“Yes, I have tricks in my pocket; I have things up my sleeve,” said Tennessee Williams as he invited audiences to turn back time with him to revisit his troubled relationship with his mother and sister in his play “The Glass Menagerie.”
“The Glass Menagerie” is infused with strong autobiographical elements as seen primarily in Williams’ characters. Tom is a young man forced to work in a shoe warehouse while dreaming of becoming a writer. His fragile and painfully shy older sister, Laura, is patterned after Williams’ mentally ill sister, Rose, who also owned a collection of little glass animals. And the strong-willed, fading southern belle mother, Amanda, is fashioned after Williams’ mother, Edwina. The mother’s romantic and high-strung nature cannot accept the struggling family’s current, poverty-stricken reality, and desperately clings to a happier time that passed long ago.
The play was first conceived as a short story, “Portrait of a Girl in Glass,” and then as a shelved screenplay, “The Gentleman Caller,” before becoming Williams’ first successful play. It would become painful for Williams to see it performed, as he discussed in a 1945 interview with The New York Times.
“Rose was the member of the family with whom I was most in sympathy, and, looking back, her glass menagerie had a meaning for me…the glass animals came to represent the fragile, delicate ties that must be broken, that you inevitably break, when you try to fulfill yourself,” he said.
WVU’s guest director Kathleen Amshoff, based in New York, focuses on new works, interdisciplinary projects and reinterpretations of classics. She has created original pieces in Zimbabwe, Ecuador and Slovakia with Dramatic Adventure Theatre, and developed new plays at Cherry Lane, Ma Yi, 2G, the Lark, Wild Project, Galapagos Artspace, Culture Project and the Kennedy Center. A Fulbright scholar in Berlin, Amshoff has a Master of Fine Arts in directing from Carnegie Mellon University.
“It’s been an honor to work with the students and faculty here at WVU,” Amshoff said. “I’ve been so impressed by the talent, professionalism and integrity of everyone involved in the production, from the actors to the designers to the young craftspeople who’ve built our big, beautiful fire escape. I couldn’t think of a better environment to give a fresh voice to ‘The Glass Menagerie.’”
Scenic designer for the WVU production is Master of Fine Arts scenic design/tech student Jacob Bigelow; costume design is by Master of Fine Arts costume design/tech student Cecelia Hill; lighting design is by Master of Fine Arts lighting design/tech student Joshua Taylor; and sound design is by clinical assistant professor of lighting & sound design Alan McEwen.
“The Glass Menagerie” features second-year Master of Fine Arts acting students Stephanie Freeman as Amanda, and Beau Harris as Tom. Both have chosen these roles for their master’s thesis projects. In addition, Bachelor of Fine Arts acting senior Aubrey Rice portrays Laura and Bachelor of Fine Arts acting junior Bryan Staggers plays Jim, the friend Tom invites home from the shoe factory where he works.
“The Glass Menagerie” runs March 6-7 at 7:30 p.m., and returns after spring break, March 18-22 at 7:30 p.m. The closing matinee performance will be on Sunday, March 23, at 2 p.m. in the Gladys G. Davis Theatre.
Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for senior citizens and WVU students. There is a group rate of $10 per ticket for groups of ten or more.
For more information on this production of “The Glass Menagerie” please visit theatre.wvu.edu call 304-293-2020, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
An ongoing rehearsal blog is available on the School of Theatre & Dance website at http://ccarts.wvu.edu/theatreanddanceblog.
CONTACT: Charlene Lattea, College of Creative Arts
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