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Bringing the Streetcar to Life

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Here’s the latest update from MiddMag’s Bread Loaf student-on-the-scene Sherry Brown. (Read the first installment here.)

In her course this summer on Tennessee Williams, Sherry’s getting to see first-hand how a play is read, taught, studied, rehearsed, and ultimately performed by a professional troupe of actors when A Streetcar Named Desire opens there later this month, starring Equity actors Elizabeth Bunch, Angela Brazil, and Chris Hutchison (L-R, below). Performances are Wednesday, July 27, through Saturday, July 30, at 8 p.m. in the Burgess Meredith Little Theater on the Bread Loaf campus. For tickets call the Middlebury College Box Office at 443-2771.

The course Sherry’s taking is called “Tennessee Williams at 100: How to Take A Streetcar Named Desire,” and professor Michael Cadden has invited several of the Equity company-in-residence actors into the classroom to perform and discuss parts of the plays they are reading. Director of the Program in Theater Alan MacVey (at right below, directing Hutchison and Bunch) has held open rehearsals throughout the summer, and Cadden asks his students to attend several of these as well.

Here are some thoughts and observations from Sherry after attending one of those rehearsals:

“Watching the Streetcar rehearsals as Alan MacVey and the actors develop the characters has been quite an experience. I had expected that it would be educational and interesting on an intellectual level. It certainly has been that; however, I have been taken by surprise at the depth of my emotional response to the characters. When I read the play, I didn’t particularly like the characters – it was easy to judge them. As the actors bring the characters to life, however, I’m struck by the fact that I’m not so different from them after all. Like Stanley, I have hurt people I love. Like Mitch, I have been awkward and ham-handed in relationships with people, and like Blanche, I have lied to protect myself. The immersion in Streetcar has been very intense.

“As well as attending rehearsals and Michael’s class, we have viewed the Streetcar movie and teleplays. This very close reading of the text and attention to the various interpretations of the characters has opened up the play to me in an unexpected way.

“Each time I read or see a scene performed, I participate in the creation of that character anew. This is an understanding that I hope to bring to my students in our study of drama in the classroom. There is not one definitive Blanche, or Hamlet, or Willy Loman. The creation of a character happens in the space between the actor’s portrayal, the staging of the play, and the interpretation of the audience member.

“That said, I am looking forward to stepping away from Streetcar for a little while. Although we have not exhausted all of the nuances and interpretations of the play, it has exhausted me! We will be spending some class time discussing Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, before returning to Streetcar for the final Bread Loaf production.”

Stay tuned for the third installment when we’ll hear from Sherry after the final performance of A Streetcar Named Desire from Wednesday, July 27, through Saturday, July 30, at 8 p.m. in the Burgess Meredith Little Theatre on the Bread Loaf campus.

 

 

 



Catching a Streetcar at Bread Loaf

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

What’s it like to read a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, study it with a legendary drama professor and then see it performed by Equity actors—all in six weeks?

That’s what Sherry Brown (left) is doing this summer at the Bread Loaf School of English. This is her first year at Bread Loaf, and the secondary school teacher from San Antonio is in for a ride.

The class is called “Tennessee Williams at 100: How to Take A Streetcar Named Desire,” and it’s taught by Michael Cadden (right), a Bread Loaf veteran of 30 years and an absolute genius at building bridges between the worlds of academia and professional theatre.

And as the course comes to a close later this month, the class—and anyone else who wants to attend the public performance—will enjoy the focus of their summer study come to life. Alan MacVey (left), another one of those talented Bread Loaf veterans, is directing the summer program’s Equity company-in-residence in A Streetcar Named Desire. Like most plays performed each summer, it will likely be sold out, but Sherry plans to be front and center.

In the meantime, she’s going to keep MiddMag posted about her experiences while taking this class—from the readings and rambunctious discussions to visits from Equity actors and sneak peeks at the dress rehearsals. Here’s her view after the first two weeks of class:

“Before arriving this summer, we were expected to read everything for the course including Strindberg’s Miss Julie, Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard, and Williams’s plays, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Glass Menagerie, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, as well as a production history of Streetcar.

We’re not studying the play scene by scene but looking at various aspects of the play, such as characterization, theme, and staging, and also exploring the influence of previous playwrights on Williams. We’re exploring the social and economic setting of the play, and discussing the production history—of this play and plays in general.

I have always loved the theater, but have only experienced it as an observer so I was intrigued by the idea of watching the play take shape and seeing how the director and actors work together to make the creative choices that lead to the final production. Also, we teach quite a bit of drama in my classroom (Shakespeare, Arthur Miller, Lorraine Hansberry, and others) with mixed success. Without the luxury of taking the class to a live production of the play, I’m looking for ways to make the study of drama more engaging for students.

On our first day of class, the major actors for Streetcar came in to talk about their roles and the production. We’re also expected to attend several hours of rehearsal each week, which is really interesting. You get a whole new appreciation for an actor’s every move—each one becomes so significant.

And yesterday, an actor came in to read two monologues from The Glass Menagerie and talk about his experience playing Tom in the Vermont Stage Company’s production last fall. Last week, Michael got us all tickets to see a recording of the National Theatre production of The Cherry Orchard at the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury.”

Stay tuned for more from Sherry in the coming weeks!