The Tennessee Shakespeare Company has more than lived up to the second word of its name. Now the still-young troupe will have a go at the first word with an outdoor production of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. Williams' beloved "memory play" is about family life in a cold-water St. Louis tenement during a time of economic crisis, when a "blind" America was having its fingers "pressed forcibly downwards on the fiery Braille alphabet of a dissolving economy." It introduced the world to the struggling Wingfield family: Laura, a crippled, painfully shy collector of glass trinkets; Tom, an angry, poetic wanderer; and Amanda Wingfield, one of American literature's most unforgettable mothers. It's especially fitting that it was Mother's Day when I spoke to actress Christina Wellford Scott, who just finished an exceptional run of King Lear with the New Moon Theatre Company, and asked her to tell me everything she knows about Amanda Wingfield.
The first words Scott uses to describe Amanda, a mercurial character driven to something close to madness by the love of her children: tender-hearted, romantic, proud, intelligent, and witty. But there's much more. "She has tremendous inner strength and determination and is tormented by fears about her children," Scott says. "Sometimes I think Amanda can be off-putting and shrill in her hysteria and fear. I hope the audience recognizes the depth of her love for her children, as well as Tom's heartache over the memory of his beloved sister and the mother who loved him, perhaps 'not wisely, but too well.'"
Scott says she hasn't rehearsed on the actual set yet and has no idea what practical challenges the cast will face bringing a play this intimate outdoors. "I look forward to the magical aspect of performing an expressionist play in nature," she says. "We hope to connect with the audience in a very emotional and personal way."
"The Glass Menagerie" at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens, May 23rd-June 3rd. $15 previews, $25 in advance, $30 at the gate. tnshakespeare.org