A clash between cultures. The ruining of a life. These iconic themes come together when “A Streetcar Named Desire” comes to Cal Poly at the end of the month.
Tennessee Williams won a Pulitzer Prize for his play capturing the seedy underground and sensuality of 1940s-era New Orleans. Blanche Dubois, a southern belle, visits her sister Stella Kowalski, and her brute of a husband Stanley. Dubois and her Old South values are shocked at the French Quarter, but even as Dubois believes she is the picture of virtue, her past is full of dark spots. This is complicated by that fact that Stanley is a controlling husband to Stella and hates how Dubois has disrupted his order. As a result, the two clash constantly throughout the play, eventually resulting in Dubois’ nervous breakdown.
The play fits our time because it calls for humanity, a trait much needed in today’s society, director Virginia Anderson said.
“There’s a lack of compassion, lack of understanding these days,” she said. “People are so quick to make assumptions about others and to then jump on them, like bullies.”
“Streetcar” will be held in Spanos Theatre at 8 p.m. Feb. 23 to 25 and March 1 to 3. Tickets are $15 for the general public, $12 for students, seniors and Cal Poly faculty and staff members.
Name: Virginia Anderson
Bio: Anderson is an assistant professor of theatre arts at Cal Poly, as well as “Streetcar” director. Anderson started directing when she was 16 years old after seeing “Falsettos,” a musical about an unconventional family during the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. The play showed her how theater can not only entertain, but also make people think critically about themselves and the world, she said.
“That experience and conviction made it particularly rewarding to direct ‘Falsettos’ at Cal Poly last year,” Anderson said.
As for her dream directing job, Anderson said she would love to direct the musical “Sunday in the Park with George.”
“I love Stephen Sondheim’s work,” she said. “His humanity, the equally fierce cynicism and optimism that manage to co-exist in each carefully crafted line.”
Name: Shelby Lewis, theatre arts senior
Role: Blanche Dubois, the protagonist
Bio: Lewis began acting when she was 4 and her mother put her into dance classes. After that, she did many recitals and went into community youth theater in fifth grade.
“There was this spark of love for acting I’ve never been able to shake off since,” Lewis said.
However, not everything about this production has been smooth sailing; Lewis said she has had a few embarrassing moments. Late at night around the time auditions were taking place, Lewis said something inappropriate indirectly involving the director — she didn’t realize Anderson was inside and heard what she said. The next day, Anderson told the whole cast what was said.
“It just goes to show you never know who is listening when you’ve got your sailor mouth running,” Lewis said.
This is Lewis’s fourth production with the department. Other plays she’s been in include “Smash,” “Zero to Infinity” and “The Phantom Tollbooth.”
Name: Audrey Surprenant, theatre arts sophomore
Role: Stage Manager
Bio: “A good way to think of (my job is by looking) at the stage,” Surprenant said. “Everything on stage is controlled by me, and everything backstage is controlled by the assistant director.”
Suprenant said she began managing when she auditioned for a musical her freshman year in high school and didn’t get the part, she said. The teacher knew she liked art, so she asked if Surprenant would help with set design. Surprenant said it was the obvious path in life for her.
“I like to be very organized, though you couldn’t tell if you looked at my room,” she said, laughing. “It’s something I dove into and fell in love with.”
She said it was sometimes hard to manage her peers, because she’s all friends with them.
“It’s hard to break that barrier and be like ‘OK, it’s time to be serious now,’” she said. “It was also a little difficult when I was a freshman because I didn’t know anyone yet, but age doesn’t really matter in our department.”
In the future, Surprenant said she hopes to work with stage management.
“Everyone aspires to be on Broadway,” Suprenant said. “But as long as I like the people I’m working with, I’ll be happy wherever I am.”
Name: Max Brown, liberal arts engineering studies (LAES) senior
Role: Lead Video Designer
Bio: Brown does the pre-show video for the play, to entertain the audience as they are filing in, he said. He also does the projection on stage, such as the skyline. Brown said this aspect gives the play a virtual depth.
Brown got into video designing when he took an LAES class his sophomore year, even though he wasn’t in the major, he said. Design had always been a side passion, but he didn’t know what he could do with it.
“Eventually, passion won over logic,” Brown said. “I’m really glad to be doing it and thankful to the theatre department for giving me the opportunity to do it.”
In the future, Brown said he would like to work on live performances — such as concerts. He cited Amon Tobin (a Brazilian DJ also know as Cujo) concerts as an example.
“I like the stress and pressure of the live audience and having-to-get-it-right thing over editing,” he said.
However, he said working in the film industry on set construction is also appealing.
“I’m keeping my options open,” he said.
This is the fourth play Brown’s worked with at Cal Poly.
Name: Peter Hadres
Bio: Although choreographing normally involves dancing, Hadres choreographs a differnt type of movement. He choreographs the scenes involving violence. Hadres said he started choreographing a long time ago, when he acted in Shakespearian plays in New York.
“That was something you need to be able to do: sword fight,” Hadres said.
He is trained in stage fighting and combat, and teaches stage combat at the Pacific Conservation of the Performing Arts, he said. Hadres also did the fights for a previous play — “Marisol” — at Cal Poly and choreographed some fights for the “Duals of Honor” Discovery Channel series, he said. Hadres also worked on “The Tempest” at the California Shakespeare Festival.
Hadres started acting in high school and did his undergraduate training at San Diego State University before moving to New York, he said.
“I was in a fight company in New York for a long time,” he said. “I put fights together and performed for various venues.”
He has worked as a professional actor ever since, he said. Hadres’s dream choreography job would be “The Three Musketeers,” he said.
“It’s such a swash-buckling, theatrical story,” Hadres said. As for his job in “Streetcar,” Hadres said he is well-situated where he is.
“I just like being around the play,” he said. “It’s a brilliant play.”