Tonight Glen Williamson plays Stanley Kowalski. And Blanch Dubois. And Stella Kowalski. In his storytelling theater performance of the Kurt Vonnegut short story "Who Am I This Time," the New York actor and UC Santa Cruz graduate (83) plays all the roles, including the members of the small town theater company staging "Streetcar Named Desire."
"Vonnegut, with a lot of humor, gets to the core of being human and having real contact with each other," said Williamson, who will also perform Vonneguts "The Kid Nobody Could Handle."
Finding and expressing the heart of humanity has been important to Williamsons work since he was a student at UC Santa Cruz. With an independent major in theater, anthropology and religion, he studied the origins of theater in ritual and.mythology.
While on a theater exchange program to Dornach, Switzerland, Williamson discovered the work of Rudolph Steiner and the spiritual philosophies of anthroposophy.
His performances tonight are sponsored by the local branch of the National Anthroposophical Society, which describes itself as "an association of people who would foster the life of the soul, both in the individual and in human society, on the basis of a true knowledge of the spiritual world."
Where anthroposophy plays out in Williamsons life is on the stage. After studying at Julliard, San Franciscos ACT Theater and UC Santa Cruz, Williamson found the work of Michael Chekhov. Chekhov, the nephew of playwright Anton Chekhov, was influenced by Steiner and saw stepping into a role as a spiritual activity.
"Chekhov taught the use of imagination rather than personal experience in creating a character," said the Sunnyvale native. "Its what children do when they play. They arent drawing on some personal experience; theyre using their imagination.
"Why act if youre just going to get up on the stage and play yourself over and over? For me, the impulse to act is to transform myself into someone else."
While Williamson has performed "Who Am I This Time" for 15 years, he just added "The Kid Nobody Could Handle" four years ago after the death of his father.
"The character, a high school band director who is trying to save a troubled teen, is so much like my dad who was gregarious and changed a lot of young peoples lives," said Williamson, who besides performing one-man shows works with The Actors Ensemble in New York.
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If You Go
WHAT: Who Am I This Time: Glen Williamson performs Kurt Vonnegut
WHEN: 7:30 tonight.
WHERE: Louden Nelson Community Center, 301 Center St., Santa Cruz.