A penetrating consideration of Tennessee Williams’s most enduring character—Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire—written by the co-author of The Fabulous Bouvier Sisters and Furious Love.
Ever since Jessica Tandy glided onto the stage in Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in 1947, Blanche DuBois has fascinated generations of audiences worldwide and secured a place in the history of literature, theater, and film. One of Williams’s greatest creations, Blanche has bedazzled, amused, and broken the hearts of generations of audiences. Before the Covid pandemic, the stage classic was performed somewhere in the world every hour. It has been adapted into a ballet and an opera, and it was satirized in an episode of The Simpsons. The final twelve words Blanche utters at the play’s end—“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers”—have taken on a life of their own. Endlessly fascinating, this indelible figment of one of America’s greatest midcentury playwrights garners nearly universal interest—but why?
In Blanche, Nancy Schoenberger searches for the answer. An exploration of the cultural impact of Blanche DuBois, Schoenberger’s absorbing study examines Tennessee Williams's most enduring creation through the performances of seven brilliant actresses who have taken on the role—Jessica Tandy, Vivien Leigh, Ann-Margret, Jessica Lange, Patricia Clarkson, Cate Blanchett, and Jemier Jemier Jenkins—as well as the influence of the playwright's tragic sister, Rose Williams, the person he was most haunted and inspired by. In examining various Blanches from throughout the decades and their critical reception, Schoenberger analyzes how our perception and understanding of this mesmerizing figure has altered and deepened over time. Exploring themes of womanhood, sexuality, mental illness, and the idealized South, Blanche is an engrossing cultural history of a rich and complex character that sheds light on who we are.
Blanche includes 20-30 color and black-and-white photographs.
Poet and biographer Nancy Schoenberger is the author of Dangerous Muse: The Life of Lady Caroline Blackwood. Schoenberger taught for many years at the College of William &Mary, where she directed the Creative Writing Program
"[Schoenberger] has now written a lean but graceful character study of DuBois, giving Williams’s most indelible but also frequently misunderstood character her due. . . . If you’re unfamiliar with this great American classic, or have perhaps let high-school memories of it lapse, this book is a hell of a gateway drug." — New York Times
"Schoenberger is . . . a gifted writer . . . . Her composition of an obituary for Blanche is priceless." — Air Mail
"A delightfully satisfying roundup for both longtime fans of Streetcar and newcomers." — Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"A penetrating consideration of Tennessee Williams’s most enduring character. . . . [Schoenberger is] eminently qualified to write this important, must read book. . . . I hope the reader savors this book as much as I did." — BookTrib
"Schoenberger’s detailed account is packed with vibrant cultural specifics and trenchant analysis, and she keeps up a brisk pace that will have readers turning pages. Theater and pop culture fans, take note." — Publishers Weekly
"Moving . . . . [Schoenberger] asks, 'Does Blanche still matter?' Readers of this fine book will answer with a resounding yes." — Booklist
"Nancy Schoenberger assembles quotes, anecdotes, and insights from several decades of performances to create a dazzling Blanche DuBois scrapbook. She provides not just a lively exploration of a character as rich as Hamlet (as more than one person says), but concise portraits of some extraordinary actresses and a social history of changing attitudes about acting, women, class, and race." — Chris Bram, author of Eminent Outlaws and Father of Frankenstein
"Fantastic . . . Tying literary and performance analysis in with Tennessee Williams’s personal life, specifically the guilt he felt over abandoning his sister, Rose, Blanche is a testament to great art that continues to evolve long after its creator has departed." — BuzzFeed News
"Blanche is an engrossing cultural history of a rich and complex character that sheds light on who we are." — Broadway World
“Blanche is a quick, fun and fruitful read that offers a glimpse at the way some very fine actresses go about their work, and allows us to revisit some of the exquisite details of the play." — New York Theater