A Streetcar Named Desire

Original cast

  • Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski
  • Jessica Tandy as Blanche Du Bois
  • Kim Hunter as Stella Kowalski
  • Karl Malden as Harold "Mitch" Mitchell
  • Rudy Bond as Steve Hubbell
  • Nick Dennis as Pablo Gonzales
  • Peg Hillias as Eunice Hubbell
  • Vito Christi as Young Collector
  • Richard Garrick as A Strange Man
  • Ann Dere as A Strange Woman
  • Gee Gee James as Negro Woman
  • Edna Thomas as Mexican Woman

Original London production

The London production, directed by Laurence Olivier, opened on October 12, 1949, and starred Bonar Colleano, Vivien Leigh, and Renee Asherson.[1]

Belle Reprieve

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 gender twisted adaption of Streetcar. “This theatrical piece creates a Brechtian,” an “epic drama” that relies on the reflective attachment of the audience rather than emotional involvement, created by the German poet and playwright, Bertolt Brecht, “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”. [6]

Influence on 20th-century theatre

By the close of the 19th century, melodrama began to disappear from the theater. More and more, the focus was on a style of acting called dramatic naturalism.[7]

By the time A Streetcar Named Desire was written and produced, melodrama was in its last stages and Blanche DuBois's memorable personality used it to illustrate exactly how misleading melodramatic acting could be.

Exaggerated sighs, unnecessary screams of distress, and fluttery hand gestures are all employed by Blanche throughout the play. Dramatic lines about needing rescuing (which are now often seen as clichéd) are an internal part of Blanche's working. They veil her true personality (that of a sick, unbalanced woman) and allow her to play with men like Mitch, who falls for her histrionics and becomes convinced he will be her savior.

With the 20th century's arrival came dramatic naturalism, based on Constantin Stanislavski's method-acting system. Unlike melodrama, dramatic naturalism focused on realistic acting, where actors were asked to recall memories to help them emote realistically during scenes, as per Stanislavski's method. Streetcar′s first director, Elia Kazan, employed a Stanislavski reading on every play he worked on and his notes on Streetcar depicted not a melodramatic villainous Stanley Kowalski, but a defensive, flawed, and relatable Stanley, whom Marlon Brando portrayed well.[8]

The biggest example of dramatic naturalism is Blanche's opponent, Stanley, who in the first production of Streetcar was played by method-actor Marlon Brando. After his exemplary performance as a lustful, animal-like, yet needy Stanley, American theater saw a significant shift away from melodrama and toward dramatic naturalism. Brando has been hailed as the father of theatrical stars like James Dean and Jack Nicholson.[9][10]


Tallulah Bankhead, whom Williams had in mind when writing the play, starred in a 1956 New York City Center Company production directed by Herbert Machiz. The production, which was staged at the Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami, was not well received and only ran 300 performances.

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.[11]

Famously, The Simpsons also did an episode, A Streetcar Named Marge, in which the play was featured. Ned Flanders and Marge took the leading roles as Stanley and Blanche, respectively.

The Spring 1988 revival at the Circle in the Square Theatre starred Aidan Quinn opposite Blythe Danner as Blanche and Frances McDormand as Stella.[12]

A highly publicized revival in 1992 starred Alec Baldwin as Stanley and Jessica Lange as Blanche. It was staged at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, the same theatre that the original production was staged in. 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.[13]

In 1997, Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre 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 occurred, began a production of the play for its 200th anniversary season.

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.[14] The production would mark Natasha Richardson's final appearance on Broadway owing to her death in 2009 in a skiing accident.

In January 2009, an African-American production of A Streetcar Named Desire premiered at Pace University, directed by Steven McCasland. The production starred Lisa Lamothe as Blanche, Stephon O'Neal Pettway as Stanley, and Jasmine Clayton as Stella, and featured Sully Lennon as Allan Gray, the ghost of Blanche's dead husband. The first all-black production of "Streetcar" was probably the one 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 much too numerous to list here.

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.[15]

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

The 2010 Writers' Theater of Chicago production of A Streetcar Named Desire was located in Glencoe, Illinois. The final performance of this play was on August 15, 2010.[16]

A production at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, starring Ricardo Antonio Chavira as Stanley, Gretchen Egolf as Blanche and Stacia Rice as Stella, ran from July through August 2010.

In November 2010, an Oxford University student production was staged at the Oxford Playhouse which sold out and was critically acclaimed.[17]

In April 2012, Blair Underwood, Nicole Ari Parker, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Wood Harris starred in a multiracial adaptation at the Broadhurst Theatre.[18] Theatre review aggregator Curtain Critic gave the production a score of 61 out of 100 based on the opinions of 17 critics.[19]

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 and Vanessa Kirby, this production garnered critical acclaim and is the fastest selling show ever produced by the Young Vic.[20] 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 to broadcast the best of British theatre live from the London stage to cinemas across the UK and around the world. [21]

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