A Streetcar Named Desire | Study Guide

Tennessee Williams

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Course Hero. "A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide." October 13, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Streetcar-Named-Desire/.


Course Hero, "A Streetcar Named Desire Study Guide," October 13, 2016, accessed November 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Streetcar-Named-Desire/.

A Streetcar Named Desire | Context


The production of A Streetcar Named Desire was strongly influenced by a technique of acting called the Method, developed by the Russian actor and producer Konstantin Stanislavsky in the early 1920s. Stanislavsky wanted to create a realistic style of acting that did not appear artificial, but instead reflected the way people behaved in everyday life. To accomplish this goal he stressed that actors rely on their emotional memories, or their own past emotions and experiences, as they performed a role.

The Stanislavsky system, or the Method, had a strong effect on many American directors, including Elia Kazan. However, in the early 1940s, the Method remained a controversial acting style, not used by the vast majority of thespians. This situation changed with A Streetcar Named Desire and the casting of Marlon Brando in the role of Stanley Kowalski.

Hired to direct the stage production of Streetcar, Kazan had problems casting the role of Stanley. Tennessee Williams also had problems with Stanley, fearing he created a character who was so antagonistic audiences would not be able to identify with him. Ideally Williams did not want the audience to condemn either Stanley or Blanche DuBois, but instead to realize the tragedy of the misunderstanding between these characters. Then Kazan auditioned Brando and realized he could use the Method to tap qualities within the actor to create a compelling rendition of Stanley Kowalski.

Soon Brando auditioned for Williams, who was also very impressed. Williams felt Brando had the vulnerability to make Stanley a three-dimensional character with whom audiences could sympathize. Kazan helped Brando tap into aspects of his emotional history, such as anger regarding his alcoholic parents, to give a dynamic performance that gave the character the complexity Williams wanted.

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