Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thibodeaux-Thompsons throw focus into UIS production of 'Streetcar'

Instead of teaching theater classes this semester, University of Illinois Springfield associate professor Missy Thibodeaux-Thompson focused on preparing for one of the most iconic roles in American theater.

"Yes, it is daunting," she said of her role as Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire," the UIS spring theater production opening Friday. "A friend of mine says Blanche is often seen as 'the woman's Hamlet.' "

To prepare for the production — directed by her husband, associate professor of theater Eric Thibodeaux-Thompson — she took a semester-long sabbatical.

Three years ago, the couple did the same in reverse, with Missy directing Eric in a production of Sam Sheppard's "True West."

Detailed word choice "Streetcar," the most famous work of playwright Tennessee Williams, premiered in 1947 and won the 1948 Pulitzer Prize for drama. It is widely considered to be one of the best American plays of the 20th century and has inspired a number of stage and screen versions.

Set in the French Quarter of New Orleans, "A Streetcar Named Desire" depicts Blanche, a former schoolteacher, moving into a cramped apartment with her sister Stella (Ellyn Thorson) and Stella's husband, Stanley Kowalski (Thom Miller). As Blanche makes increasingly desperate attempts to maintain her romantic view of life and conceal the problems that forced her to leave home, tensions and resentment build among her, Stanley and Stella.

The play has left "some pretty indelible images in our culture", according to Eric, including the common conceptions of Stanley as a loud, obnoxious brute and Blanche as an emotional basket case.
But the Thiboudeaux-Thompsons agree that the characters and atmosphere Williams created are much more complex and deserve careful attention.

"There is a little bit of Blanche and Stanley in all of us."

The play also depicts a conflict between the higher ideals and aspirations of Blanche and the more immediate, down-to-earth desires of Stanley, Stella and their neighbors. "There are people who are more introspective and who like the finer things in life," Eric said. "And there are others who just want to have a beer and pizza."

A Streetcar Named Desire takes the stage at the UIS Studio Theatre in the Public Affairs Center, April 16-18.  Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday.  Tickets are $6-$14.

This article appeared online in The State Journal-Register on April 8, 2015.

Read the entire article online.