Theater and Interpretation: A Streetcar Named Desire

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SWBAT analyze how a director's choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

Big Idea

Theater is in the eye of the beholder.


This lesson focuses on director interpretation of a drama.  I try to get across to students that reading A Streetcar Named Desire is the purest form of the work before it gets performed.  Similar to other forms of literature, dramas are at the mercy of directorial interpretation.  This lesson also touches upon one of the first lessons done in the semester when we talked about the art of interpretation.  Students will view three separate renditions of Streetcar and note how each director interprets the play. It also relates to the Common Core's Staircase Complexity shift as students are encourage to closely read stage directions and lines to form their own interpretations of the work.  They will later on compare their interpretations to actual performances.

A Streetcar Named Desire Vocabulary Flashcards

10 minutes

To review for the vocabulary test at the end of the week, students will consider the connotations and denotations of those vocabulary words in scene 3.  Students will consider the meaning of the word "portieres" in the stage direction: Blanche crosses into the bedroom and partially closes the portieres.  Additionally, based on the spelling of the word, what language is the word derived from?  Secondly, students will consider the meaning of the word "indolently" from the line: She raises her arms and stretches, as she moves indolently back to the chair.  If someone moves to a chair after stretching, how would you describe their behavior? Lastly, students will consider the word "feigned" in the stage direction: Reading with feigned difficulty.  Consider the word "feigned." What other word does it sound like?  Following their attempt to figure out the meanings of the words based on context, students will check their definitions in the dictionary.

Theater and Interpretation

30 minutes

 In this section I would like students to make the connection that director's have poetic license to interpret a play or any artistic medium the way they see fit.  Students will watch three separate interpretations of scenes from various productions of A Streetcar Named Desire.  They will then use an "Audience Reception" handout to note the differences among the three interpretations.  Some of the clips are longer than others; teachers should use their judgment as to how long they chose to watch the clip.  Students will note that some productions have minimal sets or the characters don't quite look like how they imagined them.  This activity usually sparks a good conversation pertaining to art and interpretation.


Read A Streetcar Named Desire Act 1, Scene Four

30 minutes

In this activity, we read scene four and pay attention to Blanche's characterization of Stanley.  I will also ask students to pay attention to Stella's reaction to Blanche's attitude toward Stanley.  I will ask them, "Do you think Stella will ever leave Stanley?"  Students usually believe that Stella is going to leave Stanley.  Their decision, however, is based on twenty-first century standards, and the fact that domestic violence is openly discussed in our culture.  This scene is a great opportunity to discuss one of our essential themes: a woman's dependence on a man in post-war America.  I often have to explain that Stella has no source of income and no where to go if she leaves Stanley.  Blanche is in no better situation.  Both women are dependent on men for their existence.  Additionally, domestic violence was not discussed during this time period.  Often, women felt isolated, and in some states, it was acceptable for a man to strike his wife.

Following the reading students will complete the "Real Stanley Kowalski" handout.  This handout is essentially a characterization of Stanley.  Students will gather text evidence that reveals information about what Stanley looks like, acts, and how he treats others.  I want students to see his primitive nature.

Students will finish the activity for homework if they run out of time.