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Sunday, August 1, 2021

Preview: “A Streetcar named Desire”

Los Angeles Pierce College Theater will conclude its 2020 Fall Season with a production of Tennessee Williams’s classic play, “A Streetcar named Desire,” in three live Zoom performances running Friday through Sunday.

The production, under the direction of Anna Steers, promises a fresh new look for the iconic play that began life on Broadway back in 1947.

The original setting of post war New Orleans has been replaced instead with the sights, sounds and the diversity of 2020 East Los Angeles.

Scheduled to open back in March, in the Dow Arena Theater, the entire cast and crew had to walk away from many hours of hard work when the decision was made to close the Pierce campus, according to Steers.

When the decision was finally made to release the production on Zoom, Steers found the tenacity and positivism of everyone involved in the production to be incredibly inspiring.

“I remain impressed with everyone’s optimism and inventiveness,” Steers wrote. “The actors are diving deep into the process of bringing to life these incredibly complex characters.”

For cast member Loida Navas, who plays Stella, the transition to Zoom has been both challenging and frustrating. But by channeling her frustrations into her performances, she has found new rewards.

Focusing less on physicality and more on the humanity of the characters we are playing is producing a kind of magic, she explained.

“I would love for people to come see how real these characters are and how much they are internalized inside each and every one of us,” Navas said. “Because we each have a little bit of crazy and we each have a little bit of anger inside of us.”

Fellow cast member Sabrena No’mani who plays her sister Blanche, described how the contemporary setting for the play was the reason why subtle but important changes in the characterization, specifically in language and in attitude, were being made.

“It’s the same story, it’s the same plot but you’ve got to change your character to what is acceptable in 2020,” No’mani explained. “A woman in her sexuality in 2020 versus 1950 is like day and night. I have to find a way to make it more like she owns it.”

Reflecting on the enduring appeal of A Streetcar Named Desire, Steers had always envisioned this version of the play to be set in present day East Los Angeles.

“The story itself, filled with themes such as generational dysfunction, addiction, loss and second chances, is timeless,” Steers wrote. “Changing the era and location creates a more relatable catharsis for participants and audience members alike.”

A Streetcar Named Desire opens this week for three showings. On Nov. 20 and 21, at 6.00 p.m. On Nov. 22, at 2.00 p.m.

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