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Directed by Kathleen McKinley, “A Streetcar Named Desire” by Tennessee Williams will open May 4, 2018 at the John Wright Theatre. (University Theatre)

Director hopes ‘Streetcar’ will wow audience

An American classic is getting an update at Fresno State.

The University Theatre production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” will premiere May 4 at the John Wright Theatre.

Written by playwright Tennessee Williams, the play first premiered in 1947 and is set against the backdrop of 1940s New Orleans. After the loss of her family home, Blanche DuBois arrives unexpectedly at the home of her sister Stella and Stella’s husband, Stanley.

“[Williams] changed American dramatic theater with these plays,” director Kathleen McKinley said. “No one had ever written plays that were commercially successful on Broadway [and] that were both poetic…and yet they’re really gritty.”  

The work has seen immense success, with Williams winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1949, and with numerous adaptations such as the well-known 1951 film featuring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh.

This new production features a “nontraditional” casting, meaning that in comparison with the original, all-white casting, it is much more diverse and features actors of all backgrounds.

“We are now moving into a time period where we’re questioning how actors should be cast,” McKinley said.

Having a diverse and young cast also brings a fresh interpretation to the iconic play according to the director.

The development of the play began a year ahead of time, with the designs for the show beginning around February. Actor rehearsals ran for about six or seven weeks, starting in March, and afterward were dress rehearsals.

“It’s very time consuming, very hectic, but really rewarding too, once we see the progress we’re making,” said Jalen Stewart, a senior theatre-arts major.

Stewart plays the role of Stanley Kowalski, one of the protagonists in the play who has an aggressive, complex personality.

“Being able to transform into someone who is basically the other side of who I am has been a journey,” Stewart said. “A very crazy journey, but super-rewarding.”

McKinley describes Williams’ “Streetcar” as being a part of the “big theater,” meaning it is not meant to be seen on a screen and should be experienced in person.

“It’s very theatrical,” she said. “We’re creating a whole world on stage, and so I hope that the audiences come in there and say, ‘Wow.’”

“A Streetcar Named Desire” is running May 4-5 and May 8-12 at 7:30 p.m., and May 6 at 2 p.m. in the John Wright Theatre.

Student tickets are $10. Faculty/staff, alumni, seniors (60+) and military tickets are $15. General admission tickets are $17. Group rates are available for groups of 20 or more. Box office hours are noon to 4 p.m. on weekdays and one hour before each performance.

Parking is free for shows Friday through Sunday night. For shows Tuesday through Thursday night, parking permits are required and can be purchased at dispensers in parking lots on campus.

For more information, contact the box office at 559-278-2216 or universitytheatre@csufresno.edu.