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Stage Directing Theory
Directing Theory: pre-text, text and super-text

from Preface to Drama: An Introduction to Dramatic Literature and Theater Art by Charles W. Cooper; Ronald Press, 1955
SCENES: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (excerpts)

Glass Menagerie *
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TOM: I descended the steps of this fire escape for a last time and followed, from then on, in my father's footsteps, attempting to find in motion what was lost in space…. I would have stopped, but I was pursued by something…. I pass the lighted window of a shop where perfume is sold. The window is filled with pieces of colored glass, tiny transparent bottles in delicate colors, like bits of a shattered rainbow. Then all at once my sister touches my shoulder. I turn around and look into her eyes. Oh, Laura, Laura, I tried to leave you behind me, but I am more faithful than I intended to be!
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The action of The Glass Menagerie takes place in the Wingfield family's apartment in St. Louis, 1937. The events of the play are framed by memory. Tom Wingfield, who usually smokes and stands on the fire escape as he delivers his monologues, is the play's narrator. The narrator addresses us from the undated and eternal present, although at the play's first production (1944-5), Tom's constant indirect references to the violence of the Second World War would have been powerfully current.

The action of the play centers on Tom, his mother Amanda, and his sister Laura. In 1937 they live together in a small apartment in St. Louis. Their father abandoned them years earlier, and Tom is now the family's breadwinner. He works at the Continental Shoemakers warehouse during the day, but he disappears nightly "to the movies." Amanda is a loving mother, but her meddling and nagging are hard to live with for Tom, who is a grown man and who is earning the wages that support their family. Laura is a frightened and terribly shy girl, with unbelievably weak nerves. She is also slightly lame in one leg, and she seldom leaves the apartment of her own volition. She busies herself caring for her "glass menagerie," a collection of delicate little glass animals.

Amanda dreams constantly of the long-ago days when she was a young Southern belle and the darling of her small town's social scene. She enrolled Laura in classes at Rubicam's Business College, hoping that a career in business would make Laura self-sufficient. She discovers that Laura stopped attending class a long time ago, because the speed tests on the typewriter terrified her. After the fiasco at Rubicam's Amanda gives up on a business career for Laura and puts all her hopes into finding a husband for her.

Amanda's relationship with Tom is difficult. Tom longs to be free‹like his father‹to abandon Amanda and Laura and set off into the world. He has stayed because of his responsibility for them, but his mother's nagging and his frail sister's idiosyncrasies make the apartment a depressing and oppressive place. Tom also hates his job. His only escape comes from his frequent visits to the movies, but his nightly disappearances anger and baffle Amanda. He fights with Amanda all the time, and the situation at home grows more unbearable.

Amanda, sensing that Tom wants to leave, tries to make a deal with him. If Tom and Amanda can find a husband for Laura, a man who can take care of her, then Tom will be free of his responsibility to them. Amanda asks Tom to bring home gentlemen callers to meet Laura. Tom brings home Jim O'Connor, a fellow employee at the warehouse. He is an outgoing and enthusiastic man on whom Laura had a terrible crush back in high school. Jim chats with Laura, growing increasingly flirtatious, until he finally kisses her. Then he admits that he has a fiancé and cannot call again. For fragile Laura, the news is devastating.

Amanda is furious, and after Jim leaves she accuses Tom of playing a cruel joke on them. Amanda and Tom have one final fight, and not long afterward Tom leaves for good. In his closing monologue, he admits that he cannot escape the memory of his sister. Though he abandoned her years ago, Laura still haunts him.

The Glass Menagerie is loosely autobiographical. The characters all have some basis in the real-life family of Tennessee Williams: Edwina is the hopeful and demanding Amanda, Rose is the frail and shy Laura (whose nickname, "Blue Roses," refers directly back to Williams' real-life sister), and distant and cold Cornelius is the faithless and absent father. Tom is Williams' surrogate. Williams actually worked in a shoe warehouse in St. Louis, and there actually was a disastrous evening with the only gentleman caller who ever came for Rose. Thomas was also Tennessee Williams' real name, and the name "Thomas" means twin‹making Tom the surrogate not only for Williams but also possibly for the audience. He is our eye into the Wingfields' situation. His dilemma forms a central conflict of the play, as he faces an agonizing choice between responsibility for his family and living his own life.

The play is replete with lyrical symbolism. The glass menagerie, in its fragility and delicate beauty, is a symbol for Laura. She is oddly beautiful and, like her glass pieces, easy to destroy. The fire escape is most closely linked to Tom's character and to the theme of escape. Laura stumbles on the escape, while Tom uses it to get out of the apartment and into the outside world. He goes down the fire escape one last time at the end of the play, and he stands on the landing during his monologues. His position there metaphorically illustrates his position between his family and the outside world, between his responsibility and the need to live his own life.

The play is non-naturalistic, playing with stage conventions and making use of special effects like music and slide projections. By writing a "memory play," Tennessee Williams freed himself from the restraints of naturalistic theatre. The theme of memory is important: for Amanda, memory is a kind of escape. For Tom, the older Tom who narrates the events of the play to the audience, memory is the thing that cannot be escaped: he is still haunted by memories of the sister whom he abandoned years ago.

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Intro

Williams
Notes are lost, read Williams' plays!

