Golden Globe nominee to portray Stella in ‘Streetcar Named Desire’
CLARKSDALE – When English actress Ruth Wilson takes center stage as Stella in “Streetcar named Desire” in London this summer, she’ll be remembering Clarksdale’s Cutrer Mansion, Moon Lake, and Mississippi Delta plantation homes.
To immerse herself in the world of Tennessee Williams, this raven-haired beauty and Golden Globe nominee, traveled here to experience the playwright’s childhood home and its influences on his famous plays.
Among the sites she viewed were St. George’s Episcopal Church, the Cutrer Mansion and Clarksdale’s historic district where the spent his childhood, the Stovall and Anderson plantations, Uncle Henry’s Place on Moon Lake, and miles of green Mississippi River levees, farmland, and cypress brakes.
Wilson’s performance in the Masterpiece Theatre television series “Jane Eyre” earned her four Best Actress nominations including a Golden Globe. In a BBC Best Actress viewer poll she was rated second.
The role of Stella’s sister Blanche Dubois is being portrayed by Academy Award winner Rachel Weisz, who won a 2006 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in the movie, “The Constant Gardner.”
“This visit to Clarksdale has been invaluable,” Wilson says. “For me as an actor, it is very important to fill my body and mind with sense memories.”
“So on stage when I talk about Belle Reve (the Cutrer Mansion is generally regarded as the ancestral home of sisters Stella and Blanche in “Streetcar”) or Moon Lake, I have an immediate and natural reaction to those places, those people,” she says.
“It is a way for me to immerse myself in the world of the play; I can literally hear, smell, feel, and see those places, those people,” she continues.
Wilson says Moon Lake was particularly interesting because of its isolation from Clarksdale.
“Being surrounded by a fast flowing river gave it a romanticism and sereneness, but also a deep sense of danger,” she says.
“You could understand why Tennessee depicted it as a place of wild freedom and danger,” she continues.
To learn more about the South, Wilson began her travels in Charleston, South Carolina, and moved on to Savannah through Alabama, and Mississippi to New Orleans.
“What was common about people from the South and what I loved was not only the wonderful generosity, but also incredible humor,” she says.
“You all have such quick minds, but slow mouths; it is the Tennessee (Williams) way of speaking – funny and sharp but rhythmic and languid; it is completely unique and completely beautiful – I hope I can re-create some of that,” she said.
“The more I read of Tennessee’s work, the more poetry I find. He had such a beautiful and rhythmic way with words. I feel very lucky to have been given the opportunity to put voice to them,” Wilson adds.
Wilson says “Streetcar” opens July 28 in London at the Donmar Theatre that is currently producing “Hamlet” with Jude Law.Other actors have spent time in Clarksdale researching Tennessee Williams plays including English actress Frances O'Conner who played Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in London and actors from France who performed in "Orpheus Descending."
Clarksdale’s 17th Mississippi Delta Tennessee Williams Festival will be held Oct. 16-17 and will continue its focus on the playwright’s Delta plays including “Spring Storm,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Summer and Smoke,” “Orpheus Descending,” and others.
A “Stella” shouting contest is a popular component of the festival’s Student Acting Competition. For additional information and updates, view http://www.coahomacc.edu/twilliams.
Photo cutlines: English actress Ruth Wilson, a Best Actress Golden Globe nominee, visits Clarksdale’s historic Cutrer Mansion to experience sites from the world of playwright Tennessee Williams for her portrayal of Stella in the play, ‘Streetcar Named Desire.’ Giving her a tour of the mansion that is generally regarded as Belle Reve, the ancestral home, of Stella and Blanche in ‘Streetcar’ is Lois McMurchy, director of the Coahoma County Higher Education Center.