The Glass Menagerie

The Glass Menagerie
by Tennessee Williams

The Grand Theatre | January 19 – February 5, 2011

Amanda Wingfield is a faded, tragic remnant of Southern gentility who lives in poverty in a dingy St. Louis apartment with her son, Tom, and her daughter, Laura. Amanda strives to give meaning and direction to her life and the lives of her children, though her methods are ineffective and irritating. Tom is driven nearly to distraction by his mother’s nagging and seeks escape in alcohol and the world of the movies. Laura also lives in her illusions. She is crippled, and this defect, intensified by her mother’s anxiety to see her married, has driven her more and more into herself. The crux of the action comes when Tom invites a young man of his acquaintance to take dinner with the family. Jim, the caller, is a nice ordinary fellow who is at once pounced upon by Amanda as a possible husband for Laura. In spite of her crude and obvious efforts to entrap the young man, he and Laura manage to get along very nicely, and momentarily Laura is lifted out of herself into a new world. But this crashes when, toward the end, Jim explains that he is already engaged. The world of illusion that Amanda and Laura have striven to create in order to make life bearable collapses about them. Tom, too, at the end of his tether, at last leaves home

TOM | John Graham
LAURA | Lauren Noll
AMANDA | Jayne Luke
JIM | Matt Whittaker

STAGE MANAGER | Kimberly Funk
SET | Gage Williams
LIGHTS | Spencer Brown
COSTUMES | Brenda Van der Wiel
SOUND | Joe Killian
PROPS | Máire Nelligan
DRAMATURG | Megan Noyce
HAIR & MAKEUP | Yancey J. Quick

December 26, 1944.

It was the day after Christmas. The Battle of the Bulge wore on in Europe. In Chicago there was snow on the ground and temperatures in the teens. At the Civic Theatre on Wacker Drive, a new play by a young playwright whose only claim to fame was a Broadway failure was about to premiere. It was called The Glass Menagerie.

It seems so obvious now, that Tennessee Williams would become one of our great American playwrights, and that The Glass Menagerie would take its place among the great American plays ever written. But on that cold Chicago night, none of that was assured. What has become a “timeless classic” was very much of its time, a nation and a man looking back on a world before Hitler invaded Poland and the world was set on fire.

I think about that first night, and how exciting it must have been for that first audience.  Williams was trying to break boundaries with this intimate, musical memory play. He asked for projections and music and lighting that was not realistic, because he was trying to find a new way to express truth on the stage. We’ve gone back to Tennessee’s original script in this production and continually asked ourselves to act as if it was a brand new script from an unknown playwright. 

I am very thankful to an amazing cast, crew, and design team … and most especially to Richard Scott and The Grand Theatre for taking time each year to stage the American classics. In 2011, we celebrate Tennessee’s 100th birthday, and I can think of nothing more fitting than trying to look with fresh eyes at this play, perhaps his greatest gift to us.

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