Why ‘Streetcar’ makes me smile, week of July 29, 2019

On stage now at The Zephyr Theatre is “A Streetcar Named Desire,” presented by special arrangement with Samuel French, Inc., a Concord Theatricals Company. In this steamy drama, a heartbroken and damaged Blanche Dubois seeks refuge with her sister Stella and brother-in-law Stanley in a New Orleans tenement. The tiny two-room apartment becomes a Petri dish for raw emotions.

Calyssa Hall, The Zephyr’s executive and artistic director, talks about this classic play and why it’s a good fit for the professional theatre housed in downtown Stillwater.

Q. “Streetcar” was written by Tennessee Williams and first staged in 1947. Do you remember the first time you saw a performance of this play?

A. I remember reading the play when I was in middle school, but I had not seen a staged version of the play until this production. But, of course, I’d seen the 1951 film starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh.

Q. What attracted you to “Streetcar” now and how does the production fit into the mission of The Zephyr Theatre?

A. One of my actor friends suggested the script because it is still relevant and is a reflection of humanity that is worth telling. This story about how women are perceived and treated is at the forefront of our social discourse today. The loud and physical clash between Stanley and his wife and sister-in-law points out the despair that is still real — as much as we wish we were beyond those issues. The Zephyr’s mission is tell stories that reflect us as a society, and we need the courage to stage and watch them, even though we don’t always like what is portrayed.

Q. The Zephyr built a new stage on the north end of the depot for this production. What more can you say about this space?

A. This is a really intimate space, so whatever is going on becomes very real. It’s right in your face. There’s no room to hide or not become involved.

Q. What is your favorite part of this production?

A. Opening night, when I walked through the curtains and saw a fully designed stage with the new lighting, the spiral staircase, the shutters askew and the actors in vintage dress … that made me smile!

Q. What has been the audience reaction to The Zephyr’s production?

A. Everyone has been impressed with the emotional commitment of the actors. Audience members have liked the live music —keyboard, sax, trombone and tuba. Others have told me how impressed they were with the overall professional quality of the production. Of course, that makes me smile, too.

Showtimes for “A Streetcar Named Desire” are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, $18 to $45, are available at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org<https://stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org> or at the door. The Zephyr Theatre is located at 601 Main St. N., Stillwater. For more information, call 651-342-1542.

More at the theatre

In “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Blanche and Stanley frequently handle a whiskey bottle, as called for in the script. Want to be as smooth as Tennessee Williams? The Zephyr Theatre will host an exclusive tasting of Johnny Walker Black and Johnny Walker Red presented in unique cocktails at the theatre’s bar during this Saturday’s performance. All ticket holders 21 years and up will be eligible to participate at 7 p.m. prior to the show as well as during intermission.

The setting for “A Streetcar Named Desire” is in the late 1940s. Have some fun and don your vintage clothes when you attend this weekend’s performances (7:30 p.m. Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday). Costumed audience members will have the chance to win a free drink, and have their photo taken on the new stage.


Attention, Bluegrass music lovers. The Clay Hess Band will include a performance at The Zephyr Theatre at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, during the five-member band’s Midwest tour. Tickets are $25 and are available at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org<https://stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org> or at the door. The theater is located at 601 Main St. N., Stillwater. 651-342-1542.

Clay’s first introduction to many was as the lead guitarist for Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, winning a Grammy Award during his tenure there. After departing Skaggs, Hess toured and recorded with several of the top bands in the genre. With the help of long-time friend and musical comrade Randy Kohrs, Clay recorded his critically acclaimed solo CD “Rain” with the title track going to #1 on the Bluegrass Today chart. The success of the project directly led to the formation of The Clay Hess Band in 2012.

“Growing up in a musical family, it wasn’t hard to find an instrument laying around to plunk on”. Pair that with having a desire to learn, a passion for music, and a wealth of people to learn from and you get a musician. “Having a family of talented players and singers is an advantage if you can keep your ears open and your mouth shut. I should have done more of both.” Today with The Clay Hess Band you can hear the result of all the jam sessions, bar gigs, bluegrass festivals, and hours learning from relatives/musicians/recordings. Known for his syncopated sense of timing, Hess always tries to keep you guessing what is coming next .

“Billy & Elton: The Hits,” a tribute to Billy Joel and Elton John, will be performed at The

Zephyr Theatre by internationally renowned pianist and vocalist Phil Thompson on Saturday, Sept. 21, at 3 and 7 p.m. Thompson will be joined by Scott Dorff on tenor, alto, and soprano saxophones, and Jake Hegna on bass. Tickets are $25.

International guitarist Claude Bourbon returns to The Zephyr Theatre performing medieval and Spanish blues Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.

All concerts are at The Zephyr Theater, 601 Main. St. N., Stillwater, and tickets are available at stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org.

Literary arts

“When Writing Meets Art,” a literary reading, will be held on Sunday, Sept. 15, at 2 p.m. The reading will feature 2019 Minnesota Book Award winners Shannon Gibney, author of “Dream Country,” young adult literature, and Susan Bartlett Foote, author of “The Crusade for Forgotten Souls,” Minnesota nonfiction. Complimentary appetizers and a cash bar will be available. A donation of $10 is suggested to benefit The Zephyr Theatre. The reading series is held on the third Sundays of January, May, and September, at 2 p.m. The series was founded by writer and editor Elissa Cottle. To be considered for a future reading, send a sample of creative writing to elissa.stillwaterzephyrtheatre@gmail.com.

New sustaining membership options

Zephyr supporters may now become “Sustaining Members” of the theatre by committing to a monthly donation of any amount, and will receive member benefits. Being a Sustaining Member of The Zephyr Theatre provides year-round support that contributes to cash flow and financial stability. Your support allows The Zephyr to continue creating new programs, productions, and opportunities. All donations are tax-deductible. For more information, visit stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org/sustaining, or call 651-342-1542.

Commemorative bricks options

The Zephyr Theatre is also continuing its “Of bricks, pavers and tiles” donation option. Supporters may purchase $1,000 custom-engraved bricks for the grand vestibule wall of donors to be built at the entrance of the planned auditorium addition. Also available for purchase are custom-engraved walkway and porte-cochere entry pavers, for $350 to $750; and custom-engraved floor tiles, $500 or $1,500, for the bar and planned bakery.

Fund-raising goals

The Zephyr Theatre is raising funds to build a 330-seat auditorium onto the north end of its site, and to renovate the existing space, including the addition of a bakery that will supply house-made desserts at productions. In addition, cash flow is needed to support ongoing operations. The professional theatre company currently presents plays, concerts, visual arts, literary arts, and other performance events on two small stages, and at off-site locations.

Volunteers wanted

The Zephyr Theatre welcomes volunteers for a wide range of tasks to help with performances, events, and other operations. For more information about becoming involved with The Zephyr Theatre’s community of volunteers, send an email to volunteer@stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org.

Theatre rental

The Zephyr Theatre is available for site rental by outside organizations that want to present performances and events. To make an appointment, or for more information, contact Carol Hall at carol@stillwaterzephyrtheatre.org.

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