Effective Adaptations of A Streetcar Named Desire

In lecture, Professor Steele mentioned on several occasions that he thinks an all-gay cast of A Streetcar Named Desire would be an interesting take on the classic play. Although there doesn’t seem to be a widely circulated adaptation of this kind, I’ve decided to examine different versions of the original play and analyze what could be effective about each and whether the original format -performed on stage as written- is really the best way to display themes that Tennessee Williams wants the audience to understand.

Image from  http://www.doctormacro.com/Images/Brando,%20Marlon/Annex/Annex%20-. Used for educational purposes only.

Image from
http://www.doctormacro.com/Images/Brando,%20Marlon/Annex/Annex%20-. Used for educational purposes only.

The film adaptation that was viewed in class obviously had a wide audience as it starred famous actors and, being a movie, was more likely to reach a large amount of people than a live portrayal might. However, using actors like Vivien Leigh, who was already famous for her role as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind, might have drawn audiences in with the purpose of watching an Oscar-winning actress and not to absorb the symbolism and deeper meaning within the film. Besides, as mentioned in lecture, several scenes were either modified or cut out such as the rape scene and the revelation of Blanche’s deceased, homosexual husband. Although it captured a wide audience, did the film do justice to the incredible story told in Streetcar?

Other versions of the play exist as well, including an opera made in in 1995 and several ballet adaptations, one performed as recently as in 2012. With opera, the story is still conveyed through words, but the specificity of stage directions that are so well-written in the original play cannot thoroughly be portrayed. Likewise, with a ballet, the Streetcar is confined to merely dancing, and although it is a unique tribute, it is not possible for an audience to grasp the story’s complexity just by watching it danced. However, both opera and ballet have potential to emote poignancy that cannot always be done just through acting. These adaptations may be effective in their own way, but perhaps only after one has either read the play or watched it so that they are already informed about its content.

There is also the uniqueness of A Streetcar Named Desire in that it is classic literature but is intended to be performed, not just read. Does reading through the play instead of watching it live hinder the effects of it? For example, it is one thing to read and imagine the “blue piano,” but details like this that Williams added with purpose cannot be skimmed over and are more explicit during an actual performance.

A Streetcar Named Desire is a captivating piece, but what versions are most effective? Is this a story just to be read, and can a stage version even have the same influence today as it originally did? What is the best outlet for A Streetcar Named Desire in sharing its important themes today?

– Emma P.




2 thoughts on “Effective Adaptations of A Streetcar Named Desire

  1. In essence, every piece of classic literature could be made into some sort of other performance, whether it be in film, television, play, opera, etc. Also, particularly in the industry, people like to re-create the past. They want to modernize a certain aspect of a piece of classic literature, or the whole thing for that matter. And what this does is it truly takes away from the original material. Think about if you are doing a foreign language assignment and want to translate a sentence into Google Translate. Sure, it will give you somewhat accurate translations, but it almost does a disservice to the original text. This is glowingly apparent in the various variations of A Streetcar Named Desire.

    More so, when it comes to key symbols like the blue piano, the reader is able to stretch their sense of imagination and envision what the blue piano looks like through the proficient descriptions. However, in a different variation of the text, the viewer’s sense of imagination is inhibited because they are forced to succumb to however the producer/director portrays it as.

  2. I do think that in recreating a play or a piece of literature this is a certain amount of creative freedom taken by the directors and actors in how they want to portray the piece. There are many directors that want to leave their stamp on the work and will change things so that it will be more of what they want to see. In this sense it is taking away from what Tennessee Williams would have wanted, but they are also creating new and different meaning with the changes they introduce. It might be that the original intention of the play is being changed, but times have changed and there are many reasons that these kind of decisions are made.

    After saying this I do think any kind of change on the recreation of this play would be taking away from the original story, which is marvelous, but I wouldn’t disregard anything new (such as a ballet) just for its originality. Unless it was a true piece of garbage I think it is good to do it. It keeps the play relevant and breathes new life into it. Its a part of what makes it a classic and the fact that there are so many possibilities of what someone can do with it shows how great the play is. Also I agree in that the descriptions in the text help create more understandings of what the little objects in the play represent like the blue piano. To me the text is the best version. It’s my opinion though.

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