Olympia Dukakis - From Streetcar to Milktrainby Tennessee Williams
directed by David Kaplan
starring Olympia Dukakis
Provincetown Tennessee WIlliams Theater FestivalSpecial Presentation
In the summer of 1956, Olympia Dukakis was a graduate student at Boston University spending her summer hiatus doing stock theater in Rangeley, Maine. She was 25 years old. After a disastrous debut earlier that summer in Eugene O’Neill’s Outward Bound, praising herself as having “all the subtleties of a robot,” it was her role as Stella in A Streetcar Named Desire that freed her. In her memoir, Ask Me Again Tomorrow, Dukakis recalls “It was the first time that I felt connected to the other players on the stage that felt organic and true.”
In the 52 years since, Olympia Dukakis has had the chance to connect powerfully with other Williams roles and with audiences well beyond Maine. Just this spring she performed the role of Flora Goforth in Williams’ The Milktrain Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore at the Hartford Stage. The NY Times wrote that the big winner in “The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore” is Ms. Dukakis, taking on a role that famously defeated Hermione Baddeley, Tallulah Bankhead and Elizabeth Taylor, and giving it the force of a gale. She’d played Flora Goforth before - in 1996 at the Williamstown Theater Festival where she’d also been seen as Maxine in Night of the Iguana (1963), as the Gypsy in Camino Real (1968), and as Lady Torrance in Orpheus Descending (1976).
Her work in the theater has carried her throughout America,and still does: this spring in Hartford, this summer in Montana, this fall in Provincetown. If Williams is among our national playwrights, Olympia is among our national actors -- and Williams is among her fortes. A particular strength: Serafina in The Rose Tattoo. She’s done that five times beginning in 1960 at Saranac Lake, in 1965 at the Studio Arena Theater in Buffalo, and in 1976, 1988 and 1993 at The Whole Theater of Montclair, New Jersey, which she help to found. In 1987, her role as the no-nonsense mother, Rose Castorini in Moonstruck earned her an Academy Award and overnight national recognition. Her fame extended with the 1989 film of Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias in which she played Clairee - a saucy southern beauty shop gossip. In 1993 she was acclaimed for her portrayal of the trans-gendered landlady, Mrs. Madrigal, in the television series of Armistad Maupins’ Tales of the City. Mrs. Madrigal is a character about whom Dukakis writes “She’s alive in the moment; alert to all the possibilities of life... she who transformed herself, knows that life is transformative...” We could argue that is the life lesson of Serafina from The Rose Tattoo.
Her Provincetown program at the Tennessee Williams Festival is a live interview ornamented with monologues performed by Olympia from The Rose Tattoo, Night of the Iguana, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore and Sweet Bird of Youth. The last is quite unusual, the Princess Kosmonopolis is a role she’s wanted to play and hasn’t before had the opportunity.