Monday, November 29, 2010

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams -- Nov 26, 2010

The next session, Poetry, will be held on Jan 7, 2011, same time, 5:30pm, same place, Cochin Yacht Club. The following session to read Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya will be on Friday Feb 4, 2011.  The novel selected for reading after that, some time in April, is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.

 Talitha, Soma, KumKum, Minu, Indira, Priya, Bobby, and Amita discussing

A Streetcar Named Desire was the play that brought fame to Tennesse Williams; it also launched the Hollywood career of Marlon Brando. Packed in a slim volume is a tiger of a play in which fantasy, deception, love, sex, death, and raw emotions clash. It's a wonderful play to illustrate how a dramatist sets off characters against each other and illumines them brilliantly with the dialogue. The exchanges on the surface have undercurrents which the play's audience can sense. Brando, whom a critic termed a 'sexual terrorist', gave the performance of his life to enliven Tennessee Williams' play on screen, which the readers will view at the CYC on Dec 2 at 6:30 pm.

 Soma, Talitha, Amita, KumKum, Bobby, Priya, Indira, and Minu at the reading

The scenes between Blanche and Stanley are the most intense, as temptress and terrorist spar with each other. Just as alluring are the scenes where the two sisters, Stella and Blanche, converse and establish where each one stands in their search for love and security.

The women are laughing 'coz Joe has unbuttoned his shirt, as manly Stanley does

There was much enjoyment in the dialogue and real debate about the controversial elements: was there or was there not a rape? Does the play illustrate that nobody has a corner on duplicity, as TW said? What is the role of music and the carefully delineated props the stage directions mention? How real are Stella's and Stanley's love for each other?

For a comprehensive account of the reading click here:
Full account and record of session on Nov 26, 2010

or here below ...

Kochi Reading Group session on Nov 26, 2010
A Streetcar Named Desire  by Tennessee Williams
Tennessee Williams put the finishing touches on Streetcar in his apartment in New Orleans' French Quarter.

Marlon Brando with Vivien Leigh, who replaced Jessica Tandy on stage  in the role of Blanche in the Academy Award-winning film.

Attending: Talitha, KumKum, Amita, Priya Joe, Bobby, Indira, Minu, Soma
Absent: Thomas Manipadam, Thommo

Preliminary The next session of Poetry will be held on Jan 7, 2011, same time, 5:30pm, same place, Cochin Yacht Club. The following session to read Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya will be on Friday Feb 4, 2011.  The novel selected for reading after that, some time in April, is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.

Many Links
An Interview With Tennessee Williams  By ROBERT BERKVIST
A Chronology of his plays.
Background information for the play.
Glossary and references for scenes in the play
A retrospective of the play on National Public Radio

Soma read out her appreciation of the play. “To me SND is a story about two women, trapped in their own private hell. Stella is trapped in a marriage to a manipulating brute with the appearance of the baby, sealing her fate forever. Blanche is deceived by the man she loved, who used her as a sounding board to confirm his own homosexual nature. This experience left a lasting negative footprint on her entire life. She was used by the men she encountered in her search for security. She was bogged down by responsibilities of taking care of an ailing mother and struggling to save, but ultimately losing the estate.
The last straw that finally broke her was when Stanley, her brother-in-law,  brutally violated her and snatched away the last bit of sanity that she was holding on to. Stella loved her sister and empathised with all the wrong done to her. Even thought she knew about her husband's evil deed, she was forced to turn a blind eye in order to save her marriage. She too is a victim of circumstances.
Here are some questions that occur to me:
Would Blanche be happy if Mitch married her?
Is the rape of women with a questionable moral character pardonable?
I think even a prostitute is a human being and deserves to be treated with dignity as a human being, and not as an object to be used.”
The Introduction by Ray Speakman points out that Stanley's character may have been drawn partially from Williams' own father, who was a drunkard and a womaniser. The character of Blanche may have been inspired by his mother who was from a genteel background. It was an experience which Williams described as “losing belief in everything but loss.”His mother despised her husband's drinking and womanising. She felt she had an aristocratic pedigree which was ill-suited to the life her husband forced her to live. She ended her life in a mental home, just as happens to Blanche in the play. According to Williams, another theme played out in his work is the corrupting effect of security on human endeavour.
Joe asked why Soma thought “Blanche is deceived.” After all, she deceives even more than she is deceived. Indira too asked the same question in another way: didn't Blanche deceive herself a lot?
Soma asked rhetorically whether you could blame Blanche for wanting the good life. No, not for that, but for wanting the good life without living in a way that would attract good to her.
Talitha mentioned the “ epic fornications”of the uncles and the fake jewels Blanche wears. When she was confronted by Stanley about the loss of Belle Reve, she does not go to pieces. She is matter of fact, and has a core of openness. She didn't actually deceive Stanley, but she wove a lot of fantasies. It is in fact the same kind of fantasy that imbrued Emma Bovary, but the reader may be more sympathetic to Blanche than to Emma, for she knows who she is and what she is doing.
Soma said Mitch is her refuge of last resort. Talitha said Desire is a great part of the play and how people satisfy it. Stella, for instance, is not trapped at all in her marriage; she is happy with Stanley, and makes this clear in her conversations with Blanche. Really?, asked Soma. Yes, Stanley really satisfies her.
Toward the end, Talitha pointed out, there is a compromise that Stella makes, in what happens to Blanche; Stella lets her down.
Joe thought Stanley's love for his wife can be transferred into a fascination for Blanche in Stanley's mind for she is pretty and comes on to him, in spite of her professed contempt for his crudeness.
Bobby observed that often “love starts as lust.”Indeed, there is an ambivalence in the word's meaning in German, for “lust”in German can stand for “fun” as well as “lust.” Now lust is taking over in  Facebook, he said.
But Talitha said rape can be the outcome of hatred, as much as it can be the outcome of unfettered attraction.
On the subject of rape, Indira noted that it is left ambiguous in the play, for Stanley exclaims “We've had this date with each other from the beginning!” as he springs across the table, and she swoons: “He picks up her inert figure and carries her to the bed.” The heat is on from both sides.
Someone uttered a provocative line: “if you provoke a man enough, he will rape.”
Talitha laughed, quoting the cry of “Tiger, tiger”with which Stanley greets the broken bottle top that Blanche brandishes in the struggle. Talk of turning him on, it sure is “burning bright.”
Indira summed up by saying she does not think the scene as written is entirely rape. Meaning there is partial consent? Priya concurred by saying it is “not a full-fledged rape.” Meaning  the violence is only foreplay?
Soma agreed that Blanche is by nature flirtatious, and Joe said the dramatist is making this abundantly clear with all the preening and strutting she does in the play.
Music also has a role in the atmospherics. Williams introduces the Polish polka Varsouviana (Stanley is of Polish extraction and vilified as a 'Polack' by Blanche) at points. And the “blue piano”also portends some melancholy.

