Brenda Lee Grech is one of the dancers learning the role of Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire. She tells us about how she prepares for such a complex role.
Tell us a bit about your character
Stella comes from a privileged background, and she decides to leave and is confronted with this completely different world. She meets and falls in love with Stanley, and she accepts everything about him. He’s violent, and yet she has a real physical desire for him, and there is a strong connection between them.
Did you do a lot of research on your character?
I read the play and watched the movie, and we did a lot of work with Nancy on building the characters. This isn’t the usual ballet for us – the acting has to be very natural. We did exercises moving chairs around and using the angle of the chair to express how we felt - this took some time to get used to, but it taught us that with little details, you can show a lot, and we worked on expressing character through little movements rather than big gestures.
For some scenes, Nancy would give us wants and needs to keep in mind. For example, we’d look at a scene where Stanley was angry, and Stella would want to make him realise he had done something wrong, but Nancy would give Stella the obstacle that she might upset Stanley more. Keeping something like this in the back of your mind like this makes your performance more realistic on stage.
How do you get into character before a show?
I think I’ll just go through the story beforehand and think about my steps and details like where my focus is. But I sometimes think it’s good not to think about it all too much beforehand – we need to react and our movements need to flow on stage. If I’m thinking too much, I’m almost too aware and might get ahead of myself, and it’s the worst thing to give away something that’s about to happen.
Are you excited about having such a big role?
I think I’m nervous, but in a good way. It’s a complex role: it’s not just if I learn the steps and get them right then it’ll be perfect, there’s so much else to it. It’s about telling the story as best as you can. It’s an exhilarating feeling, though, and I really enjoy the movement Annabelle has created. It’s very different to other ballets we have done, and it’s a very modern way of moving.
What are the challenges of playing Stella?
Stella is not as complex as Blanche, but she has two very different sides. She has this quiet side to her, but she really knows what she wants. Her personality is very different to mine – she doesn’t stick up for herself when Stanley is violent, and because she’s so in love with him, she forgives him straight away. We can’t really put too much of ourselves into the character – I have to be Stella, not my version of Stella, otherwise the story wouldn’t be told properly.