For the first time at SU, the theatre department presented the Tennessee Williams hit “The Glass Menagerie” April 6-8 in the Callaway Theatre. First-year assistant professor of theatre Sherrie Peterson directed the American stage classic.
Throughout the show, Peterson stayed true to Williams’ vision, and audiences experienced the original story in its purest form.
Set in the 1930s, the story revolves around the Wingfields, a family desperately holding out for a miracle. The underlying message throughout the play was that it isn’t right to judge people for their decisions when you have not walked in their shoes.
Peterson believes the story easily relates to today. Though the characters in “The Glass Menagerie” experience heartbreak, Williams’ text is filled with the ideas of hope and perseverance.
Ultimately, Peterson wanted the audience to walk away with the themes the story offers – fantasy versus reality, family and self-discovery.
“The Glass Menagerie” is also unique because the narrator breaks the fourth wall, which wasn’t the norm when Williams wrote the play in 1944.
Several students embraced the play’s three-dimensional characters.
Senior Daniel Farias played Tom Wingfield.
“Daniel is mature beyond his years; he identifies with the characters’ craving for adventure and is a joy to work with,” Peterson said.
Chelsie Burks, who recently starred in SU’s production of “Big Fish”, played the legendary role of Amanda Wingfield, Tom’s mother who longs to retreat to the days of Southern gentility. This was Burks’ first time playing a role in this production, but she is familiar with the story and Amanda’s character.
“The role is a challenge. From playing a significantly older character to following the emotional rollercoaster of Amanda, I have had to devote a lot of time and attention to my character development,” Burks said.
Peterson picked Burks for the role because she thought Burks could handle Amanda’s motherly nature.
“She has a maternal essence and embodies the humor and comedy that Amanda has,” Peterson said about Burks.
Much like Peterson, Burks also believes this is a relatable story that brings the real-life issues of past and present to the stage.
“I hope the audience can take away both the hurt and love that this family experiences with one another. Each character has a dream and sometimes the desire to achieve their goals overtakes their lives, creating tension and turmoil,” Burks said.
Freshman Genna Williams plays Tom’s sister, Laura Wingfield. Peterson praised both the character and Genna’s ability to personify the “embodiment of hopefulness and vulnerability” in Laura’s character. To complete the small cast, Freshman Blaise Phillips played The Gentleman Caller.
“Blaise brings a certain swag to this role; he is a charming introvert,” Peterson said.
The cast had been rehearsing for six weeks before audiences witnessed the tragic, yet honest portrayal of life during performances.
Once showtime rolled around, Peterson wanted to communicate the realism in poetry that Williams achieved.
One of Peterson’s favorite quotes from the play is, “But here there was only hot swing music and liquor, dance halls, bars, and movies, and sex that hung in the gloom like a chandelier and flooded the world with brief, deceptive rainbows.” To Peterson, the quote presents rainbows as the metaphor for quickly fading illusions that the characters live in.