THE GLASS MENAGERIE

A Memory Play in Seven Scenes by Tennessee Williams
THE CHARACTERS
AMANDA WINGFIELD-- the mother
A little woman of great but confused vitality clinging frantically to another time and place. Her characterization must be carefully created, not copied from type. She is not paranoiac, but her life is paranoia. There is much to admire in Amanda, and as much to love and pity as there is to laugh at. Certainly she has endurance and a kind of heroism, and though her foolishness makes her unwittingly cruel at times, there is tenderness in her slight person.

LAURA WINGFIELD-- her daughter
Amanda, having failed to establish contact with reality, continues to live vitally in her illusions, but Laura's situation is even graver. A childhood illness has left her crippled, one leg slightly shorter than the other, and held in a brace. This defect need not be more than suggested on the stage. Stemming from this, Laura's separation increases till she is like a piece of her own glass collection, too exquisitely fragile to move from the shelf.

TOM WINGFIELD-- her son
And the narrator of the play. A poet with a job in a warehouse. His nature is not remorseless, but to escape from a trap he has to act without pity.

JIM O'CONNOR-- the gentleman caller
A nice, ordinary, young man.

Scene: An Alley in St. Louis

Time: Now and the Past

PART I. Preparation for a Gentleman Caller

PART II. The Gentleman calls


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Menagerie-Williams
I don't know what to tell you, boys and girls. To promice that one day I will spend some time (hours), fixing the Menagerie pages? I think about it every time I teach Williams -- and every time I fall in love with this play. Maybe I should send you to Dramatic Literature Forum to read te student papers... Or you can subscribe yourself and post your own thoughts.
If I will another life, I promice I will fix the pages... The Glass Menagerie No play in the modern theatre has so captured the imagination and heart of the American public as Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie. Menagerie was Williams's first popular success and launched the brilliant, if somewhat controversial, career of our pre-eminent lyric playwright. Since its premiere in Chicago in 1944, with the legendary Laurette Taylor in the role of Amanda, the play has been the bravura piece for great actresses from Jessica Tandy to Joanne Woodward, and is studied and performed in classrooms and theatres around the world. The Glass Menagerie (in the reading text the author preferred) is now available only in its New Directions Paperbook edition. A new introduction by prominent Williams scholar Robert Bray, editor of The Tennessee Williams Annual Review, reappraises the play more than half a century after it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award: "More than fifty years after telling his story of a family whose lives form a triangle of quiet desperation, Williams's mellifluous voice still resonates deeply and universally." This edition of The Glass Menagerie also includes Williams's essay on the impact of sudden fame on a struggling writer, "The Catastrophe of Success," as well as a short section of Williams's own "Production Notes." The cover features the classic line drawing by Alvin Lustig, originally done for the 1949 New Directions edition.
Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie (Broadway Theatre Archive) (1973)

Katharine Hepburn, one of the great American actresses, stars in this film adaptation of one of the greatest American plays, Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie. Hepburn plays Amanda Wakefield, a faded Southern belle now living in a small urban apartment, where she suffocates her two children--her restless son Tom (a very young Sam Waterston) and her painfully shy daughter Laura (Joanna Miles)--with her incessant mixture of insistent cheer and guilt. After much prodding from Amanda, Tom finally brings home a friend from his workplace, in the hopes that he might strike up a romance with reclusive Laura. The result is one of the sweetest and most heartbreaking scenes ever written. Hepburn's steely will and sudden vulnerability make her ideal for the domineering mother, but the entire cast--including Michael Moriarty as the "gentleman caller"--is superb; Moriarty and Miles deservedly won Emmy awards for their performances.

Williams-Menagerie
PLAYS online
The Glass Menagerie (1987) Paul Newman directed this poetic, sunlight- and memory-drenched film version of Tennessee Williams's classic memory play. The casting is surprisingly adept, considering that several of the performers would seem to be too old for their roles. John Malkovich plays Williams's stand-in, Tom Wingfield, a dreamer who lives with his domineering mother Amanda (a luminous Joanne Woodward) and his fragile, limping sister Laura (Karen Allen). Mom wants nothing more than to marry off shy-flower Laura and keeps bugging Tom to bring home a guy. So he corrals coworker James Naughton for an evening--and Amanda treats it as though Naughton's signed up for the nuptial short-course. Woodward is alternately touching and harridan-like as this smothering mother who means well, while Malkovich is perfect as the would-be writer longing to break free. And Allen brings surprising strength to the role of Laura.
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The Theatre of Tennessee Williams: Battle of Angels the Glass Menagerie a Streetcar Named Desire (Theatre of Tennessee Williams) The Theatre of Tennessee Williams presents, in matching format, the plays of one of America's most consistently influential and innovative dramatists. Now available as a paperback, Volume VIII adds to the series four full-length plays written and produced during the last decade of Williams' life, including original cast listings and production notes. @2001 geoAlaska *
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Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie": A Study Guide from Gale's "Drama for Students" (Volume 01, Chapter 7) [DOWNLOAD: PDF] Brought to you by Thomson Gale--the world's leading source of literary criticism and analysis--this e-doc contains: plot summary; character analysis; author biography; an overview of the play's themes, style, and historical context; a compendium of in-depth critical material; study questions; suggestions for further reading; and much more.
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