Tennessee Williams’ classic drama “The Glass Menagerie” will open at the Ice House Theater in Visalia on August 16.
Williams’ original version of the play was titled “The Gentleman Caller.” In 1944, discouraged by his lack of success, Williams reworked “The Gentleman Caller,” personalizing it into “The Glass Menagerie.”
The character of Amanda was patterned after his mother, Edwina; he was the brother Tom; and Laura was his sister Rose. Apparently, personalization did the trick, “The Glass Menagerie” was a sensation on Broadway, launched Williams’ career, and became an American theatre classic.
Still in early rehearsals (at the time of this writing), the talented actors selected by director Richard Morrill are starting to refine their characters. Elizabeth LaMar is excited about portraying Amanda. “Glass Menagerie is one of my favorite plays of all time,” she said. “Many years ago, I played Laura, and now I’m getting my shot at Amanda.”
LaMar describes Amanda as “loving her children very much and having high expectations for them. She doesn’t understand why they can’t be the people she wants them to be.”
“Laura is a side of me that remains hidden as Chatty Cathy takes over the frightened me,“ notes Brooke Rogers. “I’ve been wanting to explore this side of me for a long time. Portraying Laura is giving me that opportunity.”
Rogers describes her relationship with Amanda as complicated. On the one hand, she wants to please her mother, but on the other she would rather remain in her own world of fantasies.
Laura’s brother Tom (David Payne), though younger in years, is Laura’s protector. Payne depicts Tom as a frustrated writer.
“Tom feels trapped,” Payne explained. “He is the breadwinner, working in a warehouse to support his mother and sister, and sees no way out. He’s told his mother that he wants to be a writer, but she ignores everything he says.”
Amanda’s desire for Laura to have a gentleman caller is fulfilled when Tom brings Jim (Nick Nino) to dinner. Nino describes Jim as “an all American football player. He was the most popular guy in school.
He expected bigger and better things, but that didn’t work out for him.” When considering his relationship with Laura, Nino believes that Jim wants the best for her “to instill confidence in her but doesn’t realize how much he means to her, doesn’t see what not fulfilling her dreams might do.”
All cast members and the director refer to the beauty of the language and the reality of the play. Nino noted, “It is an opportunity to escape from mindless action movies and perhaps learn something about human nature you hadn’t realized.”
“It is not a feel good play,” said Morrill but he emphasized that “it is a great story. People need to experience this piece of life.”
“The Glass Menagerie” runs for three weekends at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia.
Evening performances are at 7:30 p.m. on August 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and 31, and matinees are at 2 p.m. on August 18, 25 and September 1. To purchase tickets, visit www.visaliaplayers.org or Visalia Community Players’ Facebook page, or call 734-3900.