To cap off its multitude of Diversity Month events, Viacom’s Office of Global Inclusion hosted a discussion with the multicultural cast of the latest production of Tennessee Williams’ classic Pulitzer-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire. The session gave us an inside look at their experience with the revival of the literary and theatrical masterpiece.
“It made sense to bring in the cast of Streetcar because they epitomize diversity at its core and are champions for inclusion,” said Juan Herrera, VP of the Office of Global Inclusion. “With BET as a producer for Streetcar we were also glad to support a business initiative.”
It’s a classic, with a deep, familiar history. Many call to mind the 1947 production of Streetcar starring Marlon Brando. Similarly, anyone who has ever studied theater has probably come face-to-face with Williams’ work and has yelled the classic line, “Stella!”
With a multiracial cast this time around, the production presented the actors an opportunity to create an entirely new relationship to the classic text – in addition to bringing diversity to the Broadway stage.
“We know the history of it but for us to diversify the play and for it to stand out on its own we really had to approach it with our own interpretation,” said Wood Harris, who plays Mitch.
Confronted with the reigning notions of what others perceive this play to look like, the cast decided to bring their own flavor to the production while still paying homage to the past.
“The opportunity to do such an American masterpiece on the Broadway stage and do it with a cast of color and with a completely new open relationship to the material – without any kind of attention being paid to what’s happened in the past – that’s a wonderful experience,” said Daphne Rubin-Vega, who plays Stella.
In addition to Harris, who is best known for his roles in The Wire and Remember the Titans, and Rubin-Vega, an actor in Rent, Nicole Ari Parker of long-running Showtime series Soul Food takes on Blanche; two-time Golden Globe Nominee Blair Underwood plays the role of Stanley.
Producers Stephen C. Byrd and Alia M. Jones, who were also behind the Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring James Earl Jones and Terrence Howard, also joined the cast. Moderator Susan Fales-Hill, former writer for The Cosby Show and A Different World, kept the audience engaged as she led the discussion for the evening.
While the cast may have had their apprehensions about challenges that would arise from taking on this production, they have now eased into their groove and found their own rhythm.
“It was great to delve deeper into the production process with the producers and cast. This was another outstanding collaboration with the Employee Affinity Groups and the Office of Global Inclusion,” said Tara Shaw, event co-chair of The BEAT, Viacom’s affinity group for African-American employees.
A Streetcar Named Desire is currently playing at the Broadhurst Theatre. For more from the cast, check out the video below.