Blair Underwood, Nicole Ari Parker Breathe New Life Into "A Streetcar Named Desire"

The pair says the new production not only recreates a classic, but infuses the script with an African-American spirit.

Posted: 02/29/2012 11:49 AM EST
Wood Harris, Nicole Ari Parker, Daphne Rubin-Vega,Blair Underwood, A Streetcar Named Desire, broadway

The time-honored play A Streetcar Named Desire is returning to Broadway, but, according to its stars, Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker, the production’s multiethnic cast will bring a whole new meaning to an old favorite.


“It's never been done on Broadway with a multicultural cast,” Underwood told “What we’re bringing to it is the soul … of blackness, the soul of African ancestry … our American soul.”


Set in 1950’s New Orleans, the drama explores issues of class and heritage through the relationships of its iconic characters. In the new production, however, audiences will see the old plot played out in the social language of New Orleans’ Black community, as tensions between Creole and Gullah identity replace the traditional conflict-pairing of Antebellum South versus white working-class.


As the female lead and Creole reincarnation of Blanche DuBois, one of the play’s most memorable characters, Parker says the universal elements of the play are perfect for African-Americans to tackle.


“All these characters endure,” Parker said. They push through the cement of life, and having an African-American cast lends itself to really illuminating the material.”


Although excited about the groundbreaking role, Underwood said that more productions featuring Black actors will make it to opening night when more Black people are inspired to do the work behind the scenes.


“The solution is to create your own product,” Underwood said about the dearth of Blacks in Hollywood and Broadway, giving a nod to the show’s African-American producers, Stephen Byrd and Alia Jones, who also staged the Black Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.


“This is a role that, as an actor of color, you look at that and say ‘that’s a hell of a role’ … but the chances of you getting a chance to do it are not going to happen unless somebody has the consciousness … and are progressive enough to say ‘we can do that too.’"

The production, which will feature original music by jazz trumpeter great Terrance Blanchard, opens April 3, 2012, and will enjoy a limited run from April 22 thru July 22 at New York City's Broadhurst Theatre.


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