Talitha's reading was a passage where Blanche heaps insult on Stanley by telling her sister that  Stanley Kowalski is a survivor from the stone age. As Blanche extends the lengthy simile to the way cavemen carried on their love interests, in the planet of the apes, there was a lot of laughter. It was an excellent reading.
When Talitha said that Stanley was really quite an ordinary guy, Indira commented that Mitch is ordinary too. But he's gentler, said Talitha. Blanche and Stanley are attracted to each other. She wants the 'meat,' and is coming on to Stanley. Not that she wants the rough stuff. Bobby agreed. Joe thought there was a running tension between them; a 'momentum of desire', said someone.
But does Stella like Stanley or not?  She is slapped, but is okay with that. Soma said that Stella has her husband, and will soon have her baby, and so she is quite confident in her possession of both.
Talitha said there is something chronic about the lying and deceiving exhibited by Blanche. She is out of touch with reality, said Indira.. And suffers from the delusion that whatever she does is right, said KumKum.  Indira wondered if her early experiences had scarred her for life.
Joe remarked that Tennessee Williams (TW) does not look down on Blanche, but rather exploits her tendencies to create drama between Blanche and Stanley, which maintains the play's dramatic tension right through, from the time she gets off the streetcar and Stanley throws the package of meat into the house.

KumKum’s gave a preview of her reading. The two sisters, Blanche and Stella, are meeting after ten years. Blanche came to New Orleans to visit with her younger sister Stella and her husband Stanley Kowalski. Stella and Stanley are not well off, nor are they show-offs. They live in a two room apartment in a run-down section of the city. Their neighbours and friends are just like them, ordinary working class folk. Blanche finds the neighbourhood below her standard and her sister's tiny apartment tawdry. As their conversation rolls on, both the sisters try to hide their true feelings and disappointments. Through nuances of the dialogue TW wonderfully fleshes out the two sisters, so different from each other. Blanche is full of herself and hallucinating. There is something phony about her.
Talitha agreed. Blanche is shocked by Stella's drained look. But Stella knows what she has; Blanche is all puffed up. Bobby's explanation for Blanche's conduct is that she 'wants to create her own reality.' Priya contrasted the two sisters by characterising Stella as 'clear-headed'  and Blanche as 'muddled.'
The key to Blanche's character is provided by her constant hot tub baths and shading the lights. It is symptomatic of a lack of confidence in her looks, and looks are the most powerful weapon in her armoury to attract a husband, as she hopes.
Indira thinks that Marlon Brando in the movie depicts Stanley considerably more refined than TW's portrayal in the play.  Joe recalls Brando as having the same earthiness and abrasive machismo as the guy in the play, but also displaying his softer dependent side in the 'STELLLAHHHHH!' scene. After viewing the movie on Dec 2, Joe confirmed his thinking that Brando is as vulgar and coarse as he is depicted in the play.
Does Blanche love? The question of sex vs. love. Freud had something to say on it.  Desire is Blanche's way for running away from death, and the plentiful funerals that took place in Belle Reve in her family, of which she was the witness, the care-giver, and the funeral organiser. It was a horrible reality.
KumKum noticed that Blanche is constantly talking, a mile a minute. Making up her fantasy world ... yes, creating her own reality, said Bobby again.
Indira who found a homosexual undercurrent running through the play (nobody else did) said that 'cottaging and cruising is universal to death.' That's what Blanche is doing. Indira thought the piece of meat thrown at the beginning is indicative of raw desire.
Apropos of this, here's a passage from an interview with TW:
Williams scoffs at those who suggest his plays are really transvestite dramas - closet plays about homosexuality. "Ludicrous," he says. "Anyone who knows me at all knows I have no need to disguise the sexual nature of my characters. Why would I? Anyone who has ever read my short stories knows I have never concealed anything. Sexuality is a part of my work, of course, because sexuality is a part of my life and everyone's life. I see no essential difference between the love of two men for each other and the love of a man and a woman; no essential difference, an I've examined them both."

