Streetcar Named Blanche

         Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire follows Blanche DuBois and the slow, tedious unraveling of her mind. She has lived a good portion of her life going from one man to another. She often drinks herself into oblivion in order to avoid her low self-esteem. She is what most accurately can be described as a screw-up. These are just a few of the reasons I would choose to play her in a cinematic adaptation.

         It might be fun and challenging to take on the persona of Blanche. As she is a figure that is basically losing her mind, it would be interesting to delve into a character that is battling herself, not to mention Stanley, Stella, and Mitch.

         As the play progresses, Blanche's deck is steadily losing cards. The deconstruction of her mental faculties adds the possibility of surprise. With a character in that state, an actor could do almost anything; and the audience would write it off as mental instability. It really adds to the possibilities of showmanship.

         Blanche is such a fun character. She lives in extremes. She drinks way too much. She sleeps around way too much. Yet Blanche has a vulnerability that no other character has. Blanche needs to be taken care of in every way. She needs steadiness and constant love and support. In fact, she almost finds the stability she is longing for; but alas, her past catches up with her. Afterwards, Blanche just fades away. Her deterioration is in most part due to the fact that, after she has lived in such extremes, finding that steadiness may just be impossible.

         It would be a challenge to balance those emotions. One moment, Blanche is being loud, crazy, and obnoxious. The next, everyone else has to rally around to save her.

         In the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire, directed by Elia Kazan, Blanche is portrayed beautifully by Vivien Leigh. Leigh's performance really begs the question throughout the film, "What is going through Blanche's head?" That seems to be the appropriate question while one is viewing the picture. Continually, I was left wondering if Blanche is really that crazy or just a lying, devious, drunken slut. But since Vivien Leigh was going through the same type of situation during filming, maybe the character was not so far from the actress. Leigh seems in control enough to deliver the goods, but maybe she was just crazy enough to make the performance believable.

         Either way, I would play Blanche in much the same way. My Blanche would be in control because Blanche is crazy enough to think she is. My Blanche would parade around being pushy and overbearing because Blanche's low self-concept makes her want people to notice her. That is the only way she can get attention. And negative attention is all she thinks she deserves.

         A Streetcar Named Desire is a movie and play featuring many rich characters. They all have powerful messages. However, the force that keeps the story interesting and entertaining is Blanche. She is the character that is always moving. The problem is that Blanche is always moving backwards. Beep! Beep! Beep!

Casey McMillen

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