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This essay explores the contributions of black performers and black music in two landmark collaborations among playwright tennessee Williams, director Elia Kazan, and designer Jo Mielziner: the 1947 premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire, and the 1955 premiere of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. With his strong directorial hand, Kazan amplified the black presence in both plays and used both black actors and black music to navigate the realistic and expressionistic registers of each play’s performance. Alternately acting as a realistic sociological frame, a nostalgic evocation of a nearly lost past, an expression of forbidden desire, and as a social and political conscience, blackness served as the bond that held these “unstable compounds” together onstage. by foregrounding the crucial role that black performers and black music played in these milestone productions, I suggest a broader reconsideration of “the American style,” of which these premieres are hailed as representative.