Archive for November, 2009

A “Stella!” Rendition of STREETCAR

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
Mason Hill and Abigail Trabue
Mason Hill and Abigail Trabue

Playwright Darren Callahan interviewed Abigail Trabue and filed this report:

Her name is Abigail Trabue and she’s into torture.  “I thought long and hard,” she admits, “about how this would affect me.  Can I live in this world for fourteen weeks?  Can I put my child through that – my friends, my family?  But it’s Stella Kowalski, for God’s sake!”  

From a house in Lincoln Park, Chicago, where she leans against a bookshelf during a brief interview, Ms. Trabue radiates charm, sex appeal, and confidence in same measure.  It makes one wonder how this woman will transform into the self-effacing Stella – the demure wife of Stanley Kowalski, largely regarded as the quintessential Alpha Male of twentieth century drama. From the pen of Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire attained classic status long ago and remains popular today.

“It’s a fine line with Stella.  She’s not afraid of her husband, except in extreme moments.  She’s his equal in many ways, a balance for his impulses.  If it wasn’t for Stella, the whole damn show wouldn’t work.”

To take on this physically and emotionally demanding experience, it requires a cast of undeniable capabilities.  Stella, Stanley, and her sister Blanche Dubois form a dysfunctional triangle of human damage inhabiting steamy New Orleans.  The relationship between Stanley and Stella provide greater counterpoint for Blanche’s own eccentricities.  “I didn’t really think I was going to get the role, for a time.  But when they matched me up with Mason Hill (Stanley) and Laura Sturm (Blanche), we just clicked.”  

Ms. Trabue is a talent to watch – having impressed with leads in recent productions of The Rivals, Othello, and Hamlet, all for the renowned Polarity Ensemble Theatre, where Ms. Trabue is also a company member.  Polarity produces this latest take on A Streetcar Named Desire.  “I love working with Polarity,” she says.  “I really commit to what we’re doing here.”

The risk is worth it, as Ann Keen’s deft and original take on the classic play allows Ms. Trabue to mine deep veins of a rich female character.  It also allows her to reconnect with her southern roots.  Raised in Houma, Louisiana and Gulfport, Mississippi she embraces the culture like a natural. 

On being asked if she’s seen other Stellas on film and stage, she replies, “This is my first time doing Williams, and I have purposefully avoiding seeing any films or revival footage, like stuff on YouTube.  I remember a bit of the work from a long time ago, but not enough to be influenced.” 

The most closely identified actor to portray Stella, Kim Hunter, went on to a long and storied career.  When asked if she plans to appear in any Planet of the Apes films as a follow up, further mimicking Ms. Hunter’s in her post-Streetcar years, Ms. Trabue only laughs.  “Maybe if it’s with Tim Roth and the makeup is really good.”     

The extended run of A Streetcar Named Desire ends this weekend at the Polarity Ensemble Theatre in the Josephinum Academy, 1500 N Bell, Chicago. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 8pm, and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling 1-800-838-3006. Click here for more information, or call our info line at 773-321-0009


Tuesday, November 10th, 2009
We’ve been getting wornderful emails from audience members after seeing A Streetcar Named Desire. Here’s a few from people who gave us permission to reprint their remarks:
I just saw this intense and powerful production.  I’m speechless and exhausted.  Outstanding!  The whole thing was so well crafted and staged and performed…..but the performance by Laura Sturm as Blanche was over the top in the best possible way – perfect – I’m at a loss for other superlatives – just incredible – truly one of the GREAT performances of the season.
Saw Streetcar 10/24 and LOVED it. I actually felt overwhelmed with emotion at the end of the play. That is the experience I am looking for…more than entertainment.
–Julia von Arb

We saw Streetcar Sunday afternoon.  It is fabulous – staging, direction, acting, and in my decades of watching theater it is rare to see a performance as extraordinary as Laura Sturm’s.
–Lynn Hyndman

Congratulations!  I saw the show tonight.  You created a strong ensemble, and I felt sad for Blanche when she walked out with the doctor.   Really sad.
Best wishes for continued success,
–David Alex
I loved the production and performance Friday night! Great everything and the set–wow! On such a small budget–it was inspiring. Lighting was great, too. Sound design–yes. All the elements came together so beautifully in support of the great cast. Ann did a tremendous interpretative job, too. I’ve recommended it several times already!
–Lisa Rosenthal

The Saints Come Marching In

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

by Richard Engling

I have to think the saints are watching over Polarity in a couple ways this year. We are finishing out the last two weekends of a really magical production of A Streetcar Named Desire. We are sold out for Friday night. The acting has been spectacular and widely praised, but the tech work is equally stunning, and some of the thanks has to go to the Saints. You might know the Saints as the organization that provides ushers to so many Chicago theaters, but they also provide grants to help companies with special projects. One of the reasons Streetcar looks so good is that the Saints recognized Polarity’s track record of theatrical excellence by approving a grant to assist us in buying new computer-driven lighting equipment. In an intimate space like ours, it makes a huge difference.

In addition to that blessing, this morning I signed a letter of agreement with the saintly Marc Richards of Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, the international intellectual properties law firm. I’ve been talking with Marc for some time about publishing projects we are planning, and Marc and his firm have agreed to provide us pro bono legal assistance! Polarity has published two books of plays to date, and we have some very hot ideas for projects no one else in the nation is doing. (Sorry, I can’t spill the beans yet).

So we are feeling grateful and will have good reasons to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. With only 6 performances of Streetcar left, we certainly hope our friends will make sure to get their tickets. This is an extraordinary production not to be missed. Click here for more details.

P.S. Managing Director Ann Keen lead the Saints grant application effort with lots of help from Jason Epperson. She says: “The Saints know theatre. Their grants offer solid, practical help for solutions to basic needs. Without their assistance our production values would not have risen to the level we now enjoy. They make it easier for theatres to do theatre.” Click to sign up for our newsletter.