Desire at B. Smith’s

Written by Doug Strassler on . Posted in Arts & Film, NY Press Exclusive, Theater.


The cast of Streetcar revival dished on the upcoming revival

The company of the forthcoming revival of A Streetcar Named Desire showed up at B. Smith’s in midtown last night to eat, drink and discuss their new revival of the Tennessee Williams masterpiece. Attendees included director Emily Mann as well as Blair Underwood, making his Broadway debut as Stanley, in addition to Nicole Ari Parker (Blanche), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Stella), and Wood Harris (Mitch).

What’s notable, of course, about this cast, is that it includes actors of color in traditionally white roles. (Show executive producers Stephen Byrd and Alia Jones brought a similarly interracial look to Broadway with their revival of another Williams’ classic, Cat on A Hot Tin Roof).

“It just seemed like an obvious way to do the play,” Mann said of the race-specific casting. Mann herself is quote familiar with the William’s oeuvre; she was the first woman to ever direct The Glass Menagerie, a play she has gone on to direct again, as well as productions of Cat and Suddenly, Last Summer. “It speaks to the meaning of New Orleans, that gumbo of ethnicity.” Indeed, the DuBois sisters played by Parker and Rubin-Vega will be descended from French Huguenots.

“Stella is tough,” Rubin-Vega said of her put-upon character. “I identified with her sense of overwhelm!” she joked, later adding that “we both want to control situations, we want peace in the valley.”

Mann explained that Williams had always wanted to have an African-American cast bring his Pulitzer Prize-winner to life, but a 1955 attempt was aborted due to a conflicting production of Sweet Bird of Youth.

“The language of the play – and themes of enduring, of surviving life – lends itself to our cast,” Parker said. “It doesn’t disturb the purity of Tennessee William’s writing.” Parker went on to say that having African-American performers take on traditionally white roles shouldn’t be such a big deal. “Why not? White [actors] have been playing yellow for years!”

Underwood echoed Parker’s sentiment. “This play is beautiful poetry,” he said. “It’s about passion, it’s about desire. That’s why it’s a classic. And it is a true ensemble.”

“We’re planning to connect with the audience, like a band,” Harris said of that ensemble element. “Everyone plays an instrument.” (On that note, jazz musician Terence Blanchard will provide an original musical score for this revival.)

“Like Wood says,” Underwood said, “we’re playing a tune.”

Audiences can hear that tune when previews for the show begin on at the Broadhurst Theatre on April 3.

More information can be found at http://streetcaronbroadway.com/

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