Why does she feel that way? It makes her so real to me, and I can justify every choice I make as an actor that way.”
How might this version be different from other versions of A Streetcar Named Desire that audience members have seen?
“I had only seen productions of the play designed with muted, neutral colors...as if the life and color had been drained out of the setting,” said Lane. “But Williams' original script described a vibrant, robust, Technicolor world into which Blanche floats like a tattered moth. It was such a striking image for me and the designers; I instantly threw away my preconceptions of the play and focused on this original script!”
A Streetcar Named Desire runs April 27-May 27, Thursdays-Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. and Sundays, 2 p.m. in the Howard Drew Theatre. Tickets are $35 for adults and $21 for students. For groups of 15 or more, adult tickets are $23 and student tickets are $15. For tickets or more information, visit the Box Office, call (402) 553-0800 or click here.