*Hey S-t-e-l-l-a! Audiences will no doubt recall the line screamed by a drunken and belligerent Stanley Kowalski (originated by Marlon Brando on stage and in film) as he stands outside of a shabby apartment building screaming the name his wife at the top of his lungs. The production, which originally opened on Broadway in New York in 1947 with a cast that included Jessica Tandy as Blanche DuBois, Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski and Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski, shocked audiences with its brazen display of brutality and sexuality — themes that obviously strike a chord. Why else would they have cemented the production in history as one of the most adapted pieces of work ever? Go figure! A Streetcar Named Desire has since been reimagined for film, as an opera, a ballet, and numerous times for television.
‘Streetcar’ written by Tennessee Williams, tells the story of a delusional woman named Blanche Duboir (Stella’s older sister), and is set in New Orleans’ French Quarter in the turbulent years following WWII.
Fast forward to the time of NOW, and the vision of director Michael Michetti, whose production at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena, California, plans to strip away decades of “Southern Gothic gauze” to reveal striking themes of class, race, and gender.
First up in this change is casting actor Desean Terry, an African American man, in the iconic role of Stanley Kowalski. Terry, a graduate of the Juilliard School in NYC, is an established stage and television actor.
In an interview with Electronic Urban Report senior editor, DeBorah B. Pryor, the actor speaks on the cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance of this production in today’s world culture, and how he, as a Black man, plans to make his mark on the character of Stanley Kowalski.
“The significance manifests itself specifically with the casting we’re doing: utilizing an ethnic cast. The words were written in the 1940s, however, what we’re talking about today, emphasized by this casting, illuminates our current historical perspective,” the actor says. “The racial issue, when Tennessee Williams wrote the play, was focused on people from Poland. In this production, we are switching the race embedded in the piece, but still have a situation that can be related to current-day.”
I thought Desean Terry may have been the first Black man to play the role of Stanley Kowalski, but apparently not.
“This won’t be the first time Stanley is portrayed by a black male – Blair Underwood did it on Broadway,” Terry confirms. “However, I’m not sure if this non-traditional casting (where all the characters are ethnic except for Blanche) has been done. Of course, Brando did a fantastic job in the role. It’s one of the most talked-about performances of all time,” said Terry, who revealed he intentionally watched clips, but not the entire film after he learned he had been cast in the role.
“Being cast in this iconic role changes my process because I’m folding my own personal history into the performance,” Terry states. “In addition to incorporating my personal story, the production also includes modern cultural aspects that root the production in the present day. We’ve created a world that expresses the cultural situation of today. This makes it especially fun because the whole cast gets to put their own stories into the production and have it really reflect the lives of people living in 2018.”
Come back for more of our interview with Desean Terry, when DeBorah B. Pryor reviews the 3-hour production; now in previews at Boston Court. For fun, scroll down to see video of the iconic scene referenced at the opening of this article
‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ is presented at Boston Court Performing Arts Center, 70 N Mentor Ave. Pasadena, CA 91106 beginning Thursday, February 15 through Sunday, March 25, 2018.
Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00pm; Sundays at 2:00pm
Previews: Thursday, February 15 through Friday, February 23
Opening: Saturday, February 24 at 8:00pm
Closing: Sunday, March 25 at 2:00pm
For ticket information including a special matinee for the community, and opportunities to discuss the play and socialize with the cast and creative team:
Visit The Boston Court Performing Arts Center via the web at www.BostonCourt.com, or phone: 626.683.6801.
Ticket are priced from $20 – $39