Vivien Leigh

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the UT Department of Theatre and Dance | Daily Texan Staff

For theatre graduate student and director Jess Hutchinson, Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” is about what it means to know another person. Although the play is performed and dissected time after time in American theater, Hutchinson and her actors hope to reach their audience on a personal level.

The UT Department of Theatre & Dance will host “A Streetcar Named Desire” in the Oscar G. Brockett Theatre from Oct. 10 to Oct. 19. The play examines the relationship between aging widow Blanche DuBois, her sister Stella and her brother-in-law, Stanley Kowalski, as she visits their home in 1947. Since its first production, the play has become a classic in popular culture, garnering the most attention after the 1951 movie adaptation starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando.

Hutchinson decided to direct “A Streetcar Named Desire” for her MFA thesis production in part because of its level of familiarity and iconic status.

“We’re around this play quite a bit as we study theater,” Hutchinson said. “I think one of the reasons is because it’s a great play. There’s a reason this play is a major part of the canon.”

Production members spent hours interpreting the text during the first week of the semester.

“We spent about a week around the table just unpacking the script and talking about it,” Hutchinson said. “We use everything we discover around the table and through really analyzing the script to start putting the play on its feet.”

Acting sophomore Keith Machekanyanga, who plays the lead role of Stanley, said the table reading was a great way to connect with the other actors.

“When it came to rehearsal, it was awesome,” Machekanyanga said. “Hearing everybody’s intelligence, everybody’s creativity and realizing how smart everyone was, I was like, ‘This is going to be awesome.’”

During the table work, the actors found that Williams’ play was a great showcase of their abilities.

“The depth of the script was any actor’s dream to do,” Machekanyanga said. “There’s still some stuff that we haven’t uncovered yet, and that’s what makes it so enticing. We’ve memorized the entire play; we’ve ran through it several times, but there’s still more.”

Both Hutchinson and Machekanyanga avoided watching any film adaptations in order to make the performance their own.

“I’ve never seen [the 1951 film] before I started thinking about doing this play, and I made a conscious decision not to see that movie,” Hutchinson said. “We’ve been trying to really collaborate with the author and working with [his] words, as opposed to someone else’s interpretation.”

Hutchinson said the rehearsal process was made easier and more enjoyable because of her cast members’ work ethics. 

“I’m really lucky in my cast,” Hutchinson said. “They’re phenomenal; they’re 12 undergraduate actors, who are working so hard and are bringing such heart and intelligence and really thoughtful work.”

Hutchinson ultimately hopes that audiences will understand the many themes of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“I hope they go on the ride with us,” Hutchinson said. “It’s an incredible, emotional journey that Williams crafted.”

The Harry Ransom Center opened it’s “Gone to the Wind” exhibit to the public on Monday morning. The exhibit showcases orignial artifacts and documents involed in the production of the film.

Photo Credit: Lauryn Hanley | Daily Texan Staff

Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable graced the silver screen 75 years ago in the antebellum classic “Gone with the Wind.” To commemorate its anniversary, the Harry Ransom Center is showcasing hundreds of original artifacts and documents, offering visitors a look behind the scenes of the casting and production of the film. 

Although “Gone With the Wind” is often regarded as an American classic, its subject matter sparked controversy. Letters from the Ku Klux Klan to director David Selznick are included in the exhibit. Some of the letters in the collection lobby for the KKK’s presence in the film’s production and script. But the KKK was not the only group attempting to influence the film’s messages; the NAACP also called for the sensitive treatment of slavery and African-American culture. 

Hutchison said the book “Gone with the Wind” has a dual nature, which was partly responsible for its controversial history.

“[It was] popular and problematic — loved and loathed,” Hutchison said.

While the story line of the film sweeps viewers away into a dramatic love story, critics are quick to catch the inaccurate portrayal of certain historical aspects, particularly slavery. In many ways, Selznick encountered the same dilemmas modern directors face. He once admitted he was willing to sacrifice accuracy for a stunning effect. 

Danielle Sigler, the Ransom Center’s associate director for fellowships and programs, said such issues as race, violence, war and gender are still prevalent in society today. She suggested that directors of movies like “12 Years a Slave” have to confront many of the same questions Selznick did in the 1930s, deciding where to draw the line between accuracy and sensitivity.

English associate professor Coleman Hutchison compared “Gone With the Wind” to a modern-day series, such as “Harry Potter” or “The Hunger Games,” explaining how the public overlooks questionable details as it falls in love with the rich storytelling. Fans of “Gone with the Wind” pass their love of the film along to their children and grandchildren.

Old newspaper clippings line the walls of the exhibit, which updated the public on the search for the perfect actress to play the role of the main character, Scarlett O’Hara. Wilson said many women even identified so closely with O’Hara that some believed they actually were her. When it was first announced the novel would be adapted to film, a nationwide obsession as to who would snag the coveted lead roles began.

“It all came down to Scarlett O’Hara,” said Steve Wilson, the Ransom Center’s film curator. 

Open to the public starting Tuesday, the exhibit takes viewers through the film’s casting, production and premieres. Documents, makeup stills, memos, newspaper articles and other mementos from the film are all on display.