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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 4, 2003

University Theatres Mainstage Produces "Streetcar Named Desire"

Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" will be the first spring-semester production of the University Theatres Mainstage series at the University of Iowa. Performances of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by one of the UI Department of Theatre Arts' most illustrious graduates will be at 8 p.m. Feb. 13-15 and 20-22, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 16 and 23, in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the UI Theatre Building.

Graduate student Liza Williams (no relation to Tennessee), who is directing the University Theatres production, calls "Streetcar" a bold work whose boundary-pushing served to "define what American theatre is and set it apart from other traditions." The visit of fading belle Blanche duBois to her sister Stella in steamy New Orleans, and her confrontation with the crude masculinity of Stella's husband, Stanley Kowalski, has come to represent the emergence of a gritty new tradition on the American stage.

To capture the punch of the original production, when the playwright was expanding what was possible and permissible on stage while necessarily observing some restraints of language, she has spiced the script with some words Williams probably would have used, if he could have.

"In the language of the script there are cultural and ethnic reference which, over time, have fallen asleep," she says. "It's my goal to wake them up, give them new life, and see what they mean to us now."

Updated to 1983 New Orleans, to heighten the sense of immediacy for contemporary audiences, this new "Streetcar" production is further energized by the music of Marvin Gaye, the Neville Brothers and Al Green.

Before fledgling playwright Tom Williams came north to the UI to complete his bachelor's degree in 1937-38 under the tutelage of E.C. Mabie, he worked briefly -- at his father's insistence -- for the International Shoe Company in St. Louis. It was during this unsuitable job at the shoe factory that Williams met a coarse, animalistic co-worker named Stanley Kowalski.

So as Williams completed his class work at the UI, the seed had already planted that would become "A Streetcar Named Desire" a decade later. By then, Williams was going by the name "Tennessee" (legend has it that he acquired that nickname at the UI) but Stanley Kowalski's name didn't change.

The follow-up to Williams' first commercial success, "The Glass Menagerie," "A Streetcar Named Desire" raised eyebrows, but also won the 1947 Pulitzer Prize.

The 1951 film starring Marlon Brando, Vivien Leigh and Kim Hunter was considered so shocking -- with it's sweaty sensuality, violent rape and suggestions of homosexuality and nymphomania -- that the studio forced director Elia Kazan to tone down several scenes with editing.

Williams had already demonstrated his capacity to shock while he was at the UI. As the story goes, the straight-laced "Boss" Mabie dismissed one of the shy, young playwright's scripts by saying something along the lines of, "Well, we all have to paint our nudes."

Artistic contributors to the University Theatres Mainstage production of "A Streetcar Named Desire" include scenic designer Alison Ford, costume designer Renee Bell, lighting designer John Ambrosone and dramaturg Jeannine Coulombe

Tickets are $16 ($8 for UI students, senior citizens and youth) from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website: http://www.uiowa.edu/hancher.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail, mailto:hancherboxoffice@uiowa.edu.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, ur-acr@uiowa.edu.

The Department of Theatre Arts is a unit of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media Contact: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, winston-barclay@uiowa.edu. Program Contact: Liza Williams, 31-335-2700, elizabeth-williams@uiowa.edu

PHOTOS are available at http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa/photos (Brian Lee Bennett as Stanley, Charmain L. Crook as Blanche, Amy M. Olson as Stella)