The East Texas Baptist University Theatre Arts Department began its 2018-2019 production season with the performance of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie on Thursday, October 4 through Sunday, October 7. Directed by ETBU senior Theatre Design and Tech major Drew Frazier, the autobiographical play explored the dysfunctional dynamic of the Wingfield Family.
“The Glass Menagerie parallels Williams’ life. His unfortunate lack of a father figure inspired my concept for the show: broken,” Frazier explained. “Out of all of the aspirations of Tom Wingfield, it is his desire for adventure that comes true. However, does Tom live ‘happily ever after’ only because he achieved a lifelong dream? What made him truly happy was his family, but he didn’t realize this until he lost them. I think this is one of the most important messages of the show.”
The theme of brokenness was integrated into design elements such as the divided stage, frayed furniture, tattered costumes, and faltered lighting. ETBU senior Theatre Design and Tech major Judah Armour, who portrayed Tom Wingfield, advised current underclassmen pursuing Theatre to expect to be challenged in their technical skills and to be ready for hard work. The scenic construction crew spent over 60 hours constructing a recreation of the Wingfield apartment and fire escape on stage.
“Through The Glass Menagerie, I have learned about striving for excellence and pushing others to do the same, while being given grace and room to fail,” ETBU senior Theatre Arts Performance major Payton Weinzapfel shared. “As I prepared for my role as Amanda Winfield, I have been challenged to be vulnerable and become a more empathetic person to allow others to feel safe and welcomed in my presence so they may be vulnerable, too. Collaboration is one of the greatest challenges and gifts of theatre. I have learned that what I give to other actors on stage greatly impacts what they are able to give back to me to produce a strong scene.”
The four-person ensemble cast included two seniors and two freshmen, creating a mentor relationship between the actors. The newest members, Theatre Arts Performance major Savannah Bradshaw and Speech Communication major Caleb Helfrick, were involved in one of the most emotionally charged scenes of the performance. The seasoned cast and crew surrounded Bradshaw and Helfrick to support and encourage them.
“The main challenge in my role as Jim O’Connor was transitioning from high school to collegiate theatre,” Helfrick commented. “Though I didn’t realize how different it would be, I was encouraged by the constant support of my fellow actors. The main thing they taught me was to become confident and comfortable in my character’s skin. I can’t thank them enough for helping me improve in what I love to do.”
Set in 1937 St. Louis, Missouri, the production is described as a “memory play,” a term coined by Williams himself in reference to The Glass Menagerie. Narrated by Tom, the events of the play are presented as his memories of what he left behind in his pursuit of adventure. Representing Williams’ sister, Rose, Laura Wingfield was portrayed by Bradshaw.
“As The Glass Menagerie was my first college show, I will always be fond of the experience and the people involved,” Bradshaw said. “Rendering Laura’s demeanor took patience, and I have learned so much about myself as an actress. The Theatre Department has challenged me in my skills within and beyond acting. Personally, my faith has grown in the way that I approach my time in and out of the department. My limited schedule caused me to evaluate when I can spend time alone with the Lord. I am thankful to have the opportunity to gain experience and receive encouragement from the professors as well as my peers.”
The ETBU Theatre Department will be performing Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol November 29-30 at 7:30 p.m. and December 1-2 at 2:30 p.m. at the Marshall Convention Center. General admission is $15 or free with an ETBU I.D.