Amita read an alternative piece as her first choice had been what Amita read. She read the 'Flores por los muertos' scene. The background music direction is significant. In an interview TW was asked if there are any positive messages in his plays.
His answer was: "Without planning to do so, I have followed the developing tension and anger and violence of the world and time that I live in through my own steadily increasing tension as a writer and person." He implores everyone to recognize "the crying, almost screaming, need of a great worldwide human effort to know ourselves and each other a great deal better, well enough to concede that no man has a monopoly of right or virtue, anymore than any man has a corner on duplicity and evil and so forth. If people, and races and nations would start with that manifest truth, then I think that the world would side-step the sort of corruption which I have involuntarily chosen as the basic, allegorical theme of my plays as a whole."
Mitch in the play demonstrates the dictum that no man has a corner on duplicity. Stanley too  has his kind of duplicity. For instance, he is always listening hidden, going off, and coming in to act as though he has no information, said Indira. Cunning.
Bobby mentioned that TW was a deeply unhappy man, and could not write when cosseted with all the comforts of life. TW says in the introduction to the play “ the heart of man, his body and his brain, are forged in a white-hot furnace for the purpose of conflict (the struggle of creation) and that with the conflict removed, the man is a sword cutting daisies.”
Indira made the point that in many of his plays TW has some violent event at the start (Suddenly Last Summer, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof). Not that Joe saw much reference to violence of any note before this play begins, or indeed during this play.
Of Stanley Indira said he is a butch (aggressively masculine) man. And very cruel. Talitha recalled a Biblical maxim: A bruised reed he will not break (Isaiah 42:3), which Stanley violates. Blanche is the 'bruised reed' and Stanley has no compunction in snuffing her out.

Bobby quoted from an essay, "The Catastrophe of Success" by TW about art and the artist's role in society:
“Then what is good? The obsessive interest in human affairs, plus a certain amount of compassion and moral conviction, that first made the experience of living something that must be translated into pigment or music or bodily movement or poetry or prose or anything that’s dynamic and expressive—that’s what’s good for you if you’re at all serious in your aims. William Saroyan wrote a great play on this theme, that purity of heart is the one success worth having. “In the time of your life—live!” That time is short and it doesn’t return again. It is slipping away while I write this and while you read it, and the monosyllable of the clock is Loss, loss, loss, unless you devote your heart to its opposition.”
Desire brings him back to life, like Faust. Indira noted that the terms Desire and Elysian Fields (the address of the apartment where Stella and Stanley live) are all suggestive. Blanche says “ I can't stand a naked light bulb”and at the end, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” (the most quoted phrase in the play). Somewhat earlier she also says , “ I had many intimacies with strangers.”
In the reading Stella mentions the affair of Stanley smashing light bulbs on her honeymoon, and being okay with it. She just loves the LIFE in her man!

Indira said she would not be reading. She noted that the fact that the play is written by a homosexual is most important. She thinks the hounding of Blanche by men in this play, resembles the persecution  of homosexuals (TW was once roughed by young fellows, no hurt done). To Joe this seems a stretch. Blanche is a victim of the standard heterosexual male hypocrisy. Talitha said there is revulsion for homosexuality expressed by Blanche toward the man who won her love and then betrayed her (natural?). Indira noted that this scene in the play is airbrushed in the movie where the guy is described as crying in the marital bed, as if to imply he was impotent or something like that. Anyway the audience got the idea.
Here is a text from Rethinking literary biography: a postmodern approach to Tennessee Williams By Nicholas Pagan about the word 'Blanche':
“In English the word 'blanch' can also mean 'to bleach by excluding light'. Rarely leaving the apartment by day, Blanche becomes a creature of the night. 'Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light.' She claims she cannot endure the sight of a 'naked light bulb.' Living in darkness she becomes increasingly pale (blanch), as white perhaps as the clothes that she wore when she first arrived: white suit, gloves, and hat, but one has the feeling the whiteness of her clothes and her name hide something, something dark. She is attracted to innocence as a moth is attracted to light. We know however that Blanche is no virgin. She has freely given herself, her whiteness (including her virginity) to the boys; but for the most part, she conceals this fact, hides it beneath her white apparel and beneath her name.”
TW was a great admirer of Hart Crane, the poet, also a homosexual, like him. The epigraph uses a stanza from a poem of his, which Indira recited. Talitha said the play induces you to enter the world of experience with some compassion.
Indira gave a bio of TW to show parallels between his father and Stanley Kowalski (drinking, womanising); the refined tastes of Blanche and her feeling of superiority also occurred in TW's mother. Indira felt there is something in the novel that can be translated to Kerala, but I did not get exactly what the parallel is. Something to do with pressures to marry on young men and young women in Kerala.
Talitha mentioned the impossibility of Blanche getting a second chance; her past dogs her. The song from Barnum and Bailey she sings makes out that it is too late for anyone to believe in her., "It's a Barnum and Bailey world. Just as phony as it can be--But it wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me!"
For Indira the choice of Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh was not fitting; it made the characters too sugary, she felt. TW's Stanley and Blanche are more rough, more coarse. As I recall Brando was every bit as rough and working-class a person in this movie, as he was in On the Waterfront.' After seeing the movie, the most striking character is Blanche; Vivien Leigh's protrayal is dramatic and tender, and signals her gradual drift into mental instability with great subtlety. Yes, it is a very valid interpretation of the Blanche of the play.

