Stanley Kowalski stumbles out of the bathroom, water soaking through his hair and shirt. He dials the number of their upstairs neighbor, to where his wife had just retreated. “Eunice, I want to talk with my girl.” He slams the telephone back on its receiver and runs out the door of the New Orleans flat. Stanley Kowalski looks up towards towards the upstairs apartment, drops to his knees and bellows, “STELLLLLAAAAAAAA.”
The Oyster River Drama Department is set to perform A Streetcar Named Desire on November 15th, 16th, and 17th at 7pm. This Tennessee Williams classic will transport the audience to the heart of New Orleans in the 1940s, which wouldn’t be complete without festive Mardi Gras music and sweltering heat. Following in the footsteps of last year’s fall play, the department is providing resources from a local support service, Haven, regarding sexual abuse and domestic violence, themes that are prevalent in the play.
A Streetcar Named Desire focuses on Blanche Dubois [Sofia Testa (‘21)] and the relationship she has with her sister, Stella Kowalski [Jordan Zercher (‘19)], and her brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski [Liev Manck (‘19)]. Throughout the show, Blanche’s character changes from her initial slightly nervous demeanor to chaotic confusion by the end. Audience members are advised that the play involves mature content and may not be suitable for children.
When the department performed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, they partnered with National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and engaged in a talk back after every performance. A Streetcar Named Desire provided an opportunity to connect with Haven, which is, “the largest violence prevention and support services agency in NH,” according to their website.
Although there will not be a formal talk back, director Meredith Freeman-Caple said, “there will be material outside the auditorium from Haven addressing the points that the show addresses such as domestic abuse and alcoholism, which is mature material,” adding that there will be a representative at the table for the Friday show.
Freeman-Caple explained why she selected this show. “I knew I had the cast, to be honest. This is a very specific show. It was like a perfect storm – I knew I had the talent in the actors I had this year,” said Freeman-Caple.
The show was cast mid-September, with rehearsals nearly every day after school. “It’s actually been a pretty intense process. Talking about the challenges that these characters have in life has been rewarding,” explained Freeman-Caple, noting that the actors have embodied what their characters were challenged by.
Because of the time period and setting, actors were tasked with learning dialects. One of the most used accent was the ‘yat’, which comes from, “where you at?” and is used in New Orleans. Ian Miles (‘19) plays Harold Mitchell and is one of the characters who speaks with a yat dialect.
“Learning the accents was very challenging because it’s so different than how we speak,” said Miles, adding that he noted the key differences between the dialect and his natural speech and focused on making those more pronounced.
Listen to Liev Manck (‘19) speak in with the yat dialect.
“Dialect work is very challenging. We approached it early on. The characters in New Orleans would have a different accents than those who grew up south of there. The ‘yat’ is very different than the long drawn out dialect that Stella and Blanche have,” said Caple.
Sofia Testa (‘21) found the rehearsal experience challenging, but not because of the accent. “It’s difficult to put myself in the shoes of such a damaged women,” explained Testa. “The trauma she’s experienced over the past couple years has shattered her, forcing her to veil the truth of her past to keep the pristine image she desires.”
She acknowledged the darkness of the show and the struggle between appearance and reality. “The 1940s was quite a different time from the present, and to grasp the characters’ way of living, especially noticing the differences between the men and women’s lives, took a lot of work,” said Testa.
Freeman-Caple highlighted the work of the actors and techies alike, saying, “you feel like you’ve gone through the journey by the end of the show. It’s profound. It’s incredibly moving.”
Miles concluded by saying, “the cast of this show is amazingly talented and truly brings the story to life. This show is definitely one of the best productions that the drama department has put on, so it isn’t one to miss.”
A Streetcar Named Desire will be performed Thursday, November 15th, Friday, November 16th, and Saturday, November 17th. All shows are at 7pm and tickets are available at the door; $5 for students and $8 for adults.