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Multicultural Cast Livens Up Tennessee Williams Classic, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ at Pasadena’s Boston Court

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(L – R) Jaimi Paige (Blanche), Maya Lynne Robinson (Stella) are sisters in this production. Photo credit: Jeff Lorch

*Tennessee Williams’ iconic play, A Streetcar Named Desire, has come to Pasadena, California. But careful, you may have a hard time recognizing it. Director Michael Michetti (along with assistant director June Carryl) are doing things their way. Gone is the old “Southern Gothic gauze” that offered a comfortable illusion to placate folks of the genre, the director has upped the ante by placing Williams’ old vision in the new era of NOW — with an urban environment and modern day issues serving as the backdrop, which he hopes will highlight the pertinence of this play for today’s divided America.

‘Streetcar’ is the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, Tony Awards, Academy Awards and has been adapted as an opera, ballet, and has been adapted numerous times for television.

The story revolves around Blanche Dubois, a nervous wreck of a southern belle who is forced to leave Belle Reve, the family home, after the passing of its remaining members. She goes into debt and in the end, the property is seized by creditors.

She leaves Mississippi and travels to New Orleans, where her younger married sister, Stella, resides with her obnoxious husband, Stanley Kowalski. Already giving Blanche the proverbial side-eye, Stanley isn’t very welcoming to his sister-in-law — much to the chagrin of his loving wife.

Blanche, played irritatingly wonderful by Jaimi Paige, gives her new environment — where loud neighbors live right upstairs and a front door leads to the noisy street — an icky once-over. But with no other options available, she moves in to the couple’s already tight one bedroom apartment under the auspices of “visiting” for awhile because she has taken leave from her teaching job.

A lie which she knows sounds better than I have no job. No money, and no place else to go.

Stanley gives the side-eye as his sister-in-law, Blanche, flits around the room. Desean Kevin Terry (Stanley). Photo credit: Jeff Lorch

The Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena, California, where the production is being presented, has got to be one of the city’s best kept secrets. The 99-seat very modern theatre sits comfortably on a small side street just off of the city’s artsy Colorado Blvd., and Michetti’s urban upgrade makes it the perfect setting

In a previous feature, EURweb senior editor DeBorah B. Pryor spoke to star, Desean Kevin Terry, who plays the very suspecting brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, (with incredible conviction by the way!), about the significance of the play in today’s heated national environment, as well as the role now being portrayed by him, a Black man.

Now the actor talks about why he did NOT watch the original work in his prep for the iconic role.

“I made an effort not to watch the film.  I’ve seen snippets, but have not seen the whole movie.  This was a conscious choice to help me craft a take on the role that was true and authentic.  Rather than playing Stanley, how he’s “traditionally” played, I wanted to find nuances in the character that people haven’t seen before,” he tells EURweb.

Directors of the production over the years have had their own vision of the play’s female lead, Blanche Duboir. But director Michael Michetti describes her in this way…

A very “flirty” Blanche with Mitch. (L –R) Luis Kelly-Duarte (Mitch), Jaimi Paige (Blanche), Photo credit: Jeff Lorch

“To me, Blanche represents the last desperate cries of privilege.  The drama arises as she tries to cling onto a world that no longer exists and refuses to embrace the actual world that she inhabits. In this production, Blanche is an interloper, surrounded by people of different classes and races who speak truthfully and often bluntly about the world in ways that discomfort Blanche. And in the end, her inability to adapt sends her into a downward spiral. I think this production also speaks to current discussions of nationalism.”

“Michael Michetti was inspired by a phrase in the play’s stage directions that describes Blanche as being “Incongruous to the setting,” says Terry. “Despite the shift in casting, there is the sense of disconnect between the majority-represented culture and the ethnic diversions represented by the other characters.  Ultimately, America is a place of diversity, no matter what ethnicity is cited as the “minority.”

This new production looks at Blanche’s behavior in the context of current events and not in a theatrical vacuum, especially given the storied history of this play.  Michetti adds, “In the way this cast has been assembled, the production will reflect the broad diversity of our nation.  Through the communities represented onstage in this production and these characters that we think we know so well, the story can help us look at our world anew.

“I think it’s bold to say that I’ll put a stamp on Stanley, although that would be nice if someone in the audience felt that way,” states a humble Desean Terry, after Pryor asked how he would put his stamp on the character.

