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The play was written in 1947 and was made into a world famous film in 1951, starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando. Thanks to A Streetcar named Desire, Brando was "discovered" as an actor. He was supposedly paid for transportation to get to Williams' house in Provincetown, Massachusetts where Brando's audition took place. His rendition of Stanley's character was phenomenal and the role has since come to be known best with him being cast for it.
One of the unique features of the play was the inclusion of sound effects of a hustling bustling city, especially the sound of passing trains, which accentuate the psychological states of the characters and add to dramatic tension. The play earned Tennessee Williams a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1947 and premiered on Broadway the same year, closing two years later in the Ethel Barrymore theatre. Laurence Olivier directed the London production, which premiered in 1949.
Set in mid century New Orleans, the play incorporates a theme that remains relevant and interesting regardless of the play's particulars. The conflict between Blanche and Stanley represents the tension between a mentality such as the Old South's (of which Blanche is a relic) and the new industrial working class (where Stanley belongs), the former representing the landed gentry and the latter the immigrant phenomenon. The disputes are caused by the disparity in the values and social assumptions of the two, and are emblematic of the rapidly changing American society. Blanche is delusional and "romantic" and hides real issues such as alcohol abuse behind her refinement, whereas Stanley is a brute who believes in having a firm grip on reality and bullying his way through life.
The film version, also directed by Elia Kazan was very successful and won many cinema awards including an Oscar for Best Actress won by Vivien Leigh. A Streetcar Named Desire was adapted into an opera in 1995. The musical score for the opera was written by Andre Previn and premiered by San Francisco Opera. The first revival of A Streetcar Named Desire took place in 1973. This Lincoln Center production at the Vivian Beaumont Theater starred James Farentino as Stanley and Rosemary Harris as Blanche. The second revival of the play happened in the late eighties and won a Tony award.
The 1992 revival of Streetcar was staged at the same theater where the original production was staged and had a cast of well-known actors including Jessica Lange and Alec Baldwin. Baldwin was nominated for the Tony and Jessica Lange won the Theater World Award. The latest revival, in 2009 also has a star-studded cast comprising Cate Blanchett, Liv Ullmann and Joel Edgerton and is currently playing in New York City.
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