Be gone, foul trollies!

With assistance from the work of classic playwright Tennessee Williams, the U theater department has mastered the ability to accurately depict the ugly nature of the raw human condition under artificial light.

Directed by Sandra Shotwell, “A Streetcar Named Desire” offers a chilling look into the wild clash between Stanley Kowalski (Rob Shand), a rough man who wears his life on his sleeve, and his sister-in-law, Blanche DuBois (Heidi Hackney), a delicate creature who masks despair with a constantly powdered nose.

“Stanley Kowalski is a very primal kind of guy in my eyes,” said Shand, a senior in the Actor Training Program. “He loves to eat and drink and have sex-all the basic parts of life.”

Dependent upon violence and aggression, Stanley provides a stark contrast to Blanche, whom Hackney-a senior double major in theater and psychology-said “is an elegant and fragile woman searching desperately for protection and magic.”

Set in the New Orleans French Quarter during the 1940s, the play demanded specific preparation from the cast.

“We had to do a ton of dialect work, especially to get the similar, but very different, southern dialects clean and distinct,” Shand said.

He said his biggest struggle with “Streetcar” has been learning the dialect itself; this is his first role in a play that requires him to carry a precise dialect.

“It was very hard for me to get out of the melody on the dialect so it didn’t sound clich,” he said. “It’s not too hard for me to pick up a dialect, but expressing yourself in the same manner that you would without your dialect was very difficult.”

In addition to rehearsing six days a week and doing background research on the time and setting on the play, the cast utilized improvisation exercises as a technique to better prepare for the performance.

“We improvised what happened the first night at dinner when Blanche first showed up,” said Shand. “The scene doesn’t happen on stage, but still is real in the world of the play.”

Hackney also took part in extra-textual preparation, focusing on the opportunity to create and fill in character relationships not described in the play.

“Nao Dobashi, who plays my sister Stella, and I spent time together and did some improvisations about growing up as children,” she said.

Hackney, who began her work by watching interviews of playwright Williams in order to better acquaint herself with him, placed an emphasis on the ability to empathize with her character.

“The biggest challenge I face as an actor is getting out of my own way,” she said. “Getting around that critical voice in my head saying ‘You’re not doing enough; you won’t get it.’ “

Hackney’s performance of Blanche exemplified her personal work of pushing through her own world to reach that of her character’s, portraying a sense of desperation so sweet it excuses any wrongdoings that may exist in Blanche’s make up.

Hackney’s approach illustrates an element crucial to any actor’s preparation for a role-the unbiased ability to look at a character, not as a person of a good or bad countenance, but as a being who genuinely acts out of his or her own concept of truth and reality. Hackney succeeds in presenting Blanche without judgment, offering audiences a filter of innocence with which to interpret her character’s deceitful behavior.

In much the same way, Shand aims to bring a new approach to Kowalski.

“A lot of plays, not just this one, get overdone and recycled and put through the same motions so many times that they lose a potency,” he said. “I wanted to give this play a shot to see what I could do with Stanley Kowalski to bring him into a new light that can be applied to a larger audience.”

“It may be a play that even your grandparents saw when they were young, but, man, this play has some serious stuff in it that will keep you thinking, even if it was written a half a century ago.”