Tuesday, April 24, 2012


The moment the curtain rises, the earthy, sensual tones of Terence Blanchard's jazzy score fill the Broadhurst Theatre. In a place called Elysian Fields, a black man brings a package of meat home to his wife. Two neighbors, one white and one Latina, sit on a stoop, share stories and laugh. A finely dressed stranger with light skin enters the scene. This is New Orleans, just as Tennessee Williams might have imagined it. This revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, which opened April 22, marks the first time the 1947 play has appeared on Broadway with a multiracial cast. The production features Blair Underwood (Stanley), Nicole Ari Parker (Blanche), Daphne Rubin-Vega (Stella) and Wood Harris (Mitch). While this production is certainly a milestone, it's actually not the first of its kind. History in the Making Director Emily Mann, who knew the famous playwright personally, told The Root that Williams had always wanted to see a major production of Streetcar with a cast of color. Over the years, the playwright continually granted permission for several multiracial and all-black cast theater companies to produce his Pulitzer Prize-winning play. The first African-American production took place in 1953 by the Summer Theatre Co. at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. In an ongoing effort to highlight the level of black talent in theater, Nick and Edna Stewart produced the first professional production of Streetcar at the Ebony Showcase Theatre in Los Angeles in 1955. Scholar Philip C. Kolin wrote in Williams: Streetcar Named Desire (Plays in Production), "A strong black presence has always inhabited Streetcar." Williams was a born Southerner, having spent his life surrounded by black culture. In an essay for Broadway.com, Mann wrote, "He understood human beings, period, and he understood New Orleans society. And you can't understand New Orleans and the South without understanding black people." Despite the play's cultural history, a major multiracial production of Streetcar would elude Broadway for years. COURTESY OF THE ROOT STORY BY CELENA CIPRIASO.

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