Minu's contribution was to circulate a B&W picture of Van Gogh's painting, The Night Café, which is mentioned in the stage directions for Scene 3:
THE POKER NIGHT. There is a picture of Van Gogh's of a billiard-parlor at night. The kitchen now suggests that sort of lurid nocturnal brilliance, the raw colors of childhood's spectrum. Over the yellow linoleum of the kitchen table hangs an electric bulb with a vivid green glass shade. The poker players--Stanley, Steve, Mitch and Pablo--wear colored shirts, solid blues, a purple, a red-and-white check, a light green, and they are men at the peak of their physical manhood, as coarse and direct and powerful as the primary colors. There are vivid slices of watermelon on the table, whiskey bottles and glasses.

“There is a picture of Van Gogh's of a billiard-parlor at night. The kitchen now suggests that sort of lurid nocturnal brilliance, the raw colors of childhood's spectrum.”
The painting is in red, green and yellow. It had  much significance for Minu, though it's just a suggestive prop, reflecting the primary colours the men at poker are wearing. Primary colours may stand for the crassness of the men's behaviour. For more about this topic, read:
Minu spoke of the symbolism in the blues music and the visual elements in Scene 5 of the dim lights; she's hiding her true self. There is provocation in her undressing, and in the act of asking Stanley to button her up.
Indira made a crucial point that at KRG we should not read plays any more, but read novels.  Plays somehow do not seem to work; is it because a play is meant to be acted, not read? The opinion was accepted. Biographies too have been excluded from our purview, for the reason that the essential ingredient of a writer's imagination gets no play.

Joe expressed his appreciation of SND as follows:
It's a mere hundred pages but TW compresses a lot of material. The play turns around Blanche. She precipitates the events in each scene. As carnally charged a character as Stanley Kowalski is, Blanche Dubois is a practised courtesan who knows how to attract men in spite of her fading beauty (“fresh as a daisy that's been picked a few days”). She's fallen on hard times and needs her wits and her charms to survive. We see her almost making it with Mitch, but after being cruelly exposed by her brother-in-law, Stanley, her survival strategy of finding a husband runs into the sand. She says “I don't want realism. I want magic!” but all she finds is illusion, the illusion she identifies as being fifty percent of a woman's charm. I found the two descriptions of Blanche and Stanley at the beginning set the tone:
Blanche: Her appearance is incongruous to this setting. She is daintily dressed in a white suit with a fluffy bodice, necklace and earrings of pearl, white gloves and hat, looking as if she were arriving at a summer tea or cocktail party in the garden district. She is about five years older than Stella. Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light. There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggests a moth.
Stanley: Stanley throws the screen door of the kitchen open and comes in. He is of medium height, about five feet eight or nine, and strongly, compactly built. Animal joy in his being is implicit in all his movements and attitudes. Since earliest manhood the center of his life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependency, but with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens. Branching out from this complete and satisfying center are all the auxiliary channels of his life, such as his heartiness with men, his appreciation of rough humor, his love of good drink and food and games, his car, his radio, everything that is his, that bears his emblem of the gaudy seed-bearer. He sizes women up at a glance, with sexual classifications, crude images flashing into his mind and determining the way he smiles at them.

TW treats Blanche with more humanity in this play than Flaubert treated Emma Bovary in his novel. She is taunted, and is ultimately doomed. But at least, there are some understanding women who can see her plight and sympathise with her, regardless of her deceptions, of which there is whole catalogue. Here is Stella speaking up for her sister:

STELLA  You needn't have been so cruel to someone alone as she is.
STANLEY  Delicate piece she is.
STELLA  She is. She was. You didn't know Blanche as a girl. Nobody, nobody, was tender and trusting as she was. But people like you abused her, and forced her to change.

TW contrives an ending that damns Stanley; we know it is he who has unhitched Blanche from her senses and sent her to the asylum. We pity her, and in spite of the superb way in which Marlon Brando has imbued extraordinary animal magnetism in the character of Stanley, we recognise him to be what he is: a cruel man without a shred of compassion.

