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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”