Date: October 9, 2012
The Department of Theatre debuted its first production of the year, A Streetcar Named Desire
by Tennessee Williams, this past weekend, and audiences have responded
with thunderous applause, teary eyes, and standing ovations.
Choosing to bring the streets of New Orleans to Granville was a change for the theatre department.
Mark Seamon, assistant professor of theatre and director of Streetcar,
said he researched the plays Denison has performed in recent history
and discovered that they hadn’t done an American classic—a play by
Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill, and other greats of
the American theatre—in 20 years or so.
“It was time,” Seamon said, citing two main reasons. “One, it
presents great opportunities for theatre artists—actors, directors,
designers, and technicians alike. Two, it’s a fascinating and compelling
story that audiences will thoroughly enjoy being drawn into.”
Vail artists-in-residence Julia Guichard and Chad Weddle also were
able to assist with the performance. Guichard is a vocal dialect coach
and is the associate chair of theatre at Miami University of Ohio.
Weddle is a fight choreographer and is no stranger to the Hill. He
choreographed fights for Dead Man’s Cell Phone and Legacy of Light.
Seamon described Streetcar as “dramatic storytelling at its very best.”
“What I love about the play is what makes it so challenging to
produce: it runs us through an emotional wringer.” he said. “As director
and audience member, I’m equally drawn to the play’s scenes of
emotional intensity and violence on one end of the spectrum, as I am to
its delicate moments of quiet and tenderness on the other.”
Seamon acknowledged that without the hard work of many students, the production couldn’t have come to life.
“Seniors Laura Hoffman (scenic designer) and Elyse Dolan (assistant
director & sound designer) and I have been working together since
last spring, and they have done incredible work.” he said. Both students
are majoring in theatre and are involved in DITA (Denison Independent
Dolan described working with Seamon as the highlight of her experience.
“I think of him as my mentor and friend, and I knew that working alongside him on Streetcar
would be a great continuation of my directing education. His passion
for creating theatre and drive for excellence inspires me, in this
process and beyond.” she said.
Dolan found Streetcar to be challenging from a director and sound designer’s standpoint.
“From a directing perspective, many of the challenges were finding
ways to make the blocking fluid and natural but still aesthetically
interesting.” she said, “From a sound designer’s perspective, my biggest
challenge was finding music appropriate to end the more intense scenes
while still remaining true to the mid-century New Orleans jazz sound.”
One of the lead roles was given to a theatre newcomer Maddie
Johnston, a junior environmental studies and biology double major from
Chesterfield, Mo., who makes her debut as Stella Kowalski.
She auditioned for Streetcar because it was her favorite
play growing up. “I was honored, really, that the theatre department
considered me for such an iconic and well-known character,” she said.
Johnston described one of the major challenges she has faced is Stella’s tolerance for Stanley.
“It is so hard to play such a submissive character when someone treats you that badly,” she said.
Experienced thespian Meghan Callahan of Denver, Colo., took on the
role of Eunice Hubbell, who is Stella’s caring neighbor and is also
domestically abused by her husband. Callahan is a junior majoring in
English and minoring in theatre and art. She is a member of both
Burpees’s Seedy Theatrical Company and the new comedy group, Sketch’rs.
She said, “It was a whole different kind of animal playing a
character who is abused. But I loved the challenge the role presented.”
Domestic violence is an undeniably major part of the play. Seamon and
Dolan talked to all of the actors a lot about the role of violence in
the show. They wanted the production to be believable and not make light
of serious issues, while still staying true to Williams’ emotional
complexities in the script.
“The truth is, real life can be sad and violent and funny all at once, and Streetcar
explores all of that. People in the play aren’t simply good or bad–they
are products of time, place, how they were raised, etc.” Callahan said,
“The audience really has to draw their own conclusions about the level
of each character’s morality.” Streetcar not only forces viewers to think about characters three dimensionally, but also to think about domestic abuse.
Overall, the gripping storyline from Tennessee Williams plus
passionate performances equals a must-see event. And it’s not too
late—you can still catch the play nightly at 8 p.m. through Thursday,
October 11, in Ace Morgan Theatre on West College. For ticket info, call
the theatre box office at 740-587-6527.