Oct. 12 2011 12:00 AM

MSU revisits ‘Desire’ in old New Orleans


Michigan State University head of acting Rob Roznowski
says he has always wanted to direct a Tennessee Williams play. He’s
starting with the big one: “A Streetcar Named Desire,” which opens

“This play is all about connecting the actor to the
character’s inner monologue,” Roznowski says. “Tennessee is the master
of that, and that’s the culmination of what I teach.”

Graduate student Emily Young is playing Stella as her
thesis role, which she believes will help tackle her constant challenge
of finding vulnerability in her acting. Young took her research one big
step further by traveling to New Orleans in May to get better
acquainted with the city’s culture.

“The setting is like another character in the way that
Williams writes it,” she said. She brought along Christina Traister and
Curran Jacobs, who play her sister Blanche and husband, Stanley. “It
was a great opportunity not only to get to know them better, but also
build our characters’ relationships.”

The theme of MSU’s theater season is “reinvention,” and Traister says that resonates throughout “Desire.”

“Blanche is desperately trying to reinvent herself,”
Traister explained. “There are a ton of ghosts that represent people
from Blanche’s past.

“In the beginning when she has a firmer grip on reality,
the ghosts are white and opaque, but as she continues to lose her grip,
it becomes harder to tell them apart (from real people).”

An assistant professor of acting and voice at MSU,
Traister is taking on the role in MSU’s first experiment with casting a
faculty member in a student production.

“It’s beneficial for the students to have someone like me
— one of their main acting teachers — to teach and train them,” said
Traister, who spent 13 years in California focusing on Shakespearean
and classical theater. “They’re usually acting with other students and
don’t get the opportunity to work with someone with professional

“Desire” is out of her typical genre, but when plans for the show aligned, she knew she had to be a part of it.

“Tennessee Williams is great — I admire his poetry — but
he’s never been the love of my life,” she said. The vision of
Roznowski, who “totally adores” the writer, is what made her want to
take on the role.

“I hope the audience falls in love with Williams’ poetry
and imagery,” Traister said, “and also that they are able to go on this
journey to see this woman’s final attempt to have a normal life.”

‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

Michigan State University

Pasant Theatre

Through Oct. 23

8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays

$15 adults; $10 students