Joe read scene 10 from the book toward the end where Kowalski is going to have a baby and taunts Blanche for all the airs she puts on and her self-deceptions. There was much merriment as Joe unbuttoned his shirt, following the stage directions at one point in the scene, as the hysteria mounts. Blanche is getting desperate, and it's no longer funny for her. Priya said Stanley is taking sadistic pleasure in tormenting Blanche. Joe agreed, but added there is much to admire in the way TW plays off the two against each other; it's an inspired scene, one that both actors would have enjoyed doing.

When Priya took this scene as evidence that Stanley didn't care for Stella, there was a chorus of NO's, with Talitha and KumKum leading.

Indira said Blanche is very fragile. You knew he could smash her; he is so strong and she so weak.

Bobby remarked on the Americanisms, such as “put on the dog”, meaning to celebrate.

Someone said the curtain ('portieres') are an important prop. It divides the female space from the male space, the poker room from the bedroom and bathroom. Poker being a male game, the women have to go off during the game.

The Readings

Blanche tells Stella she has lost their patrimony of the Belle Reve estate, after suffering “all those deaths” in her family.
BLANCHE  I knew you would, Stella. I knew you would take this attitude about it!
STELLA  About--what?--please!
BLANCHE [slowly]  The loss--the loss...
STELLA  Belle Reve? Lost, is it? No!
BLANCHE  Yes, Stella.
              [They stare at each other across the yellow-checked linoleum of the table. Blanche slowly nods her head and Stella looks slowly down at her hands folded on the table. The music of the "blue piano" grows louder. Blanche touches her handkerchief to her forehead.]
STELLA  But how did it go? What happened?
BLANCHE [springing up]  You're a fine one to ask me how it went!
STELLA  Blanche!
BLANCHE  You're a fine one to sit there accusing me of it!
STELLA  Blanche!
BLANCHE  I, I, I took the blows in my face and my body! All of those deaths! The long parade to the graveyard! Father, mother! Margaret, that dreadful way! So big with it, it couldn't be put in a coffin! But had to be burned like rubbish! You just came home in time for the funerals, Stella. And funerals are pretty compared to deaths. Funerals are quiet, but deaths--not always. Sometimes their breathing is hoarse, and sometimes it rattles, and sometimes they even cry out to you, "Don't let me go!" Even the old, sometimes, say, "Don't let me go." As if you were able to stop them! But funerals are quiet, with pretty flowers. And, oh, what gorgeous boxes they pack them away in! Unless you were there at the bed when they cried out, "Hold me!" you'd never suspect there was the struggle for breath and bleeding. You didn't dream, but I saw! Saw! Saw! And now you sit there telling me with your eyes that I let the place go! How in hell do you think all that sickness and dying was paid for? Death is expensive, Miss Stella! And old Cousin Jessie's right after Margaret's, hers! Why, the Grim Reaper had put up his tent on our doorstep!... Stella. Belle Reve was his headquarters! Honey--that's how it slipped through my fingers! Which of them left us a fortune? Which of them left a cent of insurance even? Only poor Jessie--one hundred to pay for her coffin. That was all, Stella! And I with my pitiful salary at the school. Yes, accuse me! Sit there and stare at me, thinking I let the place go! I let the place go? Where were you! In bed with your--Polack!

Talitha: reading from the end of Scene 4.
STELLA  Then don't you think your superior attitude is a bit out of place?
BLANCHE  I am not being or feeling at all superior, Stella. Believe me I'm not! It's just this. This is how I look at it. A man like that is someone to go out with--once--twice--three times when the devil is in you. But live with? Have a child by?
STELLA  I have told you I love him.
BLANCHE  Then I tremble for you! I just--tremble for you....
STELLA  I can't help your trembling if you insist on trembling!
              [There is a pause.]
BLANCHE  May I--speak--plainly?
STELLA  Yes, do. Go ahead. As plainly as you want to.
              [Outside, a train approaches. They are silent till the noise subsides. They are both in the bedroom.
              [Under cover of the train's noise Stanley enters from outside. He stands unseen by the women, holding some packages in his arms, and overhears their following conversation. He wears an undershirt and grease-stained seersucker pants.]
BLANCHE  Well--if you'll forgive me--he's common!
STELLA  Why, yes, I suppose he is.
BLANCHE  Suppose! You can't have forgotten that much of our bringing up, Stella, that you just suppose that any part of a gentleman's in his nature! Not one particle, no! Oh, if he was just--ordinary! Just plain--but good and wholesome, but--no. There's something downright--bestial--about him! You're hating me saying this, aren't you?
STELLA [coldly]  Go on and say it all, Blanche.
BLANCHE  He acts like an animal, has an animal's habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! There's even something--sub-human--something not quite to the stage of humanity yet! Yes, something--ape-like about him, like one of those pictures I've seen in--anthropological studies! Thousands and thousands of years have passed him right by, and there he is--Stanley Kowalski--survivor of the stone age! Bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle! And you--you here--waiting for him! Maybe he'll strike you or maybe grunt and kiss you! That is, if kisses have been discovered yet! Night falls and the other apes gather! There in the front of the cave, all grunting like him, and swilling and gnawing and hulking! His poker night!--you call it--this party of apes! Somebody growls--some creature snatches at something--the fight is on! God! Maybe we are a long way from being made in God's image, but Stella--my sister--there has been some progress since then! Such things as art--as poetry and music--such kinds of new light have come into the world since then! In some kinds of people some tenderer feelings have had some little beginning! That we have got to make grow! And cling to, and hold as our flag! In this dark march toward whatever it is we're approaching.... Don't--don't hang back with the brutes!
              [Another train passes outside. Stanley hesitates, licking his lips. Then suddenly he turns stealthily about and withdraws through front door. The women are still unaware of his presence. When the train has passed he calls through the closed front door.]
STANLEY  Hey! Hey, Stella!
STELLA [who has listened gravely to Blanche]  Stanley!
[But Stella has gone to the front door. Stanley enters casually with his packages.]
STANLEY  Hiyuh, Stella. Blanche back?
STELLA  Yes, she's back.
STANLEY  Hiyuh, Blanche.
              [He grins at her.]
STELLA  You must've got under the car.
STANLEY  Them dam mechanics at Fritz's don't know their ass fr'm--Hey!
              [Stella has embraced him--with both arms, fiercely, and full in the view of Blanche. He laughs and clasps her head to him. Over her head he grins through the curtains at Blanche.]
              [As the lights fade away, with a lingering brightness on their embrace, the music of the "blue piano" and trumpet and drums is heard.]

