Any list of the best American plays of the 20th Century is bound to include THE GLASS MENAGERIE, by Tennessee Williams. Since its Broadway premiere in 1945, it has been produced countless times by theatres at every level: professional, community, and educational.
There are many reasons to love the play and for theatres to want to explore it. Some of these reasons are purely practical: it has only four characters and a single set. (“Hey, how expensive can that be to produce?!”)
But there are many more sublime reasons. THE GLASS MENAGERIE is Williams’ masterpiece of poetic realism, with language that is both transcendent and gritty. All four characters are drawn honestly, specifically, and completely. Audience members can recognize these characters perhaps in their own acquaintance, their own families, or even in themselves. They make us laugh one moment, anger us at another, and break our hearts in yet another.
Like many theatre artists, I’ve been drawn to THE GLASS MENAGERIE for various reasons throughout my career. However, as one of the leaders of a faith-based theatre company, I didn’t see a particular reason why The WordPlayers should be drawn to explore it. What could a Christian perspective bring to the experience of the play? Then, among all the other astonishing resonances, something else resonated.
Tom has a line near the end of the play, speaking to his sister: “Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!” He has spent the entire play trying to escape what he sees as the coffin-like confines of life with his mother and sister, and he finally succeeds. But Tom’s deep love and compassion for Laura constantly pull her back into his memory and his active thoughts. The moment is both heart-breaking and hopeful. Tom has left home. But home hasn’t left him. He has escaped his loved ones, but his loved ones won’t let go of his spirit. Somehow, if only in his heart and not in his actions, Tom has remained faithful.
I’m reminded of the times I’ve been driven crazy by family members. I remember the times I think I know best, despite all advice to the contrary. I even think of times when I didn’t believe I needed God. If I’m honest, there have been times I even struggled to believe in the reality of a God who loved me enough to be born in the likeness of man. Sometimes I want to strike out on my own, be my own boss, make my own adventure. But then the reality sets in that, like Tom, I am “pursued by something.” My family members, flawed as they may be, love me. The goodness and mercy of God make me more faithful than I intended to be.
What an honor to work on such a great and compelling play! Please join us on June 13 at 7 PM in The Square Room.