By Thomas Scott
On Nov. 5, 2014, at 7:30 p.m., the Department of Theater and Dance’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” will premiere in Yulman Theater.
The play is directed by Senior Artist in Residence Patricia L. Culbert.
Written by legendary playwright Tennessee Williams, the play is set in New Orleans during the late 1940s in the years following World War II.
Williams received a great deal of critical acclaim for his work, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1948.
The play was adapted for the silver screen in 1951. The film, which starred Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, won four Academy Awards the following year.
One of the play’s most profound thmes is desire and, consequently, each character’s performance revolves around this notion.
The emphasis on desire is apparent particularly with regards to the sensual relationship between Stanley and Stella.
Their household’s delicate balance is disrupted by the arrival of Stella’s older sister, Blanche DuBois.
Blanche is a teacher who has experienced a great deal of trauma due to the gruesome deaths of her family members at the hands of syphilis.
Blanche never actually mentions the disease, and instead the systematic demise of the DuBois family is framed as a series of “epic fornications.”
Blanche also mourns the loss of her husband, who had been having a homosexual affair and committed suicide years prior.
After it is revealed that she has been having an affair with one of her teenage students, Blanche is fired from her job and run out of town.
Blanche deals with the consequences of her own desire as her inappropriate escapades are revealed to her suitor, Harold “Mitch” Mitchell, by her brother-in-law.
Throughout the play, the audience watches desire destroy those caught in its grasp.
Front and center is the emotional evisceration of Blanche, which culminates in her brutal sexual assault by her brother-in-law, Stanley.
Stella is also a victim of domestic violence, as she is beaten by her husband several times.
Naturally, these scenes have been meticulously choreographed by certified fight choreographer and Department Chair William Finlay for safety, as well as maximum dramatic effect.
The theme of sexual assault is particularly relevant given current efforts to raise awareness about these horrific crimes at universities throughout the nation.
These issues have become more prevalent since the launhing of campaigns such as ‘It’s on Us,’ an effort spearheaded by the White House in September in an effort to raise awareness about sexual assault on college campuses.
Stanley’s brutality is a direct product of another central aspect of the play, which is conflict.
His actions are dictated by the play’s backdrop: a nation in the midst of a significant transformation during the late 1940s.
This aspect of American history becomes evident through the conflict between Stanley and Blanche.
The former is a modern man, teeming with energy and positive attitudes about the nation, whereas the latter is a Southern belle whose best days are behind her.
Both characters directly compete for Stella’s attention, and arguably her favor, yet only one can win in the end.
The setting for this conflict is Elysian Fields, part of the French Quarter, which was coincidentally home to the likes of jazz legend Jelly Roll Morton.
Jazz also plays a significant role in the production and can be heard during transition scenes.
In “Streetcar,” what southerners of the period referred to as “ladies of the evening” openly conduct their affairs in the background of the play’s main dialogue.
All the while, characters are affected by the oppressing heat and humidity of the area, which simmers just beneath the surface, akin to the underlying tensions between the production’s characters.
Stella and Stanley’s apartment was designed and set by Professor Charles Steckler.
The set reflects the stunning disparity between the lifestyle in which Stella and Blanche grew up and the lifestyle in which they now live.
Every detail of the set has been meticulously checked to ensure historical accuracy.
The play opens on Wednesday, Nov. 5, at 7:30 p.m.
The show will run from Nov. 5-8 at 7:30 p.m. and then Nov. 8 and 9 at 2 p.m., with a single matinee performance on Nov. 9.
Tickets for students cost $7 and cost $10 for the general public. For reservations, contact Yulman Theater’s box office at 518-388-6545.