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A Streetcar Named Desire is a play written by Tennessee Williams that was first performed on Broadway on December 3, 1947.[1] The play dramatizes the experiences of Blanche DuBois, a former Southern belle who, after encountering a series of personal losses, leaves behind her privileged background to move into a shabby apartment in New Orleans that her younger sister and brother-in-law have rented.

Williams' most popular work, A Streetcar Named Desire, is considered one of the finest and most critically acclaimed plays of the twentieth century.[1] It still ranks among his most performed plays, and has inspired many adaptations in other forms, notably producing a critically acclaimed film that was released in 1951.[2]

Plot

Other early productions

The first adaptation of Streetcar in Greece was performed in 1948 by Koun's Art Theater, two years before its film adaptation and one year before its London premiere, directed by Karolos Koun starring Melina Mercouri as Blanche and Vasilis Diamantopoulos as Stanley, with original music by Manos Hadjidakis.

The London production, directed by Laurence Olivier, opened at the Aldwych Theatre on October 12, 1949. It starred Bonar Colleano as Stanley, Vivien Leigh as Blanche, Renée Asherson as Stella and Bernard Braden as Mitch.Uta Hagen's Blanche on the national tour was directed not by Elia Kazan, who had directed the Broadway production, but by Harold Clurman, and it has been reported, both in interviews by Hagen and observations by contemporary critics, that the Clurman-directed interpretation shifted the focus of audience sympathy back to Blanche and away from Stanley (where the Kazan version had located it). This was the original conception of the play, and has been reflected in subsequent revivals.

The original Broadway production closed, after 855 performances, in 1949.

The first adaptation of Streetcar in Greece was performed in 1948 by Koun's Art Theater, two years before its film adaptation and one year before its London premiere, directed by Karolos Koun starring Melina Mercouri as Blanche and Vasilis Diamantopoulos as Stanley, with original music by Manos Hadjidakis.

The London production, directed by Laurence Olivier, opened at the Aldwych Theatre on October 12, 1949. It starred Bonar Colleano as Stanley, Vivien Leigh as Blanche, Renée Asherson as Stella and Bernard Braden as Mitch.[1][5]

An Australian production with Viola Keats as Blanche and Arthur Franz as Stanley opened at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne in February 1950.[6]

Revivals

The first all-black production of Streetcar was likely performed by the Summer Theatre Company at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, in August 1953 and directed by one of Williams's former classmates at Iowa, Thomas D. Pawley, as noted in the Streetcar edition of the "Plays in Production" series published by Laurence Olivier, opened at the Aldwych Theatre on October 12, 1949. It starred Bonar Colleano as Stanley, Vivien Leigh as Blanche, Renée Asherson as Stella and Bernard Braden as Mitch.[1][5]

An Australian production with Viola Keats as Blanche and Arthur Franz as Stanley opened at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne in February 1950.[6]

The first all-black production of Streetcar was likely performed by the Summer Theatre Company at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, in August 1953 and directed by one of Williams's former classmates at Iowa, Thomas D. Pawley, as noted in the Streetcar edition of the "Plays in Production" series published by Cambridge University Press. The black and cross-gendered productions of Streetcar since the mid-1950s are too numerous to list here.

Tallulah Bankhead, for whom Williams originally had written the role of Blanche, starred in a 1956 New York City Center Company production directed by Herbert Machiz.

The first Broadway revival of the play was in 1973. It was produced by the

Tallulah Bankhead, for whom Williams originally had written the role of Blanche, starred in a 1956 New York City Center Company production directed by Herbert Machiz.

The first Broadway revival of the play was in 1973. It was produced by the Lincoln Center, at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, and starred Rosemary Harris as Blanche, James Farentino as Stanley and Patricia Conolly as Stella.[7]

The spring 1988 revival at the Circle in the Square Theatre starred Aidan Quinn opposite Blythe Danner as Blanche and Frances McDormand as Stella.[8]

A highly publicized and acclaimed revival in 1992 starred Alec Baldwin as Stanley and Jessica Lange as Blanche. It was staged at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, where the original production was staged. This production proved so successful that it was filmed for television. It featured Timothy Carhart as Mitch and Amy Madigan as Stella, as well as future Sopranos stars James Gandolfini and Aida Turturro. Gandolfini was Carhart's understudy.[9]

In 1997, Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré in New Orleans mounted a 50th Anniversary production, with music by the Marsalis family, starring Michael Arata and Shelly Poncy. In 2009, the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, where the original pre-Broadway tryout was held, staged a production of the play.

Glenn Close starred in Trevor Nunn's 2002 production for the National Theatre at the Lyttleton Theatre, London.

