Two Directors, One Play: A Peek Behind the Curtain of A Streetcar Named Desire

What happens when you take two lauded directors from different generations and put them together to lead one show? Especially on a show whose plot is rooted in a different era? We took a peek behind the curtain to speak to co-directors Jim Corti (also Paramount’s Artistic Director)(he, him) and Elizabeth Swanson (she/they) in the lead up to opening night of A Streetcar Named Desire, playing at Copley Theatre as part of the Bold Series. The Bold Series was created to produce works that challenges the status quo, while providing inspiring, provocative and courageous theater.

What Would Tennessee Williams Think?

Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire first opened on Broadway in 1947 and took the theater world by storm, winning the Pulitzer Prize for drama and a Tony Award for Best Actress (Jessica Tandy). A lot has transpired in the world in the past 75 years, and yet some things seem like they might never change. A Streetcar Named Desire takes us to a familiar world where privilege and poverty clash in visceral, human ways, and Paramount’s production sparks conversations about the limits of love, the nature of reality and the brutal effect of scarcity versus abundance in society.

We asked Jim Corti how they decided to utilize what the motivation was to have two directors for A Streetcar Named Desire. Having been an integral part of Paramount’s Broadway and Bold Series since day one, Corti’s influence can be felt in the majority of the stage productions to date and has helped to forge the reputation the theater has earned for award-winning works. Yet he retains an openness to combining forces, recognizing the synergy that arises from such partnerships. He says that over the past few seasons, Paramount has been inviting co-direction as a means to offer recognition to new and seasoned directors alike, and adds, “I am so gratified by the various co-directors’ contributions to the work… I find it’s an important vehicle for bringing new directors to the Paramount Family.”

Corti says seasoned co-director Elizabeth Swanson in particular brings something exciting to the show, and that their collaboration adds nuance to the directing. “They have it all! It fascinates me how we think alike and yet when we see things differently, our collaboration illuminates values the other didn’t see and makes the work better for it, beyond our individual expectations.”

Swanson says one thing that surprised her about working with Corti was that they, “started from very similar places for this show. We both wanted to tell a story of heightened realism and to honor Blanche’s journey. And we were both really longing for the specificity of 1947 New Orleans. Angie Weber, our wonderful scenic designer, was on the same page, and it’s been a very happy collaboration all around.”

Swanson is eager to recognize the influence of another player in the production as well. “This story has been fundamentally shaped by a third director: Sarah Scanlon, the Intimacy and Fight Director. She is brilliant at shaping choreography that serves a complex story, while also creating a safe, collaborative space for all the artists in the room.”

Corti also recognizes the power of the full team’s collaboration. “Not only does it make the show stronger, it makes for better humans learning from each other. I know I learn and change, become better, with every collaboration. Tennessee Williams has been an inspiration to both me and Elizabeth with this play’s perspective on the human condition. Our greatest connection that unifies us is our commitment to honor his work.”

Old Story, New Lens

When it comes to producing a classic like A Streetcar Named Desire and adding a contemporary twist that contextualizes it for modern audiences, Swanson is definitely the right person for the role, bringing not just their directing chops, but also their identity. Swanson says,
“One of the central forces in this story is the struggle between masculine and feminine. In A Streetcar Named Desire, those forces are out of balance. The masculine sublimates the feminine. Directing this show has given me a new love for my androgyny and my femininity.”

Swanson goes on to discuss how theater in different parts of the world is born from different sets of struggles. Case in point, Swanson received a MFA in theater directing from Ireland’s Trinity College in Dublin: “Ireland’s stories have all grown out of an Irish context where the power structures are so much about Catholicism and the oppression of the British colonialism. Here our dramas are usually part of the evolving conversation around racism, sexism or class struggles. But the fundamental building blocks of storytelling are the same.

Swanson was particularly excited about co-directing a tragedy, and leaning in to the historical and provocative tale it tells. “Most of my generation’s stories have an element of hope — and I don’t see hope at the end of this story for any of the characters. It’s caused me to step back and ask some fundamental questions about why we tell tragedies and why we need them.”

Catch the vibe between Blanche, Stella and Stanley as their love triangle gets twisted up in this timeless drama. They grapple with reality versus fantasy, deceit and betrayal. Steamy scenes unfold and worlds collide as they work out their differences to the tragic end. Come see A Streetcar Named Desire and enter a world where privilege and poverty clash in visceral, human ways.

A Streetcar Named Desire is playing March 13 to April 21, 2024, at Paramount’s Copley Theater in Downtown Aurora. The production has been Jeff Recommended and playing to rave reviews from critics and audiences alike.


Jim Corti (Paramount Artistic Director, Co-director) inaugurated Paramount’s Broadway Series with President and CEO Tim Rater in fall 2011 with the critically acclaimed My Fair Lady and a subscriber base of 12,500 patrons. In 2015, Paramount’s Broadway Series became Jeff Award eligible. Since then, Paramount has garnered 115 nominations with 29 wins, including three consecutive Best Large Musical awards for Les Misérables, West Side Story and Sweeney Todd. Corti helmed all three, and won Best Director for two of them, Les Misérables and Sweeney Todd. Corti also directed Paramount’s Fiddler on the Roof, Miss Saigon, RENT, The Who’s Tommy, Oklahoma!, Mamma Mia!, Million Dollar Quartet, Once, The Producers, Newsies, Groundhog Day: The Musical, Next to Normal, and co-directed Into the Woods and Fun Home. A Broadway veteran, he appeared in the original New York casts of Ragtime and Candide, joined the long running A Chorus Line, and toured nationally in Urinetown, Cabaret and Bob Fosse’s Dancin’. Other highlights include being the only director to have two productions in the same year in the Chicago Tribune’s 2009 list of 10 Best Shows for Drury Lane’s Cabaret and Writers Theatre’s Oh, Coward! He remains the sole honoree to have won Jeff Awards as an actor (Marriott’s Grand Hotel), choreographer (Drury Lane’s Singin’ in the Rain) and director (Paramount’s Sweeney Todd and Les Misérables, Drury Lane’s Sweet Charity and Northlight’s Blues in the Night).

Elizabeth Swanson (Co-director) is a Chicago-based director dedicated to complicating, questioning and celebrating new and classic works. Recent projects include: Emma Donoghue’s I Know My Own Heart (North American premiere, Pride Arts Center), Cabaret (Columbia College Chicago) and the sold-out, critically acclaimed Head Over Heels (Kokandy Productions, Jeff directing nomination). Swanson recently served as Artistic Director of BoHo Theatre, programming and producing the company’s 19th successful season, including tick, tick…BOOM! (dir. Bo Frazier), REMOTE (dir. Ruben Carrazana), and the world premiere of Valen-Marie Santos’s National Merit (dir. Enrico Spada). Swanson currently teaches at Columbia College Chicago, and is developing Saint Hildegard, a new musical. Previous credits include Where All the White Sneakers At? (Second City, director), Fun Home (Victory Gardens, assistant director, dir. Gary Griffin) and Love’s Labor’s Lost (Chicago Shakespeare Theater, assistant director, dir. Marti Maraden). Swanson studied history and theater at Princeton University and received their MFA in directing from the Lir National Academy of Dramatic Art at Trinity College, Dublin.