The Glass Menagerie

What if memories, relationships and love were all so fragile that they could shatter like glass in a single breeze or a light brush of a hand? In The Glass Menagerie, four talented actors, Eric Sirakian ’10, Calista Small ’10, Lily Shaffer ’10 and Ryan Marcelo ’10, create a timeless, delicate production that questions the fragility of human nature in the face of pressure and failure. The Glass Menagerie is a memory play, meaning it is the recollection of the protagonist, Tom, played by Sirakian. Set in the historical Bulfinch Debate Room, the play takes viewers back to 1937 in St. Louis. Small plays Amanda, an anxious and overbearing mother of two, haunted by memories of her husband who abandoned his family. A portrait of her husband is displayed upon the podium. Shaffer plays Laura, Tom’s crippled sister, who lacks confidence and spends much of the day polishing and caring for her menagerie of glass animals. In the opening scene of the play, Tom reminds the audience that the play is based entirely off memory, and memory can often be distorted in one’s mind. Tom works in a warehouse all day to support his mother and sister, but he dreams of adventure and spends his nights watching movies in theaters, much to his mother’s dismay. Amanda is desperate to find a suitor for Laura and complains that Tom is too selfish to help their family situation. After a series of fiery arguments between mother and son, Tom brings home a gentleman caller, played by Ryan Marcelo ’10, for Laura. After the arrival of the caller, the plot twists and turns until it leads the audience out of Tom’s memory and back into the present. Small’s portrayal of a domineering mother is realistic and draws out conflicting emotions of pity and anger from viewers. Shaffer makes Laura’s character come alive, with her meekness, slight limp and obsession over the glass menagerie. Sirakian plays the adventure-hungry Tom with ease, especially in monologues that reveal his daydreams and passions. Sirakian said, “The conflicts and characters are so complicated and demanding for the actor. The language is best part. The play is known for its lyricism and poetry.” In a climactic scene when Tom and Amanda fume at each other, Tom throws his coat, which lands on and shatters Laura’s collection of glass animals. In the silence that follows, Tom tries to pick up pieces of glass, but nothing can be done to mend broken glass. The play contains numerous tension-filled silences, out of which drift lonely viola solo phrases played by Jacob Shack ’10 from outside the Debate Room. Shack’s excerpts of Mahler’s 10th Symphony set a wistful tone and remind viewers that they are looking into a piece of Tom’s memory. The set is simple, consisting of a couch, coffee table, small round dining table, writing desk, several lamps and the picture of a man upon the podium. Two curtained alcoves of the Debate Room serve as bedrooms for Amanda and Tom. Sirakian said on behalf of the group, “We wanted to do a show in a non-conventional space, and the debate room gave us the historical feel we were looking for.” The key prop in the play is Laura’s precious set of glass figurines, the most prized of which is a unicorn. Sirakian, Small and Shaffer decided to put together this production as an informal IP supported by the theater department and their mentors, Instructors in Theatre Kevin Heelan and Mark Efinger, as well as Instructor in English Deborah Chase. “We rehearsed without a director, a collaborative process that is very time-consuming and difficult. We ran into many conflicts, since we each had different ideas for various aspects of the show…However, we learned how to agree. There were no compromises – we discussed until we came to an agreement, making decisions that we could all be excited about,” said Sirakian. “The final product represents our unified vision [and] months and months of heated discussions that have led to a single, unified understanding of the play.” Why did the three talented actors decide to take on the challenge of The Glass Menagerie? Sirakian said, “We fell in love with the script. It’s about hopes and dreams and looking to the future and thinking about the past, and senior year is the perfect time to explore all these themes.”