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At Kennedy Center, a smoking 'Streetcar'

Cate Blanchett channels Blanche DuBois, cigarettes and all. (Richard A. Lipski/The Washington Post)

Nonsmokers, take note: The haze in the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater is real -- and legal.

Audiences for the sold-out run of "A Streetcar Named Desire" have been surprised to see Cate Blanchett and her co-stars puff on real cigarettes throughout the three-hour play, especially since smoking is prohibited in the arts center.

Except in theatrical productions. Kennedy Center spokesman John Dow told us that actors are allowed to smoke onstage if it's true to the characters and period, such as the 1947 "Streetcar." Dow said a sign near the theater entrance warns patrons about the cigarette smoke, and the smell is most pronounced in the first few rows.

Although many stage actors opt for sweeter-smelling herbal cigarettes, some believe they are stronger and harsher than tobacco. Cast members in this production are using low-nicotine smokes, said Dow: "We leave it to the artists. We don't have an overriding policy."

By The Reliable Source  |  November 12, 2009; 1:02 AM ET
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