How old is Blanche DuBois?

Okay, all you theater lovers, show of hands for the Test of the Day:

In the Tennessee Williams drama A Streetcar Named Desire, how old is "aging Southern belle" Blanche DuBois? You know, the woman who loses the family plantation in Mississippi and moves into a down-at-heels New Orleans apartment with her younger sister, Stella, and Stella's crude and crass husband Stanley. Her age, please...

50?

45?

40?

Younger? Older?

I became curious after I got an audition notice for the play from Stage West Community Playhouse, which is doing the show Jan. 12-22. "Cast: 6 men (2 principals) 6 women (2 principals) — Ages late 20s to 30," it read.

"A 30-year-old Blanche DuBois?" I wondered. The woman who wouldn't let anyone turn on a bright light for fear that her wrinkles would show? The woman whose lover rejected her, in part, for being too old?

I know Williams wrote this in the 1940s when he himself was in his mid-30s, but was age 30 considered old and wrinkled and over the hill back then?

I polled 10 of my theater-loving pals on this question. The most frequent answer was age 45, with a couple of 50s and one 35. I did some research and found that when Jessica Tandy originated the role on Broadway, she was 38. Vivien Leigh, who played Blanche in London and in the Hollywood movie, was also 38. More recent Blanches were Blythe Danner, who was 45, and Glenn Close, who was 55.

As one writer noted, these women weren't ancient, but they were playing women "of a certain age."

"She is an actress' Lear. You wait until a certain age, and then you give your Blanche," said Rob Ashford, a London director who cast 38-year-old Rachel Weisz as Blanche in a West End production a couple of years ago, to the consternation of a few critics who thought she was too dewy-fresh.

After some more digging, I found that Williams envisioned Blanche as about 30 years old, or about five years older than her sister Stella, who is 25.

Apparently, director Dalton Benson has decided to go with Williams' original intent and hopes to cast a Blanche no older than 30 (the auditions are at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 and 1 p.m. Oct. 1 at the theater) and Stella, Stanley and Stanley's card buddies in their late 20s.

It will be interesting to see if Spring Hill area audiences, who are mostly of "a certain age," will connect with and be sympathetic to a Blanche who thinks age 30 is decrepit.

Speaking of Broadway

The first time I saw Teddy Toye, he was about 4 feet tall, had a Beatles haircut and was the spittin' image of Paul McCartney. That was about 12 or 13 years ago; he was 10 years old and playing Jack of Jack and Jill fame in Babes in Toyland at Richey Suncoast Theatre.

Since then, I've seen Teddy in everything from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in 2010 to his HAMI Award-winning turn as the invalid child, Colin Craven, in The Secret Garden at Stage West Community Playhouse in 2001.

In between, Teddy showed up in more shows at those venues, plus some at Nature Coast Technical High, where he studied under Tim and Lori Erickson and graduated in 2007, John Leggio's Center for the Performing Arts, and the Center Stage Theatre & Dance Academy in New Port Richey. He also played in his dad Eddie's Toye's Paul McCarney tribute band, the Rockaways.

Teddy went on to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, where he graduated in February 2009, then toured with some theater companies and appeared in some television shows.

On Nov. 12, Teddy will fulfill a lifetime dream, making his official Broadway debut in the musical Lysistrata Jones. It got rave reviews and big crowds when it played off-Broadway in a Greenwich Village gymnasium (he was in that show, too). There's a month of previews, then the official opening on Dec. 14.

The show is a modern version of the ancient Greek comedy by Aristophenes, Lysistrata, in which the women of Greece refused to have sex with their husbands unless the husbands ceased waging war.

In the new version, the young women at Athens University are withholding their sexual favors from the members of the basketball team until the team members break their 30-year losing streak.

"We are going to the red carpet opening," his proud papa wrote to me. "Very excited indeed, gunna be tuff to sleep as we get closer."

How old is Blanche DuBois? 09/16/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 16, 2011 9:51pm]

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