Going against type and what the director was kind enough to praise as my large "toolbox" of acting skills, I have been cast as Blanche in a local theater production of A Streetcar Named Desire (get ongoing show info at the Center for the Arts website). I am honored and thrilled (and no little dose awed by the number of lines to memorize). I also had to wrap my head around how I fit Blanche. It is certainly easiest to cast Blanche as a willowy woman with a shake in her voice, looking like a kitten in the rain. But my director and I share the perspective that Blanche can be most compelling if she begins the show as a woman who has mustered all of her strength for a last shot at convincing others she is not the fallen, broken woman she feels herself to be deep down. Then, the show progresses and shows her fall apart completely. The movement from stronger to entirely broken could be so heartbreaking to watch compared to a more weak woman losing her last shred of hope. And that's how we're going to play it, though the rehearsal process should help us try out many subtleties along the way.
This will be my second lead in a Tennessee Williams show. I did Maxine in Night of the Iguana ten years ago and enjoyed it thoroughly. Blanche is a much more challenging part in terms of her volatility. Maxine was confident and comfortable as a sexually predatory lush. And what fun to play. I hope to learn new things about myself, Williams, and acting through this experience. What does not kill us makes us stronger -- and this is going to be a LOT of work!
So far, my best motivator has been the director's confidence in me as well as her husband's, the man who will be playing Stanley. He and I have awesome onstage chemistry, and that should help a great deal to allay any last fears I have. In addition, I saw Ann Margaret's made-for-TV 1984 rendition, and she definitely plays the part similarly to what I will. Here she is:
I won't look like her (ha!) but she played it very strong, low-voiced, and sultry rather than flighty. It should be an interesting ride!