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"A StreetCar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams.

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"A StreetCar Named Desire" by Tennessee Williams.

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  • June 30, 2003
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In A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams uses the combined effects of lighting, sound, costume and symbolism to influence and control the audience's response. The play is intentionally an emotive one. It evokes an emotional response from the audience that is not necessarily reasoned or logical. The response to Streetcar is generally a uniformed one. As emotional as it is, by the end of the play most of the audience feels the same way towards the characters and the play in general. Williams managed to do this through his use of various theatrical devices.

One of the most important of these is lighting. Williams' use of lighting is extremely clever and effective. Take, for example, the poker night in scene three. This is the scene in which Stanley hits Stella, and the audience has to try to understand and comprehend the dynamics of their relationship. At the very beginning of the scene we are told that the kitchen has 'a sort of lurid nocturnal brilliance, the raw colours of childhood's spectrum' (scene 3 pg. 143). This coarse atmosphere is designed to directly contrast with the much softer one proceeding it, where Stanley interrogates Blanche about Belle Reve. This new, harsher lighting goes with both Stanley's world and Stanley himself - his manly, animalistic nature, and his 'what you see is what you get' attitude. This is the direct opposite of Blanche. While Stanley is quite comfortable with this bright, lurid lighting, Blanche prefers the soft, subtle light that isn't too revealing. Light represents truth and reality, and, as she said towards the end of the play 'I like it dark, the dark is comforting to me' (scene 9 pg. 203). When the play is focussing on Blanche the lighting is usually soft and dim in order to emphasise this point, and where the focus is on Stanley, as it was on the poker night, the lighting is bright and harsh, revealing all. This is particularly effective at the beginning of the play, as it makes the audience wonder what exactly...