is the most famous address in American Drama
In Tennessee Williams's seminal play, A Streetcar Named Desire, first produced at the Barrymore Theatre on December 3, 1947, the heroine, Blanche DuBois, played by Jessica Tandy, meets her nemesis, the loutish Stanley Kowalski, played by a very young and electrifying Marlon Brando, in the French Quarter of New Orleans.
Blanche has just entered, looking for the address of her sister Stella, newly-married to Stanley. She is obviously out-of-place in "the quarter," with her stylish cocktail dress. Williams writes:
"She is carrying a small suitcase in one hand and a slip of paper in the other. As she looks about, her expression is one of shocked disbelief…There is something about her uncertain manner that suggests a moth. A sailor, in whites, enters…and approaches BLANCHE. He asks her a question, which is not heard because of the music. She looks bewildered, and cannot, apparently, answer him…
EUNICE: What's the matter, honey? Are you lost?
BLANCHE: They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, transfer to one called Cemetery, and ride six blocks and get off at Elysian Fields!
EUNICE: That's where you are now.
BLANCHE: At Elysian Fields?
EUNICE: This here is Elysian Fields. (NEGRO WOMAN laughs.)
BLANCHE: They mustn't have--understood--what number I wanted…"
It's the beginning of the End of the Line for one of the most famous female characters in dramatic literature. Williams's delicate, irrevocable dance of fragile, damaged femininity and somehow-incomplete masculinity is beautiful and tragic as it unfolds.
Elysian Fields is the address of a masterpiece.
A Streetcar Named Desire
, Copyright, 1947, by TENNESSEE WILLIAMS
Copyright, 1953, by TENNESSEE WILLIAMS (Revised Version)
Dramatists Play Service, Inc.
And by the way, in a wonderfully theatrical postscript, the irrepressible Tennessee was asked years later whatever became of Blanche. He answered happily that she was released from the psychiatric hospital and went on to open an elegant dress shop in the Quarter.
"She's a survivor?" the interviewer asked.
"Yes," said Williams. "Blanche is a survivor."