Recently revived and nominated for seven Tony awards, The Glass Menagerie is among the best plays Tennessee Williams has ever written. The Company Theatre of Norwell, 20 Accord Park Drive in Norwell, Massachusetts, is proud to present The Glass Menagerie from Friday, October 3 through Sunday, October 5 and then Thursdays through Sundays through October 19. Click here for tickets and visit companytheatre.com for more information!
“The Glass Menagerie is enjoying this incredible resurgence with the Tony nominations,” recalls Zoe Bradford, co-founder of the Company Theatre of Norwell, “I’ve spoken extensively with one of the producers who lives locally and who has been kind enough to talk to me about her experience. We’ve also got a great director on it and I think it’s going to be a wonderful piece.”
That director is Joe Walsh, an Emerson College graduate who recently directed the Irish National production of Hairspray. The Glass Menagerie is part of the Company Theatre of Norwell’s dazzling 35th anniversary season. Joe gives further insight into his vision of this renowned production.
What brought you to The Company Theatre and The Glass Menagerie?
I just spent 12 years in England, working. I went over to get my MA in Directing and ended up getting work right after I finished, so I stayed in the country for 12 years. Then I was looking to make a change and I came back to Boston.
I just happened to come down with a friend to see The Drowsy Chaperone and afterwards went out for some food with Michael Joseph, one of the artistic directors here and the musical director of that show. We started talking about theatre and what I do and he said, ‘Send me your resume. We are looking for someone to direct The Glass Menagerie.’
So, I sent in my resume, came in and interviewed, and I got the job. Since that happened, I also went to Ireland and did a national tour of Hairspray the musical and got a job in Ireland at the Cork School of Music. As soon as The Glass Menagerie opens, I`ll be leaving to take up a post as a professor at the Cork School of Music.
That’s really exciting, congratulations. Is that a musical theatre program?
Yes, it’s part of their BA Acting program. I`ll be teaching directing, scene study, directing the third years’ final production, and doing one-on-one coaching on getting young actors into the industry. They also have a music program, so I think in the long run they might be looking to combine the BA acting and the musical theatre programs.
When you are looking for a new project, what qualities do you look for?
I look for something that entertains as well as informs. For example, I just did Hairspray which is so hugely entertaining, yet it has an incredible social message in the text and in the story that the characters go through.
I think similarly with The Glass Menagerie. What attracted me to it was how universal these characters are. I want the audience to see themselves in the four characters onstage and their families – good, bad or otherwise. I don`t think that the play is, as sometimes it has been presented, in these four archetypal types of person. This hard controlling mother; this bratty young man; this shy, slow, mentally sister; and this man that comes in to save the day. I think they`re all much more interesting than that, much more three dimensional.
In many ways, Laura, who is the shy one, is the one with physical and emotional difficulties is actually the smartest one in the play. She’s the peace-keeper. I found some really interesting parallels in Tom’s family life in the 21st century and the characters we have in the glass menageries. I think the audience will be surprised at how much they relate to these four characters when they come to see the show.
Why do you think audiences love The Glass Menagerie? This is a show that just keeps on keeping on.
I think Williams’ writing is so poetic and so masterful that audiences are transported whenever they see a production of his work. This play is so beautifully poetic and there’s so much the audience can grasp on to.
There are so many themes, so many motifs, and so much symbolism in it, but actually it’s very accessible. I think for an audience they can really enjoy spotting the themes that run through the play, what the glass menagerie means, and what Laura’s unicorn means. He’s made it extremely beautiful, extremely intelligent, but also allows the audience into his world and lets the audience see that he is creating metaphor the entire time.
Right at the beginning of the play, he uses Tom Wingfield to sit on the edge of the stage and say to the audience, ‘This is a play and I`m going to use symbols.’ He’s actually inviting the audience to be on the same plane as the playwright and I think that’s really exciting for an audience. That don`t usually get that side. They don`t get to see that.
They get to see what the playwright was thinking the whole time he wrote it because we keep stopping the play for him to come out and tell us.
Secondarily, it’s the family. I think any drama around a family is going to be interesting because we all have families. We can choose our friends but we can`t choose our families. No matter how wonderful our relationships are with our own families, I think we can relate to the trials of watching other families work through difficult moments in their lives and in their relationships.
Click here for tickets and visit companytheatre.com for more information! The interview portion was provided by Hilary Goodnow, contributed by Michelle McGrath PR | Media Relations to the Arts.