Archive for October, 2009

Hurricane Blanche Hits Chicago

Thursday, October 29th, 2009
Laura Sturm as Blanche
Laura Sturm as Blanche

Playwright Darren Callahan interviewed Laura Sturm and filed this report:

Laura Sturm is Blanche Dubois, the central character of A Streetcar Named Desire.  The face in your head when you imagine Blanche – whether born of previous stage productions, or the classic film, or television productions – that’s Laura Sturm’s face.  She doesn’t have to speak one line of dialogue and you can tell that this woman was meant to play Blanche Dubois. And her four star reviews in the Chicago press agree.

“I was born and raised in Greensboro, North Carolina.  Honestly, at first I really tried to leave my Southern roots behind.  What I have found was, over the years, being away from the South has given me a much stronger feeling for it.  When I watch Gone with the Wind, I don’t cry when Scarlett and Rhett break up; I cry when they burn Atlanta!”

Preparing for Polarity Ensemble Theatre’s autumn production has brought Ms. Sturm even closer to her Southern beginnings.  As Blanche, she explores the social strata of the South, particularly her character’s belief that brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski, a man with brutality and charm in spades, is “common.”  “There is a hint of aristocracy that was very prevalent in the South that I haven’t found in the Midwest.  I was raised to think that certain people are better than others.  (This was never actually spoken out loud, just understood.)  This is not what I believe now, but I had to work to unlearn that.  These are not my own beliefs, but my mother was determined that I should climb the social ladder, which drove me insane.  However, part of my Blanche’s entertaining ways come directly from my mother.”

When asked if Blanche’s simple goal is to be loved, Ms. Sturm knowingly responds, “There’s nothing simple with Blanche.  Blanche loves attention, I think because it translates, somewhere in her mind, to being loved.  The idea of being ‘popular’ comes to mind.  I personally felt that being ‘popular’ was very important growing up.  I don’t know if that’s Southern or just plain adolescent.”

In support of the performances, Ms. Sturm focuses on the tragic roots of one of Williams’ most heartbreaking creations – a female character who is full of flaws, humanity, and, ultimately delusions and dishonestly.  And sex.  She doesn’t forget the sex.

“Stanley is just a walking sex-on-a-stick.  Seriously – talk about a character that’s rooted in his pelvis!” she laughs.  “Blanche hides and despises that part of herself, but she’s deeply connected to it and that creates a wonderful tension in the play.”

Matched with well-respected actors such as Mason Hill as Stanley and Abigail Trabue as sister Stella Kowalski, Ms. Sturm is looking forward to the chemistry and the surprises for this unique production of the classic play.  She confesses, “I read Streetcar about 20 times before Polarity even decided to do the show, and every time I read it, it got better.  And the sheer poetry and emotional wallop it packs knocked me out every time.  It’s really a thrill and a privilege to be working on it.”

A Streetcar Named Desire performances take place at the Polarity Ensemble Theatre in the Josephinum Academy, 1500 N Bell, Chicago. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm. $19 general admission, $10 students with ID, and $15 for seniors over 65. Tickets can be purchased in advance through Brown Paper Tickets, by calling 1-800-838-3006 or by visiting petheatre.com. Info line:  773-321-0009