The 2005 Broadway revival was directed by Edward Hall and produced by The Roundabout Theater Company. It starred John C. Reilly as Stanley, Amy Ryan as Stella, and Natasha Richardson as Blanche.[10] The production would mark Natasha Richardson's final appearance on Broadway prior to her death in 2009 following a skiing accident.

The Sydney Theatre Company production of A Streetcar Named Desire premiered on September 5 and ran until October 17, 2009. This production, directed by Liv Ullmann, starred Cate Blanchett as Blanche, Joel Edgerton as Stanley, Robin McLeavy as Stella and Tim Richards as Mitch.[11]

From July 2009 until October 2009, Rachel Weisz and Ruth Wilson starred in a highly acclaimed revival of the play in London's West End at the Donmar Warehouse directed by Rob Ashford.

In April 2012, Blair Underwood, Nicole Ari Parker, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Wood Harris starred in a multiracial adaptation at the Broadhurst Theatre.[12] Theatre review aggregator Curtain Critic gave the production a score of 61 out of 100 based on the opinions of 17 critics.[13]

A production at the Young Vic, London, opened on July 23, 2014, and closed on September 19, 2014. Directed by Benedict Andrews and starring Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster, Vanessa Kirby and Corey Johnson; this production garnered critical acclaim and is the fastest selling show ever produced by the Young Vic.[14] On September 16, 2014, the performance was relayed live to over one thousand cinemas in the UK as part of the National Theatre Live project.[15] Thus far, the production has been screened in over 2000 venues.[16] From April 23, 2016 till June 4, 2016, the production was reprised at the new St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, New York City.[17] In 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdowns it was released for free on YouTube as part of the National Theatre At Home series.[18]

In 2016 Sarah Frankcom directed a production at the Royal Exchange in Manchester starring Maxine Peake, Ben Batt, Sharon Duncan Brewster and Youssef Kerkour. It opened on 8 September and closed on 15 October. It was critically well received with Peake's performance in particular singled out for praise.[19]

In 2018, it headlined the third annual Tennessee Williams Festival St. Louis at the Grandel Theatre. Carrie Houk, the Festival's Executive Artistic Director, and Tim Ocel, the director of the play, chose to cast the play with actors whose ages were close to Tennessee Williams' original intentions. (The birthday party is for Blanche's 30th birthday.) Sophia Brown starred as Blanche, with Nick Narcisi as Stanley, Lana Dvorak as Stella, and Spencer Sickmann as Mitch. Henry Polkes composed the original score, and James Wolk designed the set. The critics were unanimous in their praise.[20][21]

In 1951, Warner Bros. released a film adaptation of the play, directed by Elia Kazan. Malden, Brando, and Hunter reprised their Broadway roles. They were joined by Vivien Leigh from the London production in the part of Blanche. The movie won four Academy Awards, including three acting awards (Leigh for Best Actress, Malden for Best Supporting Actor and Hunter for Best Supporting Actress), the first time a film won three out of four acting awards (Brando was nominated for Best Actor but lost). Composer Alex North received an Academy Award nomination for this, his first film score. Jessica Tandy was the only lead actor from the original Broadway production not to appear in the 1951 film.[22] The ending itself was also slightly altered. Stella does not remain with Stanley, as she does in the play.

Pedro Almodóvar's 1999 Academy Award-winning film, All About My Mother, features a Spanish-language version of the play being performed by some of the supporting characters and the play itself plays an important role in the film. However, some of the film's dialogue is taken from the 1951 film version, not the original stage version.

The 1973 Woody Allen film Sleeper includes a late scene in which Miles (Woody) and Luna (Diane Keaton) briefly take on the roles of Stanley (Luna) and Blanche (Miles).

It was noted by many critics that the 2013 Academy Award-winning Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine had much in common with Streetcar and is most likely a loose adaptation. It shares a very similar plot and characters, although it has been suitably updated for modern film audiences.[23][24]

In 2015, Gillian Anderson directed and starred in a short film prequel to A Streetcar Named Desire, titled The Departure. The short film was written by the novelist Andrew O'Hagan and is part of Pedro Almodóvar's 1999 Academy Award-winning film, All About My Mother, features a Spanish-language version of the play being performed by some of the supporting characters and the play itself plays an important role in the film. However, some of the film's dialogue is taken from the 1951 film version, not the original stage version.

The 1973 Woody Allen film Sleeper includes a late scene in which Miles (Woody) and Luna (Diane Keaton) briefly take on the roles of Stanley (Luna) and Blanche (Miles).

It was noted by many critics that the 2013 Academy Award-winning Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine had much in common with Streetcar and is most likely a loose adaptation. It shares a very similar plot and characters, although it has been suitably updated for modern film audiences.[23][24]

In 2015, Gillian Anderson directed and starred in a short film prequel to A Streetcar Named Desire, titled The Departure. The short film was written by the novelist Andrew O'Hagan and is part of Young Vic's short film series, which was produced in collaboration with The Guardian.[25]

In 1995, an opera was adapted and composed by André Previn with a libretto by Philip Littell. It had its premiere at the San Francisco Opera during the 1998–99 season, and featured Renée Fleming as Blanche.

