What do the opening stage directions indicate about the playwright's style and dramatic technique?
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The opening stage directions of Streetcar Named Desire tell us that the playwright intends his play to be read as well as acted. It begins with a poetic epigraph from Hart Crane, which would be a challenge for any director to include on the stage; rather, Williams wants the director to incorporate the ideas of that poem into his play—he want to give the director meaning for and a sense of the play as well as frame the play for those who read it. The description of the scene is lyrical as well as specific, including details that invoke the senses: we see the streets, feel the warmth, smell the bananas and coffee, hear the music. The use of “you” speaks to the audience directly, addresses the audience, who is at this moment a reader rather than a viewer of the play. We learn from these details that the writer's style is relaxed and intimate rather than formal and didactic, and that his technique understands drama as something to be read as well as viewed. He wants it experienced sensually as well as intellectually--he paints it colorfully and in detail.
At first, the stage directions convey a lot of detail about the setting, for instance this rundown quarter of New Orleans is ironically named ‘Elysian fields’, yet Blanche discovers it does not match her expectation of a paradise, foreshadowing a tragedy. In fact, instead of being a place of eternal rest, the ‘Elysian fields’ is a multi-cultural, vibrant and sensual place with the ‘blue piano’, evoking sexual tension. One of her first acknowledgement to the setting is disorientation and confusion, as she cannot believe where she has just arrived, repeating ‘Elysian field’ in disbelief, which also emphasizes how at odds with this place the protagonist is. The way he depicts the opening scene also helps create a powerful contrast between Blanche and her surroundings. At this time, social distinctions were ignored. Therefore, black people where having relationships with whites, and members with different ethnic groups played poker as well as bowled together. As Blanche arrives at Stella’s apartment, she immediately becomes the antagonist of the setting. Moreover well a claustrophobic sense develops through Blanche’s reaction to the place. The confined setting of two-room apartment creates an oppressive heat, and hence, Blanche feels overwhelmed. Her incredulous questions to her sister about the apartment immediately cause tension between the two characters and there’s a sense of blanche has walked into a cage, which is the opposite of her expectation.
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