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The Glass Menagerie

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The Glass Menagerie premiered in Chicago in 1944, and it won the 1945 New York Drama Critics Circle Award as Best Play--catapulting playwright Tennessee Williams to international attention as a dramatist. Initially titled The Gentleman Caller, and penned as a screenplay for MGM, the conceit for Menagerie was adapted from one of Williams' short stories, called Portrait of a Girl in Glass. An autobiographically based tale, in it Williams discloses the trying relationship he had with his mother and his physically challenged sister (in actuality Williams' sister was named Rose and she suffered from mental illness--in the short story and script she's called Laura and she walks with a limp).

In an innovative production now at Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum, The Glass Menagerie--lyrically directed by Gordon Edelstein--puts its focus on the dysfunction of one small family constellation, while also serving as a showcase for Judith Ivey's naturalistic portrayal of a middle-age mother named Amanda Wingfield. Amanda lives with her slightly handicapped daughter, Laura (a tender Keira Keeley) and son, Tom (Patch Darragh, convincing as a Williams surrogate). Tom and Laura's father left the family long ago. As Wingfield familial lore has it, Daddy was a telephone company employee who "fell in love with long distances."

But it is Tom who is bearing the primary costs of an absent father. After all, the family's financial well-being depends on Tom's paycheck from the shoe factory where he labors by day, even though he aspires to be a professional writer (of course). By night, Tom escapes to the "movies," returning late, and usually drunk, to the St. Louis tenement where he and his dependents dwell.

In an effort to ensure that the mild-mannered Laura has a secure future, Amanda continues to pressure Tom to introduce Laura to a "gentleman caller" from his workplace. Finally, Tom yields to Amanda's relentless nagging. But when the gentleman does at last come calling, in the form of one Jim O'Connor (smartly characterized by Ben McKenzie), hope rises--but despair is in the air. And, like syrupy tears on rosy cheeks, the sadness lingers in Williams' melancholy masterpiece.

Edelstein's interpretation of this American classic is unique in that it opens supposedly in a New Orleans hotel room, with the story's writer actually creating the dialogue and relationships before our eyes--stepping backward and forward in time and place, from narrator Tom to character Tom--again and again. As Tom confides to us during an early moment in the proceedings, The Glass Menagerie (named for Laura's beloved glass animal collection) is a "memory play." Though the memories are not necessarily good, the poetic recollections compiled by Williams are poignant and profound. Underscored by high production values--Michael Yeargan, set; Martin Pakledinaz, costumes; Jennifer Tipton, lighting; David Budries, sound--this three-hour Glass Menagerie is soulfully translucent, making it time well spent.

"The Glass Menagerie" continues at the Mark Taper Forum--135 North Grand Avenue, Los Angeles--through October 17. Show times are at 8 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday. Matinees are at 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 1:00 p.m. on Sundays, with a 6:30 p.m. performance on Sundays. For reservations, dial (213) 628 - 2772. For online ticketing, visit www.CenterTheatreGroup.org.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.