Theatre department offering The Glass Menagerie
The Jefferson High School Theatre Department is kicking off their 20th Season with their fall production of The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.
The Glass Menagerie is a memory play as told by the narrator, Tom, an aspiring poet, trapped in the monochromatic routine of the shoe warehouse he works in to support his dependent family- his mother, Amanda, and crippled sister, Laura. The play is set in St. Louis in 1937, in the height of the Great Depression and following a nation-wide series of industry strikes that led to worker reform.
As a playwright, Williams’ often utilizes events from his life as a muse for his plays. The Glass Menagerie is no exception and contains a direct reflection of his life during a period of time when his family lived in a cramped apartment in St. Louis, Missouri. Williams’ grew up with an often absent and drunkard of a father, a possessive mother, and a sister who was close as a youth but spent the majority of her life in a mental institution. Williams’ father, who worked in a shoe factory, later found a job for Williams’ in the same factory, in which he describe his two year tenure, “as the most miserable of his life.” His personal hatred for the shoe factory is reflected in his character, Tom, who follows the same path that he did.
The Jefferson High School production is directed by Steve Glendenning, who decided to take the intimacy of this production to the next level.
“Directing Glass Menagerie has taken me back to directing in college with a really small, intimate setting, since we are having the audience sit on stage and on a stage extension. It’s very similar to the directing I did at Fairmont State in the small studio theatre. I felt this was really important in order to maintain the feeling Mr. Williams describes as claustrophobic.”
Glendenning, who encourages his actors to reach for new styles and limits, says, “The actors are forced to adjust body positions and act in a style they have never done before. I’ve backed off and given these experienced actors some freer rein to create staging choices.”
Landon Lanza, who plays Tom Wingfield, struggles with the balance between being realistic and demonstrating the dream-like state of the play.
“Because the cast of this show is so small, every line counts, and every line affects another character in some way. Because this is a memory play, I’ve found it to be extremely difficult to be realistic and dream-like at the same time.”
Ellie Didden, who plays Amanda Wingfield, says she has a hard time relating this show’s experiences with other shows she has done. “This show is just so different. It’s so thematic, and the quantity of subtext and substance is exponential. It’s easy to become so engulfed in this show because it is so dark, and you can sink your teeth into it.” When asked about the challenges she has faced with this show, Didden says, “Honestly, getting these lines down will be tough. Because Williams’s style is so eloquent and full of imagery, you have to give meaning and life to every word you project.”
When asked about the obstacles this show posed to him, Timothy Butcher, who plays the gentleman caller, Jim O’Connor, answered, “Learning to waltz was probably the most difficult thing I had to learn for this show. I’m not much of a dancer. But because this cast is so small, and we connect so much deeper than shows with a larger cast, we can just laugh off the silly rehearsal moments. It’s a lot of fun.”
Sabrina Zillinger, a four-year Jefferson High School theatre actor, plays Laura Wingfield, a twenty-something crippled introvert who invests most of her time into caring for her glass menagerie, which is a metaphor for her character. Zillinger explains, “Attempting to mimic Laura’s physical state on stage has been so difficult for me because I’ve never had a character with a physical deformity like Laura. She’s a quiet character who expresses most of her inner feelings with body language. You really have to be devoted to the character.”
There will be four chances to see the kickoff production for the 20th Anniversary Season of Jefferson High School Theatre; The Glass Menagerie plays Friday, Sept. 11, at 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sunday, Sept, 13, at 2:30 p.m. Adult tickets are $7 and student tickets are $5. As seating is limited, reservations are encouraged. To place a reservation or make other inquiries, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.