“For every role, the character gets filtered through me.  Since I’m the only “me” that will ever be, I want people to experience the character in a new way.  My main objective is to see Stanley through my eyes and I try to use this process with every character I portray,” Terry tells us.

The fellas get together every weekend for a robust game of cards. Pictured (L – R): Desean Kevin Terry (Stanley), Joma Saenz (Steve), Luis Kelly-Duarte (Mitch), Christopher Ramirez (Pablo)

The cast overall is very good, and kudos go out to them all. Specials nods go out to not only Desean K. Terry and Jaimi Paige, but also to Maya Lynne Robinson, who plays Stella with real heart. Also, Luis Kelly-Duarte, the unsuspecting suitor that gets caught up in Blanche’s flirtatious web. 

The only danger I see in placing an old play in a new environment is this. You get tempted to add things that may actually be more distracting than enhancing. I found this to be true with the music interludes. The very flamboyant DJ, who was always present at the sound board, waving his hands in the air like he just didn’t care whenever the scene changed — and the singer was, well…distracting overall. Their presence seemed more like an awkward attempt at “inclusion” than a necessary part of the show.

The couple in one of their constant arguments about Blanche. (L –R) Desean Kevin Terry (Stanley), Maya Lynne Robinson (Stella). Photo credit: Jeff Lorch

“I’m excited about the concept that we’re utilizing with this play.  As an artist, I like to engage in material that results in dialogue,” Terry says, as he answers my last question: What excites you about this role? “Culturally, we are living in such a fascinating time and I love that this work will inspire conversation about what is happening in the world-at-large,” he adds.

The scenic design by Efren Delgadillo, Jr. along with Sam Sewell’s sound effects aptly captured an urban neighborhood feel.

Performance Schedule:

 

Thursday, February 15 through Sunday, March 24, 2018

Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00pm; Sundays at 2:00pm

 

Closing: Sunday, March 25 at 2:00pm

 

Tickets and Information:

Boston Court Performing Arts Center

70 N Mentor Ave. Pasadena, CA 91106

Website: www.BostonCourt.com

Phone: 626.683.6801

Prices: $20 – $39

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Is Pres. Elect Biden Obama’s 3rd Term? & What 44 Said About Black America’s Progress Under His Watch on ‘Breakfast Club’ (VIDEO)

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Charlamagne Tha God - Barack Obama
Charlamagne Tha God - Barack Obama

Charlamagne Tha God – Barack Obama

*Attorney Antonio Moore discusses the recent Obama Breakfast Club interview during his Book tour.

Moore harshly critiques the interview of Pres. Obama performed by Charlamagne, DJ Envy and Angela Yee.

He also looks closer at President Elect Joe Biden’s cabinet picks and measures them again Barack Obama & Bill Clinton’s prior administrations.

MORE NEWS: Ripped in Their 50s! Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Strip Down for Weigh-in / WATCH

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** FEATURED STORY **

The Virtual United Negro College Fund Tour Heads to NY, DC & NJ on Fri & Sat-Nov. 20 & 21 (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)

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EUR emt-smiling-people-800-800x450

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*African American students interested in going to college can attend the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Fall 2020 virtual Empower Me Tour. Set for this Friday and Saturday (November 20 & 21, 2020), New York, District of Columbia, and New Jersey will be repped. (This year’s tour kicked off earlier this month in Wisconsin and Illinois). To register, go here.

The Empower Me Tour is an extension of the goals of the UNCF. Founded in 1944, the UNCF, a non-profit, has raised more than $5 billion and helped more than 500,000 students attend 37 private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The EUR caught up with Stacey Lee, the tour’s director for four years, who discussed the importance of the event.

“The UNCF is the nation’s largest provider of education support to minority students,” said Lee. “The Empowerment Tour has been executed for the past 12 years and last year along we offered over $12 million dollars in scholarships.”

MORE NEWS/RELATED: BMEE Authors: Urgent Steps Are Necessary to Address Implicit Bias in Early Education  

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Stacey Lee, director of the Empower Me Tour. (Photo credit: UNCF)

Lee continued, “I think the great thing is that during these times, even with COVID-19, is that a number of corporations (Wells Fargo/P&/FedEx/Disney/Goldman Sachs) and donors have really been providing opportunity and financial access to our schools and students.”

