News / Arts & Entertainment

Broadway Revives Tennessee Williams' 'Glass Menagerie'

Tony Award winner Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto in director John Tiffany's Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’
Tony Award winner Cherry Jones and Zachary Quinto in director John Tiffany's Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ "The Glass Menagerie." (Photo by Michael J. Lutch)
Theater audiences first met the dysfunctional Wingfield family nearly 70 years ago in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.

His tale of heartbreak and faded dreams, inspired partly by the playwright's own family dynamics, has resonated powerfully with audiences through the decades.

The latest revival of this classic is on Broadway, where audiences enter the Booth Theater to find a simple, but striking vision.

Onstage, there’s the scantest representation of a cramped apartment, but there are no walls, just a sofa, dining room table and a couple of other pieces of furniture, with a long tilted fire escape reaching upward. Other than that, everything’s black. The whole set seems to be floating in a void.  

"I want people who hate the theater to see it," said two-time Tony Award winner Cherry Jones, who plays Amanda, the iron-willed mother at the heart of The Glass Menagerie. "Because I really do think it’s one of those productions that could change people’s minds about the theater. This production takes people places they have never been before."
Director John Tiffany's Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ Director John Tiffany's Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ "The Glass Menagerie" retells the classic tale of family, heartbreak and faded dreams. (Photo by Michael J. Lutch)
When The Glass Menagerie debuted on Broadway in 1945, it established Williams as one of the greatest playwrights of his generation. He went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

But, of all his plays, The Glass Menagerie was both Williams’ most nakedly autobiographical and least naturalistic. His script calls for music and stage magic - characters appear out of thin air, as if conjured by Tom, the play’s narrator.  

Director John Tiffany says Williams was very clear in his stage directions and that The Glass Menagerie is impressionistic, a memory play.

"He begs us, as theater makers, not to go down the path of naturalism, not to have a real Frigidaire [refrigerator] and real ice cubes tinkling in a glass," Tiffany said. "For Tennessee, that wasn’t where theater was at its best. He said it’s a place of the imagination, where poetry, not just poetry of words, but poetry of gesture, poetry of design, poetry of lighting, poetry of acting, all comes together and meets above and between the audience and actors. And I really, really was taken by that."

Tiffany’s production is highly stylized with subtly-choreographed movement during the scene changes which are meant to complement the poetry of the text. Film and television star Zachary Quinto is making his Broadway debut as Tom, the stand-in for Tennessee Williams, whose given name really was Tom.

"For me, it is the language, it is the poetry, it is the distillation of his own life, his own experience and the people that he loved the most that are in this play," Quinto said.

Quinto read a lot of biographical material about Williams to prepare for the play, particularly about his complicated relationship with his mother and sister.

"Learning that dynamic and understanding that Tennessee spent his entire life both trying to capture something in his writing, but also trying to escape something in his writing, was something that informed me a great deal," Quinto said.

In the play, the father has abandoned his family. Tom, the young writer, works a dead-end job in a shoe factory, helping to support his determined mother, Amanda, and his sister, Laura, who’s both physically and emotionally disabled. She lives out a kind of fantasy life, tending to a collection of glass figurines; her glass menagerie. In real life, Williams’ sister, Rose, was diagnosed with schizophrenia, sent to a mental hospital and lobotomized, says Quinto.

"How tragically her life unfolded, is something that Tennessee never fully reconciled within himself or probably even forgave himself for, on some level," he said.

Jones says all the characters in The Glass Menagerie are in desperate straits, particularly her character, Amanda.

"Her son is about to fly away, never to seen or heard from again and she knows it," Jones said. "And her daughter is mentally completely stifled. She cannot move.  And so it’s like a parent with a severely challenged child, physically or mentally. 'What in the world is going to happen to that child when I’m gone?'"

Amanda encourages Tom to invite a friend to date his sister but, as so often happens in real life, hope turns into heartbreak.

The Glass Menagerie once again taps into the audience's emotions, as it has for 70 years.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the latest edition of "Beyond Category" blues singer and guitarist Corey Harris performs with his band and talks about his travels in West Africa tracing the roots of the blues.