African arts, culture + politics

Streets ahead


(ARISE magazine, issue 12) After storming Broadway and London’s West End with an all-black production of Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, producer Stephen C Byrd is now assembling a star-studded cast for his upcoming update of another Tennessee Williams classic, A Streetcar Named Desire.

Already involved are Blair Underwood, Boris Kodjoe, Zoe Saldana (pictured), Anika Noni Rose and, possibly, Djimon Hounsou – Byrd says he’s currently looking into signing up the Blood Diamond star. Grammy Award-winning musician and composer Terence Blanchard is onboard to create an original score.

Unlike Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, which starred James Earl Jones, not all the performers in Streetcar are African or African-American. The multiracial cast will also include Hispanic actor Jimmy Smits, Indian actress Sulekha Naidu and a white actress playing Blanche’s best friend. “We wanted to reflect the true culture of
New Orleans as it is today,” explained Byrd. “Streetcar has always been a culturally encoded play, with white
cast members in both the film and other stage productions. This will be the first time we are seeing
this production done with a non-traditional cast on a Broadway and West End stage”.

A Streetcar Named Desire begins a 20-week run on Broadway around June, before moving on to London’s West End. “I’m very excited,” enthuses Byrd. “It’s one of Williams’ most intricate plays, the diamond in his repertoire. The director, Emily Mann, lived with him for a year and has a very visceral feel for his works and how they should be interpreted”. And with March 26 marking what would have been Tennessee Williams’ centenary,
the timing couldn’t be better.


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