[For a moment they stare at each other. Then Blanche springs up and runs to her with a wild cry.]
BLANCHE  Stella, oh, Stella, Stella! Stella for Star!
              [She begins to speak with feverish vivacity as if she feared for either of them to stop and think. They catch each other in a spasmodic embrace.]
BLANCHE  Now, then, let me look at you. But don't you look at me, Stella, no, no, no, not till later, not till I've bathed and rested! And turn that over-light off! Turn that off! I won't be looked at in this merciless glare!
              [Stella laughs and complies]
Come back here now! Oh, my baby! Stella! Stella for Star!
              [She embraces her again]
I thought you would never come back to this horrible place! What am I saying? I didn't mean to say that. I meant to be nice about it and say--Oh, what a convenient location and such--Haa-ha! Precious lamb! You haven't said a word to me.
STELLA  You haven't given me a chance to, honey!
              [She laughs, but her glance at Blanche is a little anxious.]
BLANCHE  Well, now you talk. Open your pretty mouth and talk while I look around for some liquor! I know you must have some liquor on the place! Where could it be, I wonder? Oh, I spy, I spy!
              [She rushes to the closet and removes the bottle; she is shaking all over and panting for breath as she tries to laugh. The bottle nearly slips from her grasp.]
STELLA [noticing]  Blanche, you sit down and let me pour the drinks. I don't know what we've got to mix with. Maybe a coke's in the icebox. Look'n see, honey, while I'm--
BLANCHE  No coke, honey, not with my nerves tonight! Where--where--where is--?
STELLA  Stanley? Bowling! He loves it. They're having a--found some soda!--tournament...
BLANCHE  Just water, baby, to chase it! Now don't get worried, your sister hasn't turned into a drunkard, she's just all shaken up and hot and tired and dirty! You sit down, now, and explain this place to me! What are you doing in a place like this?
STELLA  Now, Blanche--
BLANCHE  Oh, I'm not going to be hypocritical, I'm going to be honestly critical about it! Never, never, never in my worst dreams could I picture--Only Poe! Only Mr. Edgar Allan Poe!--could do it justice! Out there I suppose is the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir!
              [She laughs.]
STELLA  No, honey, those are the L & N tracks.
BLANCHE  No, now seriously, putting joking aside. Why didn't you tell me, why didn't you write me, honey, why didn't you let me know?
STELLA [carefully, pouring herself a drink]  Tell you what, Blanche?
BLANCHE  Why, that you had to live in these conditions!
STELLA  Aren't you being a little intense about it? It's not that bad at all! New Orleans isn't like other cities.
BLANCHE  This has got nothing to do with New Orleans. You might as well say--forgive me, blessed baby!
              [She suddenly stops short]
The subject is closed!
STELLA [a little drily]  Thanks.
              [During the pause, Blanche stares at her. She smiles at Blanche.]
BLANCHE [looking down at her glass, which shakes in her hand]  You're all I've got in the world, and you're not glad to see me!
STELLA [sincerely]  Why, Blanche, you know that's not true.
BLANCHE  No?--I'd forgotten how quiet you were.
STELLA  You never did give me a chance to say much, Blanche. So I just got in the habit of being quiet around you.
BLANCHE [vaguely]  A good habit to get into...
              [then, abruptly]
You haven't asked me how I happened to get away from the school before the spring term ended.
STELLA  Well, I thought you'd volunteer that information--if you wanted to tell me.
BLANCHE  You thought I'd been fired?
STELLA  No, I--thought you might have--resigned...
BLANCHE  I was so exhausted by all I'd been through my--nerves broke.
              [Nervously tamping cigarette]
I was on the verge of--lunacy, almost! So Mr. Graves--Mr. Graves is the high school superintendent--he suggested I take a leave of absence. I couldn't put all of those details into the wire...
              [She drinks quickly]
Oh, this buzzes right through me and feels so good!
STELLA  Won't you have another?
BLANCHE  No, one's my limit.
BLANCHE  You haven't said a word about my appearance.
STELLA  You look just fine.
BLANCHE  God love you for a liar! Daylight never exposed so total a ruin! But you--you've put on some weight, yes, you're just as plump as a little partridge! And it's so becoming to you!
STELLA  Now, Blanche--
BLANCHE  Yes, it is, it is or I wouldn't say it! You just have to watch around the hips a little. Stand up.
STELLA  Not now.
BLANCHE  You hear me? I said stand up!
              [Stella complies reluctantly]
You messy child, you, you've spilt something on the pretty white lace collar! About your hair--you ought to have it cut in a feather bob with your dainty features. Stella, you have a maid, don't you?
STELLA  No. With only two rooms it's--
BLANCHE  What? Two rooms, did you say?
STELLA  This one and--
              [She is embarrassed.]
BLANCHE  The other one?
              [She laughs sharply. There is an embarrassed silence.]
BLANCHE  I am going to take just one little tiny nip more, sort of to put the stopper on, so to speak.... Then put the bottle away so I won't be tempted.
              [She rises]
I want you to look at my figure!
              [She turns around]
You know I haven't put on one ounce in ten years, Stella? I weigh what I weighed the summer you left Belle Reve. The summer Dad died and you left us....
STELLA [a little wearily]  It's just incredible, Blanche, how well you're looking.

