After onstage accident, Old Academy Players’ ‘Street Car’ back on track

 Stanley (Bernard Glincosky) talks on the phone during an awkward dinner with Blanche (Nancy Bennett, left) and Stella (Kellie Ann Cooper). (Joel B. Frady for NewsWorks)

Stanley (Bernard Glincosky) talks on the phone during an awkward dinner with Blanche (Nancy Bennett, left) and Stella (Kellie Ann Cooper). (Joel B. Frady for NewsWorks)

Director J.P. Parrella was thrilled with the Old Academy Player’s 2012 production of Tennessee Williams’ classic “A Streetcar Named Desire.” It opened to good reviews and an enthusiastic response from audiences – until an on-stage accident during the third show left Nancy Bennett, the show’s Blanche DuBois, with a broken pelvis.

“There was some water on the stage and she fell,” said Parrella. It was the third Williams show he directed (after “The Glass Menagerie” and “The Rose Tattoo”) and the production’s unexpected end left him feeling “like a bridegroom who never had a honeymoon.”

Parrella proposed that the Old Academy try again for the 2013 season. Now, after two months of rehearsals, “Streetcar” is ready to return to the stage – with Bennett back as Blanche.

Bennett said the chance to return to the show gave her a sense of closure and the chance to “explore Blanche further and finish it.”

Parrella and Bennett have welcomed a few new faces into their “Streetcar” reprise, including Kellie Ann Cooper as Stella and Bernard Glincosky as Stanley Kowalski. Both the new and returning cast members spoke about how enjoyable the production has been, especially for a show this raw and emotionally-charged.

“It gets you angry,” said Glincosky. “You have to have a way to release and not be angry after getting angry for such long periods of time. Usually I don’t walk around screaming and yelling and raping, threatening to kill people and drinking every day.” 

For Parrella, the show brought several challenges: finding the right cast, creating the appropriate atmosphere and keeping the on-set atmosphere as positive and upbeat as the material is negative and heartbreaking. He said it was one of the toughest shows he has ever directed, but also a welcome challenge.

The set presented another challenge. Parrella and his team crafted a small, drab apartment with stained walls.  Combined with dim lighting, the set helped Parrella achieve the moody atmosphere he needed.

“I didn’t want a lot of color, I just wanted the characters in color,” he said. Movement was also a key for the show, with characters constantly pacing restlessly across the stage – frequently to the liquor cabinet.

In addition to the iconic nature of “Streetcar,” cast members were also drawn to the chance to perform at the Old Academy. The playhouse, which has been open for 90 years, was where legendary star and Philly native Grace Kelly began her acting career as well as Manayunk born Hollywood actor Robert Prosky.  

The small theater has 110 seats with virtually no room between the stage and the audience.  The actors enjoy the intimate space. 

“There’s only so many seats so only so many people get to see the magic,” said Cooper. 

The 2013 production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” will begin its three-week run on Friday, June 7. 

Director Parrella looks forward to filling the seats of the Old Academy the way he has wanted to a year ago.

“I’m fulfilled now,” he said after watching the dress rehearsal on Tuesday, June 4. “I just hope the whole run goes nice and smooth.”

The Old Academy Players’ production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” will run Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays , June 7-8, 14-16 and 21-23. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m., Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15.

For more information about the show call (215) 843-1109 or visit http://www.oldacademyplayers.org.

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