Note: This production was performed in recognition and commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the original Broadway debut of The Glass Menagerie. It was the only such production authorized in New York City by the Tennessee Williams Estate.
In this production of The Glass Menagerie, I tried to portray the
darker underbelly to this American classic. Set on 8th Avenue of New York
City, I framed the play within a contemporary urban environment. Splitting
the role of Tom, I cast an elderly gentleman, Broadway veteran Sam Gray, to
portray Tom Wingfield at the end of his life. Moving through the bars and
sex shops of 8th Avenue, Elder Tom would narrate directly to the audience,
taking us back, via memory/flashback, to the St. Louis of 1933 and the
particular stories related in the play. Visually, the contemporary urban
environment never quite disappeared: the fire escape was a construction
scaffolding, the dining room table was set upon Con Edison sawhorses, the
phone was a Nynex payphone and the Paradise Dance Hall was a bank of sex
shop peep show booths “across the alley.”
I had always been interested in the fate of Tom at the end of the play.
Even as a student, watching the movie in a 10th Grade English class, I
always wanted to know what happened to Tom after the play concluded.
What was that journey that the final monologue seemed to represent – and
does the play, in fact, reveal to us just what that journey might have been?
I think it does.
I used a lot of music by Tom Waits, particularly songs from the Rain Dogs and Frank’s Wild Years recordings. The “Paradise Dance Hall theme”, in fact, was an original composition influenced by a refrain in Tom Waits’ “Just Another Sucker On The Vine” from the Swordfishtrombones cd.
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