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Tennessee Williams' piece speaks to today's 'Me Too' movement with themes of sexual, domestic violence

COURTESY PHOTO: NATASHA ELIZABETH HASS-HAUSKINS - Leila Villasenor as Stella and Lyra Butler-Denman as Blanche in the SAT production of 'A Streetcar Named Desire,' opening on Sept. 6.Most have probably seen the popular scene of movie star Marlon Brando screaming "Stella," whether it was as a GIF, a video clip, or actually watching the play-turned-movie "A Streetcar Named Desire."

For those whose experience with the Tennessee Williams piece is limited to that scene, you may not know the dramatic and culturally relevant themes of the play.

Williams' piece is a hard-hitting look at domestic and sexual violence under the guise of love. And Sandy Actors Theatre, under the direction of Jeffrey Puukka, intends to bring the piece, and the discussion it can illicit, to life beginning Sept. 6.

"A Streetcar Named Desire" will be Puukka's first play at SAT. He teaches and directs at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham. This will also be his "first go at a Williams" piece.

"I find it very resonant to where we are now," he said, explaining that the production seems to timelessly speak to the "Me Too" movement going on now. "It's a 71-year-old play, but there are parts of it that seem like they could've been written today."

Puukka describes the piece as showcasing Tennessee Williams' "lyrical" — yet very raw — writing style to depict the lives of Stanley, Stella and Stella's sister Blanche as their lives reach a boiling point in the New Orleans summer heat.

Puukka advised that the play can be triggering and that audiences should attend at their own discretion, as the piece contains adult language, scenes including alcoholism and staged sequences of domestic and sexual violence.

But he hopes those who do come out to see it are prompted to delve into a deeper conversation.

"I think that for me, after the wave of 'Me Too' stories started, that really sort of shifted parts of the conversation we have about how we understand abuse and rape," Puukka said. "It tilted the conversation about belief. I think it's easier on us if we have very black and white answers, and I don't think life really is that way. The play does a really good job of addressing that."

The production will run from Sept. 6-29, with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m. There will also be dialogue events with Lyra Butler-Denman (Blanche), Leila Villasenor (Stella), Daniel Donlon (Stanley), and Jeffrey Puukka (Director) after the matinees on Sunday, Sept. 8 and Sunday, Sept. 22.

COURTESY PHOTO - 'I Think She Likes You,' a watercolor piece by Vern Groff.At 6:45 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, the Wy'east Artisans Guild will host a reception celebrating the opening of "Shadows" an art exhibit in the lobby of the theatre to accompany the play.

Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Guild artists use the contrast of light and shadow to set a mood, or create drama in their work.

There will be a full preview performance of the play after the art reception, with tickets for $10. The exhibit will hang for the duration of the play and may be viewed during theater hours.

For more information about the production, visit https://jeffreypuukka.com/portfolio/

a-streetcar-named-desire/.


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