Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” performed


Contributed by: WSU Theatre and Dance

“The Glass Menagerie” production at WSU featured a small and close-knit cast and crew throught their four performances of the show. Caracterization was especially important because of this small cast.

Heidi Hanson, Features Editor

With a cast of only four characters, the Winona State University theatre department presented four performances of “The Glass Menagerie”, a memory play written by Tennessee Williams in the 1940s, from Feb. 28 to March 3. 

The play follows the narrator, Tom (Tyler Jensen), his mother Amanda (Heather Williams-Williams) and his sister Laura (Kylie Nelson). The family lives in the year 1937, and is working to keep their family afloat after the husband and father, Mr. Wingfield, left years prior and has not been heard from with the exception of a single postcard. 

Tom (Tyler Jensen) works in a shoe company to support his family, and also serves as a narrator to the play. Large points of conflict arise between him and his mother, Amanda (Heather Williams-Williams), because her more “southern-genteel” ways of raising him and his sister.

Laura (Kylie Nelson), the youngest child, is reserved and without a boyfriend, which bothers Amanda. This conflict drives the rest of the play, as Laura’s mother tries to find her a boyfriend through Tom’s batch of coworkers, settles on one by the name of Jim (Nicholas Kendall) and works to get Laura “ready” to meet the boy and hopefully get courted. 

“The Glass Menagerie” is very character driven, which makes it very open to interpretation. With such a small cast, it can sometimes be difficult to keep the audience engaged; however, Williams-Williams, Jensen, Nelson and Kendall did a wonderful job transporting the audience into the life of this seemingly broken and conflicting family. 

Heather Williams-Williams, assistant professor and chair of the theatre and dance department and Amanda in the play, commented that the small ensemble was her favorite part of the production of “The Glass Menagerie”.

“We as a cast really had to depend upon and trust each other because the cast is small,” Williams-Williams expressed.

The play does not have the happiest ending, as Jim and Laura seem to be going very well and may actually have some potential as a future couple until Jim drops that he has an appointment with his fiancee he has to get to, and leaves. Although it left the audience rather bewildered and confused, it adds to the depth of the show as a whole.

Nicholas Kendall, a fifth-year theatre major and Jim in the show, explained that the ending of the play added to the characterization for each of the actors. 

“The best part of this show was the expansiveness of how we can play with our characters and [despite] how tragic the ending is, there are small parts of humor that makes the show bearable to watch,” Kendall said. 

This characterization is seen in the script of the play itself but was really brought to life by the actors onstage. Williams-Williams added that the play was chosen because of the depth of characters that Tennessee Williams integrated throughout the play. 

“All four of the characters have deeply rooted struggles to confront both within themselves and in their relationships with each other,” Williams-Williams said. 

The message of the play itself is up to a bit of interpretation because of the abrupt and slightly ominous ending. Riker Weiler, a fifth-year English and theatre major and wardrobe supervisor for the show, commented on the cast and crew’s take on the characters’ unfortunate circumstances. 

“With our interpretation of the text, it feels like a metaphor for what happens if you don’t achieve what you want in life, or seeing how doing what you want in life has more effects than on yourself,” Weiler said. 

Through several costume changes, lighting development and prop organization, the crew of Winona State’s production of “The Glass Menagerie” played a huge part in the success of each performance. 

Blake Wolff, a third-year theatre major, was the stage manager for the show. Wolff was in charge of calling cues for lighting and other actions throughout the show, and overall made sure the show was running smoothly night after night. 

“I’m very proud of the teamwork and passion put in by the cast and crew and it made the process of the production so much smoother,” Wolff said. 

Weiler, the wardrobe supervisor for the show, echoed Wolff’s statement by saying the cast and the crew got along very well and seemed to know each other before rehearsals even started, which made the production not only go smoothly but also made the process more enjoyable. 

“The thing I loved the most about being on crew for this show is watching how everyone worked together, and getting to watch my friends and professors make a show that seemed so well received,” Weiler said. 

The crew was well appreciated by the cast during the four nights of performances. 

“The student crew was professional, dependable, and a joy to work with,” Williams-Williams stated. “Amanda does not leave stage very often, and when she does it is often for only a few seconds; the crew was there to hand me props, help with costume pieces, etc. I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Be sure to catch Winona State University’s Theatre and Dance Department’s next show, William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” from April 12-15, 2023.