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A Streetcar Named Desire

May 14, 2010

A backstage peek behind “A Streetcar Named Desire”

By Loren Liden ’11

The PLU theater department added a dramatic splash to campus with month with the opening of the last play of the season, Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

Well known in any performance are the stars of the show-who can forget Marlon Brando’s performance of Stanley in the film performance of Streetcar?

However, there is much more that goes on behind the scenes, by little-known actors and stage hands. Sophomore Mark Rud unveils some of the mystery behind PLU’s performance of Streetcar.

With the official titles of “running crew” and “supernumerary,” Rud is both the man who sets the stage, and a supporting, if not talking, actor. Along with some of the other running crew, Rud arrives an hour and a half before the curtain draws to prepare in a variety of ways for the ensuing show.

He sets the legs (which hide the wings to the stage), then joins the prop master and another member of the running crew to set and dress the stage for a rehearsal fight. The actors rehearse, clear the stage, check their props, and then it’s back to Rud and the running crew to sweep and mop, and set the stage for the opening act. Rud stressed the importance of placing props.

“There’s a constant anxiety that keeps you on edge, having to know which prop goes on stage when,” Rud said. “We had a couple of slip-ups on Saturday.”

He and the other supernumeraries that also are part of the running crew have more to worry about than just the setting up scenes. In between the rush to set the new scene while the curtain is down, Rud and the other supers, as they’re called, are making numerous costume changes from their running crew blacks to their on-stage attire.

“The supers get off[stage], change right behind the stage, on set, into our black clothing so we can change the props for the next couple of acts, change again for Act Three, Scene Four, then change back into blacks-we do that very very quickly, there’s about a minute’s worth of dialogue for us to change (the set),” Rud said.

After all those changes, the supers still have to switch back into their costumes for curtain call, and then back into their blacks to clean up the stage and reset it for the next performance.

“By the time it’s all said and done, I have usually been there for five or six hours,” Rud said.

Rud is looking forward to the final weekend, hoping to tighten up his work and avoid the previous slip ups. As for acting anxiety, the real butterflies come when he’s setting the props, Rud said.

“It seems so subtle, but when you have a little mistake, it can very quickly turn into a big mistake,” Rud said while recalling the missing box of matches in Saturday’s performance. Blanche had to mime lighting a candle.

However, ultimately Rud knows the importance of his role in the performance.

“You don’t get a lot of acclaim, but it’s an integral part of the show,” Rud said, noting that “Williams knew what he was doing creating the images, but it takes a lot to make those images pop.”