MEXICAN WOMAN  Flores. Flores. Flores para los muertos. Flores. Flores.
BLANCHE  What? Oh! Somebody outside...
              [She goes to the door. opens it and stares at the Mexican Woman.]
MEXICAN WOMAN [she is at the door and offers Blanche some of her flowers]  Flores? Flores para los muertos?
BLANCHE [frightened]: No, no! Not now! Not now!
              [She darts back into the apartment, slamming the door.]
MEXICAN WOMAN [she turns away and starts to move down the street]  Flores para los muertos.
              [The polka tune fades in.]
BLANCHE [as if to herself]  Crumble and fade and--regrets--recriminations... "If you'd done this, it wouldn't've cost me that!"
MEXICAN WOMAN  Corones para los muertos. Corones...
BLANCHE  Legacies! Huh... And other things such as bloodstained pillow-slips--"Her linen needs changing"--"Yes Mother." But couldn't we get a colored girl to do it?" No, we couldn't of course. Everything gone but the--
BLANCHE  Death--I used to sit here and she used to sit over there and death was as close as you are.... We didn't dare even admit we had ever heard of it!
MEXICAN WOMAN  Flores para los muertos, flores--flores...
BLANCHE  The opposite is desire. So do you wonder? How could you possibly wonder! Not far from Belle Reve, before we had lost Belle Reve, was a camp where they trained young soldiers. On Saturday nights they would go in town to get drunk--
MEXICAN WOMAN [softly]  Corones...
BLANCHE  --and on the way back they would stagger onto my lawn and call--"Blanche! Blanche!"--The deaf old lady remaining suspected nothing. But sometimes I slipped outside to answer their calls.... Later the paddy-wagon would gather them up like daisies... the long way home....
              [The Mexican Woman turns slowly and drifts back off with her soft mournful cries. Blanche goes to the dresser and leans forward on it. After a moment, Mitch rises and follows her purposefully. The polka music fades away. He places his hands on her waist and tries to turn her about.]
BLANCHE  What do you want?
MITCH [fumbling to embrace her]  What I been missing all summer.

STELLA  ..., when men are drinking and playing poker anything can happen. It's always a powder-keg. He didn't know what he was doing.... He was as good as a lamb when I came back and he's really very, very ashamed of himself.
BLANCHE  And that--that makes it all right?
STELLA  No, it isn't all right for anybody to make such a terrible row, but--people do sometimes. Stanley's always smashed things. Why, on our wedding night--soon as we came in here--he snatched off one of my slippers and rushed about the place smashing the light bulbs with it.
BLANCHE  He did--what?
STELLA  He smashed all the light bulbs with the heel of my slipper!
              [She laughs.]
BLANCHE  And you--you let him? Didn't run, didn't scream?
STELLA  I was--sort of--thrilled by it.

Joe: Reading from Scene 10
Where Kowalski is going to have a baby and taunts Blanche, who is going to have her date with him (“We've had this date with each other from the beginning!” )