The tour is packed with information and resources so that students and parents have the right tools to make informed decisions.

“It’s a free event that provides educational support, scholarships, interviews with colleges, empowerment, and information on how to get to and through college. We also provide this information for parents as well. We have a parent section that focuses on financial aid and the things you need to get your students to college.”

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Source: Empower Me Tour

Lee continued, “Sometimes we have students that don’t realize that they can attend college. They can receive scholarships. Some of them don’t even know what an HBCU is. So, it’s inspirational for me to see these students receive this information and the excitement that’s around this tour.”

In addition to college information, panel sessions on issues affecting the community will also take place. Legendary rapper Bun B will be part of a special My Black Is Beautiful panel. The panel will have discussions with girls and boys and the MC will lead the male portion.

“It’s about empowerment,” Bun B told the EUR. “It’s vital for us to lift each other up and amplify each other’s voices. We just talk about now what that role is in this COVID world. And with everything that we are seeing with young Black men on television, we want to keep them motivated and centered. We want to make sure that they are not discouraged in this moment.”

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Legendary rapper Bun B is a panelist at the Empower Me Tour. (Photo credit: UNCF)

Ever since Kamala Harris threw her hat into the presidential race and elected vice president of the United States, a spotlight has shined on the fact that she’s an HBCU grad (Howard University) and member of the African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. These facts are not lost on the UNCF.

“Kamala has really boosted people’s awareness about HBCUs and (African American sororities) and the type of people that come out of HBCUs. HBCUS have also provided so many people from science, mathematics, and engineering programs (STEM).”

Bun B added, “We have more than enough examples to show you how beneficial an education from an HBCU can be. So, there is no reason to not be a part of an HBCU because the world is just as available to you as it is for anyone else attending any other type of university.”

Register for the virtual Empower Me Tour on November 20 & 21, 2020 here. Spring tour dates will be announced soon. For general information on the United Negro College Fund, go here.

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(Photo credit: UNCF)

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New Music Buzz: Jazzy Rita Shelby’s ‘Goodbye 2020’

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Goodbye 2020 Jazzy Rita Shelby
Goodbye 2020 Jazzy Rita Shelby

After all that’s happened this year, it’s time to say Goodbye 2020. New single available by Jazzy Rita Shelby at most digital platforms.

*SB Music presents “Goodbye 2020” a new single for the times we are in.

“Goodbye 2020” is performed by Jazzy Rita Shelby and written by Miss Shelby (ASCAP) and Eddie Lawrence Miller (BMI).

It’s the perfect anthem to end a year that has impacted the globe.

Jazzy Rita Shelby Goodbye 2020 looking up - Copy

Jazzy Rita Shelby is fed up with this year and elated about her new single “Goodbye 2020.” Avail now from SB Music (Written by L. Shelby & E. Miller)

EURweb’s Jazzy Rita is also a prolific lyricist who has teamed up with Eddie Miller for “Goodbye 2020” because it was timely and convenient for the birth of a song such as this.

Eddie Miller is a coveted keyboardist & vocalist who performs regularly with Brian Culbertson and he’s the Rhodes Festival musical director. Jazzy Rita rose to notoriety as host & performer at The Starlight Jazz Serenade, an annual benefit concert in North Hollywood with an A list of stars.  As a teen Miss Shelby was inspired to write songs by the legendary David Porter.

This year has been a year like no other.  “Goodbye 2020” is an ode to the world for the year that we have seen and the hope that lies ahead.  Radio Programmers click here for adds.

MORE NEWS: THE REAL: The Ladies’ Experience With Stereotypes in Hollywood. Plus, Cheryl Hines Is Here!

“Goodbye 2020” is released on the SB Music label and was recorded at Wishing Wells Studio in Canoga Park, CA.  Willie Daniels and Mildred Black perform background vocals along with Jazzy Rita.  The video is produced & directed by Jazzy Rita (LaRita Shelby), filmed & edited by Reggie Simon of Simon Vision Media, with wardrobe styling by Jazzy Rita and Poet Roni Girl’s Army Couture.  “Goodbye 2020” is available on most digital platforms.  Click here to listen on Spotify.

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https://twitter.com/JazzyRitaShelby
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