Dec 14, 2008

Why "A Streetcar Named Stella"?

Thomas Lanier Williams III (March 26, 1911 - February 25, 1983), better known as Tennessee Williams, was an American playwright who received many of the top theatrical awards. He moved to New Orleans in 1939 and changed his name to "Tennessee," the state of his father's birth. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1948. Interestingly, Stella Rayne Pourciau and Tennessee share March 26 as their birthday. Stella also can boast a female relative many generations back named “Tennessee Price;” the story goes that she was named for the state because she was the first child of her parents born after their move to Arkansas.

A Streetcar Named Desire presents Blanche, a fading but still-attractive Southern belle whose pretensions to virtue and culture only thinly mask alcoholism and delusions of grandeur. Her poise is an illusion she presents to shield others, but most of all herself, from her reality, and an attempt to make herself still attractive to new male suitors. In the play, Blanche arrives at the apartment of her sister, Stella, in the Faubourg Marigny of New Orleans, on Elysian Fields Avenue; the local transportation she takes to arrive there includes a streetcar route named "Desire."

The Desire Line ran from 1920-48, at the height of Streetcars in New Orleans, along with 15 other lines. The route ran down Bourbon, through the Quarter, up Desire, and back around to Canal. Until the Riverfront Line was built in 1988 for tourists to ride up and down the French Quarter, an original 1920's Perley Thomas streetcar with mechanical problems from the St. Charles Avenue Line sat in the French Market proudly bearing the name "DESIRE" for tourists to stand in front of and photograph.

Stella Rayne Pourciau was so named not as a literary reference, but rather as a nod to the families of both of her parents. Stella's maternal great grandmother is named Estelle. Scarlett has shared a special relationship with her grandmother for many years. Rather than use her name verbatim, we decided to use a more modern form (or a more traditional form, depending on which source you consult), Stella.

Rayne was chosen because Stella's paternal great grandfather's name is John Raymond (although he is known as Raymond or Old Man, again depending on which source you consult), Stella's paternal grandfather's name is John Ray (although he is known as Ray), and Stella's father's name is Damon Ray. Thus, we decided that we wanted to use some form of Ray as Stella's middle name.

Stella’s mom was named after a literary character: Scarlett O’Hara of Gone With the Wind. Vivien Leigh, the actress who portrayed Scarlett in the movie, also portrayed Blanche in the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire. Another fun fact is that each year during the annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival there is a Stella Shouting Contest in Jackson Square. This year’s contest was held just before our Stella was born and many people joked that the contest was what called her forth.

Since our family resides in the New Orleans area and we have been impacted by the cultural influences of this great American city, and because the most famous reference to the name Stella is from a scene in A Streetcar Named Desire, the blog title "A Streetcar Named Stella" seemed appropriate. We hope you enjoy the content that we have posted here.


Unknown said...

You're so smart....I love having smart friends. I cannot wait to real all about Stella every single day. I'm looking forward to living in Pourciau Universe. hahaha
Love you!

Grandma Tonie said...

Well, I really enjoyed your first post on "A Streetcar Named Stella". I liked the background information and the pictures of the Streetcar. I did not know that Stella shared Tennessee Williams birthday--how cool is that?
And isn't it neat that Prudence Price named her first child born in Arkansas, Tennessee? It makes for a very interesting family history. I cannot wait until Dec. 24 and I get to see y'all. Love you lots!

Our Life Version 6.0 said...

OKAY, I can't believe you have had a blog since Dec. 14th and I just found out through your Christmas card!! How can I be a follower of your blog if I don't know that you have one??!! I am so excited that you have joined the blogging world and look forward to seeing more and more pics of Stella!