It's the timeless tale of fading beauty, the working class of old New Orleans, rape, and a dude in a wife beater shirt who belts out one of the most famous scenes in stage and film history ("Stella!"). A Streetcar Named Desire was the play (and film) that launched Marlon Brando's career, and earned playwright Tennessee Williams the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. And now New Theatre is bringing back the tale of Stanley Kowalski and his sexually charged enmity with his sister-in-law, fading Southern belle, Blanche DuBois.
You really have to have a pair to try and tackle one of the all-time great stage plays, but it seems that New Theatre's Artistic Director Ricky J. Martinez has taken on the challenge when his version of Streetcar
opens this Friday.
We spoke with Mr. Martinez on the challenges of putting together an
all-time classic and why modern audiences should care about a 63-year-old play.
New Times: Why specifically have you decided to do A Streetcar Named Desire?
Ricky J. Martinez: I've always been a fan of Tennessee Williams' writing, and after producing and staging Glass Menagerie, I was ready to tackle another one of his works. Streetcar is such an epic tale of struggle and one of its many themes went with the theme of our current season, "Overcoming Adversity." At different phases of my life I've related directly to each of the characters in the play: their humanity; their fear; their lust; their desire; their love; their rawness.
How do you think Streetcar resonates with a modern audience?
The play is truly timeless. Written in '47, it still resonates strongly now if not stronger! Those who lived those times will instantly get taken back and younger theatre goers will finally get introduced to a work they perceive to be a film rather than a play. Plus, South Florida audiences get a chance to see this modern classic in their hometown. When staging classics at New Theatre we always look at the writing as if for the first time; as if it were a new work- with new perspectives, fresh justifications- while maintaining the playwrights' intentions, words and upholding the sign of the times he made with this play.
What are some of the challenges of putting together an all-time classic like this one?
The two immediate challenges that come first to mind as a producer are cast size and production costs (laughs)! As a director, though, initially it would have to be assembling the ensemble that will be ready to take on the many layers a work of this caliber comes with and how, in our intimate theatre, we're physically be able to make it happen. Next come lots of questions we ask of our production from all aspects: What is our take on the vision of the play going to be? What unique, fresh choices can we make that stay in line with the original yet don't feel dated?
The play takes place in old New Orleans. How did you manage to pull off the set pieces in your intimate theater?
Our set is designed by Nicole Quintana, who has also collaborated with us on Equus, Raised in Captivity, and The Mission to name a few, and uses every inch of our theatre. Because we both have a very similar visual esthetic and collaborative nature, we click quickly to each other's vision. Without revealing too much, I can say that our set manages to cleverly contain all the script calls and will make you believe that the theatre is much larger than it seems.
How do you think New Theatre's take on Streetcar might stand out from all the others that have been produced throughout the years?
Well, we don't have the famous names that have been attached to the work at its inception, but we definitely have an incredibly powerful cast and crew that is equally as talented and who have stepped up to the plate with all they've got. I don't think South Florida audiences have ever and will ever get a chance to see this monster of a classic done in such intimate quarters. And I think that that question would have to actually be asked to those who come and see it for themselves and experience our version!
Catch Blanche as she depends on the kindness of strangers at New Theatre (4120 Laguna Street, Coral Gables) this Friday at 8 p.m.
A Streetcar Named Desire runs through June 12. Tickets are $40 (students $15). Call 305-443-5909 or visit new-theatre.org.
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