THE GLASS MENAGERIE by Tennessee Williams
Memories within memories within memories –
Tennessee Williams describes THE GLASS MENAGERIE as being a MEMORY PLAY. It is based on the playwright’s own memories of his family, while Tom, the narrator of the play recounts his memories of the stage family and his mother, Amanda, recounts the memories of her youth. For some characters, memory is an escape to a brighter past, to others it is conflicted with the burden of a bad conscience. Memory is not a flawless process, for it softens the contours of negative experiences and heightens the joy of pleasurable ones. Like a sudden burst of lightening, memory can accentuate and throw an unnatural light on a situation best forgotten.
“Memory takes a lot of poetic license. It omits some details; others are exaggerated, according to the emotional value of the articles it touches, for memory is seated predominantly in the heart. The interior is therefore rather dim and poetic.”
With the 1944 premiere of THE GLASS MENAGERIE, Tennessee Williams was momentarily catapulted from obscurity to fame and it remains his most critically acclaimed and popular play. Truly one of the most beautiful and beloved plays of the modern theatre and recipient of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award in 1945.
This was Tennessee William’s first success as a playwright and is a theatrical piece of distinct power and potent lyricism, incorporating strong autobiographical elements; featuring characters based on the author himself, his shy, mentally fragile and physically disabled sister and their overbearing, histrionic mother. Williams’ intensely personal and brilliantly tender masterpiece exposes the complexity of our memories, and the ways in which we can never truly escape them.
Tennessee Williams made a conscious and ultimately successful attempt to break the established theatrical norms of time and space with this “Memory Play”; opening the door for new styles of writing and acting. It is one of the very first plays to “break the fourth wall” and having a narrator directly address the audience; stepping in and out of character as the play progresses.
The story is set in 1937, during the Great Depression, in the Wingfield family’s shabby apartment in a crumbling tenement building in St Louis, Missouri. The action and events occur in the memory of protagonist Tom Wingfield and circle around his sister Laura who, crippled by polio as a child, finds comfort and solace in the fragile ornaments of her glass menagerie. Their mother Amanda, a genteel former Southern Belle, is obsessed with finding Laura a suitable husband.
They all have their personal dreams of escape and brief glimpses of happiness; Laura’s escape is her obsession with the Glass Menagerie. Amanda’s escape is her past as a young, desirable Southern debutant. Tom’s escape is the movies where people’s lives are seemingly full of adventure and he believes that joining the Merchant Marine will provide him with some adventure of his own but he is just running away and abandoning his family, just like his father once did. Jim is the only one of the four who is actually working at bettering his life after six years of stasis since leaving high school; he takes evening courses to get ahead and improve his perspectives of finding a better job / life.
Throughout the play, these downtrodden characters retain a semblance of hope, despite their bleak perspectives.
The script for our THEATRE OF THE MIND; a Play for Voices is based on the first radio adaptation which was performed on Theatre Guild on the Air in 1951
Thursday, September 10 at 20:00 hrs in THEATER AM OLGAECK
Monday, September 14 at 20:00 hrs in MERLIN
Thursday, September 17 at 20:00 hrs in THEATER AM OLGAECK
Thursday, October 22 at 20:00 hrs in THEATER AM OLGAECK – as part of the 60th Anniversary Celebrtion Stuttgart & St. Louis City Partnership.