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Over the last few lessons in drama we have been working on a number of tasks to do with Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire”. These tasks involved using movement as well as words; some were naturalistic and others were much more abstract.
Our first task was to walk like different characters from the play, focusing on the way they used certain parts of their body to show their personalities. First we had to walk like Stanley. Most of us walked with a confident swagger, sticking our chests or pelvises out to indicate his masculine pride. When we were asked to sit down in character, we sat back in a relaxed manner, opening our legs and perhaps loosely crossing our arms or draping them over the back of our chair, indicating total self-assuredness. Next we were asked to play Blanche. I decided to portray her as a fidgety person, constantly smoothing her clothes, fixing her hair or touching her face, to show her insecurities and lack of confidence. I also walked with short, dainty steps, to show how fragile and slight she is. When we sat down, I leaned forward slightly, with my shoulders slightly hunched, to show her vulnerability. Finally we were asked to portray Stella – standing upright, slightly tense as if waiting to heed to Stanley’s latest demands – and Mitch – big, awkward, slightly more hunched and less confident-looking than Stanley.
After this task, we were asked to depict Stanley and Blanche as animals. For Stanley, nearly everyone acted like a wolf or a fox – strong, territorial, sly, always hunting and watching. For Blanche, I chose to act like a small bird, which would preen and look pretty but would be fidgety and nervous and would fly away when frightened.
Our next task was to get into groups and act out scenes taking place before the play begins, which would reveal something interesting about our characters. I was in a group with Emily, and we were told to act out a scene from when Blanche and Stella still lived at Belle Reve. Emily played Stella and I played Blanche. Our scene began with Blanche climbing through the window of the room she shares with Stella, late at night. Stella, who has been studying, admonishes her for being so late and tells her how worried she has been. Blanche, who has been drinking but claims she “limits herself to one”, has just met a young man who reads poetry, who, as we know, will later commit suicide. It is revealed that Stella is the clever sister, who has the potential to make something of herself, and Blanche is the wilder, worldlier sister who relies on her beauty to have fun. This explains why Stella left Belle Reve and had the ability to get a husband and a home of her own, and why Blanche was left behind, unwilling to grow up and surrender her beauty.
Millie and Genna also played Blanche and Stella at Belle Reve. Their scene involved Blanche taking Stella out on the town for the first time. Blanche is very domineering and worldly, and Stella is naï¿½ve and nervous about the shortness of her dress. Stella wears white, showing her innocence, and Blanche wears red, showing her corrupted virtue. Jack and Owen played Mitch and Stanley. They gave Mitch a deep personality, having him hint about wanting to settle down with a wife and worrying about his mother. They also showed Stanley’s love for Stella, as he talks about her in a very loving and tender way to Mitch. Next Felix and Flick, playing Stanley and Stella, showed how Stella was very like Blanche when she first met Stanley, unused to this more working class environment, yet being excited by Stanley’s attentions. Finally, Angelika and Hugo, playing Stella and Stanley, show Stella as being naï¿½ve and Stanley being mysterious and inquisitive, trying to figure her out.
In our next task we did Hot Seating. One by one, we were asked questions in character about our views on different events in the play. I chose to be Eunice, because although she is not a main character in the play, she is good friends with Stella and her husband is friends with Stanley, and she lives in the flat above them, so she would have a very clear idea of what life would be like for them. I chose to give her the opinion that Stanley’s hitting Stella isn’t good, but is acceptable, and is just a part of marriage that cannot be avoided. I was particularly impressed by Emily’s portrayal of Stella after having her sister taken away. She made it clear that Stella was heartbroken, and although she claimed to believe Stanley, she let on that she had no choice but to believe him. I also liked Alex as Blanche, gushing and acting pleasant and sweet to try and cover up her past, but when difficult questions were brought up her act fell and she would refuse to talk about it.
Our final task was to act out the scene where Blanche has been stood up by Mitch on her birthday and use freeze-frames to mark the most important moments in that the scene. I was in a group with Felix and Alex. Felix played Stanley, Alex played Blanche and I played Stella. The moments we marked were: Stanley throwing plates off the table; Stella and Stanley on the porch with Blanche on the phone, trying to reach Mitch; Stanley giving Blanche a ticket back to Laurel; and Stella going into labour. For each of our important moments, we froze in position for four seconds, before doing an action and moving onto the next moment. There were subtle differences between each group’s piece; instead of using an action, as we did in ours, Millie, Flick and Jack used an important line of text in each of their moments, which I found very effective.
Although I found these tasks challenging (especially as I knew we were on camera), I enjoyed interpreting different characters in new ways. I also worked with different people to whom I normally would, which was a good experience and made me enthusiastic and eager to work with them again in future lessons.