Seniors Nadia Diamond, Robby Keown, and Abby Melick proposed A Streetcar Named Desire together as their senior thesis project. Having been friends since freshman year, they knew they wanted to collaborate on a project that featured three strong characters bouncing against one another. Diamond, Keown, and Melick also took an intermediate acting course together. Presentations of the play often put a focus on one of the three iconic characters. In this exploration, the seniors wanted to focus equally on all three.
Diamond, who is cast as Stella, is a History major pursuing certificates in both Theater and Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is interested in exploring how the issues in the play relate to her History thesis, which is on how poor women in Ireland were incarcerated in religious institutions, sometimes sent there by their own families. She sees a connection to the challenging decision that Stella faces in the play in regard to her sister Blanche and in humanizing that difficult decision and the reasons why someone might make this choice. Academic influences Diamond notes in regard to this project are acting classes in the Theater Program with the late Tim Vasen, Mark Nelson, and Bryan Doerries. She did a second thesis in Theater taking on the single role in an immersive, intimate theater experience, Request Programme by Franz Xaver Kroetz, a play without words that paints a portrait of a woman’s quiet desperation in a private apartment. She also appeared last fall in the senior thesis production of Lobby Hero, and has been in the casts of Lewis Center productions of Red Noses and The Seagull. She has performed in campus productions with Grind Arts Company, Theater Intime, and Princeton University Players. She plans to pursue theater after graduation either in education or theater-making.
Melick, who plays Blanche, is an English major pursuing certificates in Theater and American Studies. Her influences also include theater classes with Nelson, a professional actor and director, Vasen, and Tracy Bersley, a theater director and former Lewis Center faculty member, who returned this year as a guest director. Melick was interested in playing Blanche for the acting challenge it posed. Blanche is different than any other part Melick has had the chance to perform, which have thus far mostly been lighter or comedic supporting characters in musicals. Melick has appeared in a number of Lewis Center productions including Singin’ in the Rain and Mad Forest. She has also been involved with The Triangle Club all four years at Princeton and has appeared in shows produced by both Theater Intime and Princeton University Players. After graduation, she will be doing a Princeton in Latin America Fellowship in the Dominican Republic, and plans to pursue a career in theater when she returns to the U.S. the following year.
Keown takes on the role of Stanley. He is a Sociology major pursuing a certificate in Theater. In contemplating his senior thesis project, he was interested in the portrayal of violence in the theatrical canon and the emotional complexities of violence. He originally had considered plays dealing with military themes and settings, but when A Streetcar Names Desire was proposed as an opportunity, he became more interested in examining violence within a familial context through this role. Keown has appeared in a number of Lewis Center productions including Cloud 9 directed by Sandberg, The Other Shore, Lobby Hero with Diamond, the musical Annie & Rose, and Elektra, and has performed in campus productions with Grind Arts Company. After leaving Princeton he plans to move to New York City to pursue an acting career.
Sandberg notes that his role in this project has been in helping the students to deeply explore the play and these complex characters and to offer them new ideas to try. He made a point of not setting any of the action in order to see where the exploration went. The project has also explored the issues around placing the story in a less realistic setting.
Sandberg teaches in both the Theater Program and English Department at Princeton, and is a theater director and a playwright. He directed a number of recent Lewis Center productions including Cloud 9, Madman Robertson, Uncle Vanya, A Steady Rain, and How I Learned to Drive, as well as Princeton Summer Theater productions of Pygmalion and The Heidi Chronicles. His play, Roundelay, premiered at Passage Theater in 2013. His plays have been seen in Australia, Canada, England, Japan, Panama, and South Korea, as well as at theaters throughout the U.S. including the Barter, Dallas Children’s Theater, Providence Black Rep, Stages Repertory Theatre and Yale Cabaret. He has been commissioned by, among others, George Street Playhouse, McCarter Theatre, Metro Theater Company, and Seattle Children’s Theatre. Sandberg is a Princeton alumnus and in 2014 received the University’s President’s Distinguished Teaching Award.
Vince di Mura, resident music director and composer for the Lewis Center will be providing live music based on Williams’ stage directions, from radio programs to music spilling out of nightclubs in the neighborhood. He will be improvising this music based on research from this period in New Orleans.