BalletA 1952 ballet production with choreography by Valerie Bettis, which Mia Slavenska and Frederic Franklin's Slavenska-Franklin Ballet debuted at Her Majesty's Theatre in Montreal, featured the music of Alex North, who had composed the music for the 1951 film.[26]

Another ballet production was staged by John Neumeier in Frankfurt in 1983. Music included Visions fugitives by Prokofiev and Another ballet production was staged by John Neumeier in Frankfurt in 1983. Music included Visions fugitives by Prokofiev and Alfred Schnittke's First Symphony.

In the mid 2000s, another production was staged by Winthrop Corey, then Artistic Director of Mobile Ballet.[27]

In 2006, a production was staged by John Alleyne, then Artistic Director of Ballet BC.

In 2012, Scottish Ballet collaborated with theatre and film director Nancy Meckler and international choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa to create a new staging of A Streetcar Named Desire.[28]

In 2018, the Erkel Theatre in Budapest revisited the production with Marianna Venekei choreographing, Iurii Kekalo dancing as Stanley Kowalski, Lea Földi as Blanche DuBois, and Anna Krupp as Stella.[29]

In 1955, the television program Omnibus featured Jessica Tandy reviving her original Broadway performance as Blanche, with her husband, Hume Cronyn, as Mitch. It aired only portions of the play that featured the Blanche and Mitch characters.

The 1984 television version featured Ann-Margret as Blanche, Treat Williams as Stanley, Beverly D'Angelo as Stella and Randy Quaid as Mitch. It was directed by John Erman and the teleplay was adapted by Oscar Saul. The music score by composed by Marvin Hamlisch. Ann-Margret, D'Angelo and Qu

The 1984 television version featured Ann-Margret as Blanche, Treat Williams as Stanley, Beverly D'Angelo as Stella and Randy Quaid as Mitch. It was directed by John Erman and the teleplay was adapted by Oscar Saul. The music score by composed by Marvin Hamlisch. Ann-Margret, D'Angelo and Quaid were all nominated for Emmy Awards, but none won. However, it did win four Emmys, including one for cinematographer Bill Butler. Ann-Margret won a Golden Globe award for her performance and Treat Williams was nominated for Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie.

A 1995 television version was based on the highly successful Broadway revival that starred Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange. However, only Baldwin and Lange were from the stage production. The TV version added John Goodman as Mitch and Diane Lane as Stella. This production was directed by Glenn Jordan. Baldwin, Lange and Goodman all received Emmy Award nominations. Lange won a Golden Globe award (for Best Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie), while Baldwin was nominated for Best Actor, but did not win.

In 1998, PBS aired a taped version of the opera adaptation that featured the original San Francisco Opera cast. The program received an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Classical Music/Dance Program.[30]

In a 1992 episode of The Simpsons, "A Streetcar Named Marge", a musical version of the play, Oh, Streetcar!, was featured. Ned Flanders and Marge Simpson took the leading roles as Stanley and Blanche, respectively.

Bette Bourne and Paul Shaw of the British gay theater company Bloolips, and Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver of the American lesbian theater company Split Britches, collaborated and performed a gender-bent production of Belle Reprieve, a twisted adaption of Streetcar. This theatrical piece creates a "Brechtian 'epic drama'" that relies on the reflective rather than emotional involvement of the audience—a "commentary on the sexual roles and games in Williams's text". Blanche was played by Bette Bourne as "man in a dress", Stanley was played by Peggy Shaw as a "butch lesbian", Mitch was played by Paul Shaw as a "fairy disguised as a man", and Stella was played by Lois Weaver as a "woman disguised as a woman".[31]

Inspirations

Desire Street in the Bywater district, and back up to Canal. Blanche's route in the play—"They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at—Elysian Fields!"—is allegorical, taking advantage of New Orleans's colorful street names: the Desire line itself crossed Elysian Fields Avenue on its way to Canal Street. There, one could transfer to the Cemeteries line, which ran along Canal, blocks away from Elysian Fields.

The character of Blanche is thought to be based on Williams' sister, Rose Williams, who struggled with mental health problems and became incapacitated after a lobotomy.[1] The success of the play enabled Williams to finance his sister's care. [32]

The theatre critic and former actress Blanche Marvin, a friend of Williams, says the playwright used her name for the character Blanche DuBois, named the character's sister Stella after Marvin's former surname "Zohar" (which means "Star"), and took the play's line "I've always depended on the kindness of strangers" from something she said to him.[33]

"A Streetcar Named Success"

Awards
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