The Human Race begins the second half of its 29th season with Tennessee William’s first great masterpiece, The Glass Menagerie. Memories come alive and love becomes desperate in this shimmering drama of a family on the edge. Tom struggles to make it in a modern day world while his reclusive sister hides amongst the small glistening crystalline creatures she collects. Their mother holds tight to a fantasy of Southern gentility and the belief that a certain gentleman caller will be the answer to their problems. With an edge as sharp as broken glass, it’s a story that cuts deep into the longing of human hearts. The production at The Human Race’s downtown Dayton home at The Loft Theatre is directed by Greg Hellems and features actors Scott Hunt, Jennifer Joplin, Claire Kennedy and Drew Vidal.
Director Greg Hellems revealed his unique and exciting vision of the play:
Even before it opened on Broadway in 1945, The Glass Menagerie had proved itself to be a powerhouse hit with audiences and critics, quickly earning the then unknown Tennessee (real name “Thomas”) Williams national recognition as a voice of his generation. Considered to be semi-autobiographical in nature, the play takes elements of Williams’ own early life—growing up in St. Louis with an overprotective Southern mother and an emotionally troubled sister, toiling in a shoe factory, a difficult relationship with his father—and pours them into the tortured soul of its protagonist and narrator, “Tom Wingfield.” Described by the playwright as a “memory play,” The Glass Menagerie was unusual for its time, the script was filled with considerable and detailed stage directions from Williams to ensure its presentation in the manner he envisioned, the story is filled with intentional symbolism and its dialogue highly poetic and lyrical in nature. Even after Williams went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes for A Streetcar Named Desire and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, his The Glass Menagerie was heralded as a defining work that changed the American Theatre and opened up new ways of writing dramatic literature.
In defining his vision of The Glass Menagerie for The Human Race, director Greg Hellems focused on Williams’ early life and how he sought to purge himself of guilt and regret, just as his doppelganger on stage, “Tom,” must do. “I see the theatre as Tom’s purgatory,” explains Hellems, “in which he must make his nightly confession to explain his actions and to justify his decision to abandon his mother and his disabled sister.” The story in the play is Tom’s memory, but it’s telling has an unintended consequence. “The ghosts of Tom’s illusion—his mother, his sister, his co-worker, Jim—respond with vitality and life, and won’t succumb to Tom’s conscious desire to win us over,” Hellems says. “Once Tom steps into his memory, it is no longer under his control, and he must face the reality of his past decision.”
The four-member cast of The Human Race’s production features two of the company’s Resident Artists, native Daytonian Scott Hunt (Rent and Les Misérables on Broadway, Big River and Shenandoah with HRTC) as the troubled son, “Tom,” and Cincinnati’s Jennifer Joplin (HRTC’s Miracle on South Division Street, Other Desert Cities and God of Carnage) as his mother, “Amanda,” as well as Wright State University graduate Claire Kennedy (HRTC’s Lend Me a Tenor, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet) as sister “Laura” and Ball State University assistant professor Drew Vidal (The Three Musketeers at Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Red Light Winter at Shafer Street Playhouse) as the gentleman caller, “Jim.”
Earlham College professor Eric Barker’s (The Repertory of St. Louis, CATCO, Richmond Shakespeare Festival) set combines a stylistic setting with real world furnishings in his first turn as scenic designer for The Human Race. Local artist/designer Ayn Kaethchen Wood (The Zoot Theatre Company, Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse, HRTC’s Under a Red Moon) serves as costume designer. Resident Artist John Rensel returns to set the mood as lighting designer. Sound designer Jay Brunner (HRTC’s The Santaland Diaries, The Full Monty, Family Shots) has created an original musical score to accompany the action onstage. Kay Carver is the production stage manager. The show’s producer is Human Race Associate Artistic Director Tara Lail.
Tickets for the preview performance of The Glass Menagerie on February 4 start at $35 for adults, $32 for seniors and $17.50 for students. For all performances February 5 – 21, single ticket prices start at $40 for adults, $37 for seniors and $20 for students. Prices vary depending on the day of the week and seating location. Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more. The Human Race is offering a pair of discount ticket opportunities. Side-area seats are available at all performances for $25 each, on sale two weeks prior to performance. The Sunday, February 7 7:00 pm performance is “Sawbuck Sunday”, when any available seat can be purchased in person for just $10 at The Loft Theatre box office two hours prior to the show. Discounts are subject to availability and some restrictions apply.
All performances are at the Metropolitan Art Center’s Loft Theatre, located at 126 North Main Street in downtown Dayton, Ohio. Show times for The Glass Menagerie are 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday evenings. Performances on Sunday and Tuesday evenings begin at 7:00 pm and at 2:00 pm on Sunday matinees.
Tickets and performance information on The Glass Menagerie are available at www.humanracetheatre.org or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630, and at the Schuster Center box office.