Tennessee Williams knew the territory of the heart, the hopes and dreams that live there — and sometimes die there. In The Glass Menagerie, the playwright created the Wingfields to mine this terrain in a timeless way.
"It's a story that's very familiar to all of us," director Anna Brenner says of the play, which premiered in Chicago in 1944. "It's about a son and a daughter and a mother and the relationships they have to each other. It's their need for independence and the love and guilt they feel. I think that kind of story will never be irrelevant."
The play is considered Williams' most autobiographical work. Tom, the son, narrates his memories of the Wingfields' struggle through neediness, both financial and emotional, and represents Williams' alter ego.
In this TheatreWorks production, local favorite Jane Fromme is Amanda, the mother who holds tightly to her broken dreams. The remainder of the cast — Melissa Brown as frail daughter Laura, Ryan Reilly as Tom, and Philip Guerette as the Gentleman Caller — won their roles through New York auditions.
Brenner, a Michigan native, pursued her love of theater to New York, and earned this assignment after the original director received another offer and listed her among potential replacements. She has an MFA in directing from Columbia University and has directed productions including The Three Sisters, The Misanthrope and 3 Women.
The 31-year-old invited some friends to the Springs: set designer Julia Przedmojska, lighting designer Yi Zhao, costume designer Ásta Hostetter and sound designer Elizabeth Atkinson. They're all housemates, so they brainstorm about the production while making coffee or hiking.
"She's a very collaborative artist," says TheatreWorks artistic director Murray Ross, "and we are very happy to give her gifted creative team a home to work on this haunting classic. It's a great opportunity for them — and for us."