Arts Alliance debuts student production in Wicker Park


Source: Lucinda Allen

Students rehearse for Arts Alliance’s upcoming production of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The show will be presented off campus in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood to give audience members a comprehensive experience.

Emily Chin, Assistant A&E Editor


In the upcoming production of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Arts Alliance aims to transport students to new environments — both physically and psychologically.

Students in the show, which explores issues such as mental illness and sexual violence, will perform at Collaboraction Theatre Co. in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood beginning Friday.

This is the first time a Northwestern production will be held at Collaboraction, said the show’s producer Lucinda Allen, a Communication senior. She said Arts Alliance wanted to make the show more accessible to people outside NU.

“I’m so excited about showcasing the talent we have at Northwestern at a venue that’s going to attract people not just at Northwestern,” Allen said. “We are very high caliber, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be showing it outside of Northwestern.”

Set in the 1940s, “A Streetcar Named Desire” tells the story of two old-money sisters, Stella and Blanche, whose relationship is undermined as their individual lives fall apart.

“The plot and themes of the play are the most challenging part,” said Communication junior Maggie Monahan, director of the play. “We’re trying to bring a really accessible form to really dark, challenging content. There is very triggering content … but this play is as engaging and transporting as it is heart-wrenching.”

Monahan and Allen cast two mixed-race actresses as Blanche and Stella to break the “white-washed” attributes the play sometimes has, Monahan said.

Communication junior Dominique French said she finds the role of Blanche incredibly demanding because of the weight of the themes presented and the play’s prominence. French said being in the play has allowed her to think about issues of race and society’s progress addressing them.

“I’ve learned that we still have so much to do in terms of the way we look at certain people and the words that we choose to put upon other people,” she said. “It’s easy to think we’ve come a long way since then, and in some ways that’s true, but in other ways we view the same things just with a politer language.”

Allen said it is rare for student productions to be done off campus, but when it happens, it is usually done for site-specific locations. For instance, if a play is set in a hospital, it might be performed at an actual hospital.

The theater group decided to present the show in Wicker Park to offer a comprehensive theater-going experience before and after the show, Allen said. She added that rather than having regular talk-backs after the show, audience members can attend organized conversations with the director and cast members at restaurants in the area.

Arts Alliance also worked with restaurants in the area to provide discounts to attendees who show tickets, Allen said.

“The idea is to encourage people to take a night out on the town,” Allen said. “We don’t want ‘Streetcar’ to be the only thing they do that night. We’d love for them to explore Wicker Park.”

Performing the show off campus gives the show’s actors a better sense of what their acting careers may look like after graduation, Monahan said.

“It’s interesting to do something that feels like uncharted territory,” French said. “It’s very on trend and timely to do this thing that feels urban and very hip.”

Though she thinks some students will be deterred from attending the show because of the distance, Monahan said she believes it is the quality of the attendees’ experience that matters, not the number of people who show up.

Monahan said she hopes the play will make audience members consider the way race affects people’s relationships and hopes people will have conversations about some of the heavier topics that are presented in the play. Allen added that although the play is set in the 1940s, the themes are everpresent.

“It’s a very specific story about very complicated and messed-up human beings who love each other and hurt each other,” she said. “It explores themes that were true in the ‘40s and are still timely today.”

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