BL:  I received a telegram from an old admirer of mine.
ST:  Anything good?
BL:  I think so. An invitation.
ST:  What to? A fireman's ball?
BL: [throwing back her head]  A cruise of the Caribbean on a yacht!
ST:  Well, well. What do you know?
BL:  I have never been so surprised in my life.
ST:  I guess not.
BL:  It came like a bolt from the blue!
ST:  Who did you say it was from?
BL:  An old beau of mine.
ST:  The one that give you the white fox-pieces?
BL:  Mr. Shep Huntleigh. I wore his ATO pin my last year at college. I hadn't seen him again until last Christmas. I ran into him on Biscayne Boulevard. Then--just now--this wire--inviting me on a cruise of the Caribbean! The problem is clothes. I tore into my trunk to see what I have that's suitable for the tropics!
ST:  And come up with that--gorgeous--diamond--tiara?
BL:  This old relic? Ha-ha! It's only rhinestones.
ST:  Gosh. I thought it was Tiffany diamonds. [He unbuttons his shirt.]
BL:  Well, anyhow, I shall be entertained in style.
ST:  Uh-huh. It goes to show, you never know what is coming.
BL:  Just when I thought my luck had begun to fail me--
ST:  Into the picture pops this Miami millionaire.
BL:  This man is not from Miami. This man is from Dallas.
ST:  This man is from Dallas?
BL:  Yes, this man is from Dallas where gold spouts out of the ground!
ST:  Well, just so he's from somewhere! [He starts removing his shirt.]
BL:  Close the curtains before you undress any further.
ST: [amiably]  This is all I'm going to undress right now. [He rips the sack off a quart beer bottle]
Seen a bottle opener? [She moves slowly toward the dresser, where she stands with her hands knotted together.]
I used to have a cousin who could open a beer bottle with his teeth. [Pounding the bottle cap on the corner of table]
That was his only accomplishment, all he could do--he was just a human bottle-opener. And then one time, at a wedding party, he broke his front teeth off! After that he was so ashamed of himself he used t' sneak out of the house when company came.... [The bottle cap pops off and a geyser of foam shoots up. Stanley laughs happily, holding up the bottle over his head.]
Ha-ha! Rain from heaven! [He extends the bottle toward her]
Shall we bury the hatchet and make it a loving-cup? Huh?
BL:  No, thank you.
ST:  Well, it's a red letter night for us both. You having an oil millionaire and me having a baby. [He goes to the bureau in the bedroom and crouches to remove something from the bottom drawer.]
BL: [drawing back]  What are you doing in here?
ST:  Here's something I always break out on special occasions like this. The silk pyjamas I wore on my wedding night!
BL:  Oh.
ST:  When the telephone rings and they say, "You've got a son!" Ill tear this off and wave it like a flag! [He shakes out a brilliant pyjama coat]
I guess we are both entitled to put on the dog. [He goes back to the kitchen with the coat over his arm.]
BL:  When I think of how divine it is going to be to have such a thing as privacy once more--I could weep with joy!
ST:  This millionaire from Dallas is not going to interfere with your privacy any?
BL:  It won't be the sort of thing you have in mind. This man is a gentleman and he respects me. [Improvising feverishly]
What he wants is my companionship. Having great wealth sometimes makes people lonely! A cultivated woman, a woman of intelligence and breeding, can enrich a man's life--immeasurably! I have those things to offer, and this doesn't take them away. Physical beauty is passing. A transitory possession. But beauty of the mind and richness of the spirit and tenderness of the heart--and I have all of those things--aren't taken away, but grow! Increase with the years! How strange that I should be called a destitute woman! When I have all of these treasures locked in my heart. [A choked sob comes from her]
I think of myself as a very, very rich woman! But I have been foolish--casting my pearls before swine!
ST:  Swine, huh?
BL:  Yes, swine! Swine! And I'm thinking not only of you but of your friend, Mr. Mitchell. He came to see me tonight. He dared to come here in his work-clothes! And to repeat slander to me, vicious stories that he had gotten from you! I gave him his walking papers....
ST:  You did, huh?
BL:  But then he came back. He returned with a box of roses to beg my forgiveness! He implored my forgiveness. But some things are not forgivable. Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable. It is the one unforgivable thing in my opinion and it is the one thing of which I have never, never been guilty. And so I told him, I said to him, "Thank you," but it was foolish of me to think that we could ever adapt ourselves to each other. Our ways of life are too different. Our attitudes and our backgrounds are incompatible. We have to be realistic about such things. So farewell, my friend! And let there be no hard feelings....
ST:  Was this before or after the telegram came from the Texas oil millionaire?
BL:  What telegram! No! No, after! As a matter of fact, the wire came just as--
ST:  As a matter of fact there wasn't no wire at all!
BL:  Oh, oh!
ST:  There isn't no millionaire! And Mitch didn't come back; with roses 'cause I know where he is--
BL:  Oh!
ST:  There isn't a goddam thing but imagination!
BL:  Oh!
ST:  And lies and conceit and tricks!
BL:  Oh!
ST:  And look at yourself! Take a look at yourself in that worn-out Mardi Gras outfit, rented for fifty cents from some ragpicker! And with the crazy crown on! What queen do you think you are?
BL:  Oh--God...
ST:  I've been on to you from the start! Not once did you pull any wool over this boy's eyes! You come in here and sprinkle the place with powder and spray perfume and cover the light bulb with a paper lantern, and lo and behold the place has turned into Egypt and you are the Queen of the Nile! Sitting on your throne and swilling down my liquor! I say--Ha!--Ha! Do you hear me? Ha--ha--ha!.

1 comment:

paul said...

The reading was so intense that Joe
started unbuttoning his shirt
-(and Kumkum had to remind him they were in the yacht Club library!)