In February, New Edgecliff Theatre will join a long tradition of productions of Tennessee Williams’ THE GLASS MENAGERIE utilizing casts of color
In this 20th century “memory play,” we see the Wingfield family caught up in a painful struggle between illusion and reality, and the means employed by each of them to escape that struggle. Originally conceived by Williams in 1944 as a Depression-era dysfunctional white family, the play has nonetheless been frequently staged with African-American or multi-ethnic casts – the first being a production by the Howard Players at Howard University in 1947.
In Philip C. Kolin’s article “Black and Multi-Racial Productions of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie,” he states, “Black and multi-ethnic productions of THE GLASS MENAGERIE…liberate the subtext from racially-imposed constraints.” He goes on to say, “In fact, I have argued that it is only through a production of a Williams play with an all-Black cast that certain dimensions of the subtext can be realized and released.”
NET Producing Artistic Director Jim Stump explains why he was compelled to further explore this approach: “Last year I was listening to an interview with a sociologist about a book she had written. It was a history of the matriarchal single-parent African American family. It discussed, among other things, the separation of family members during slavery, the need to travel great distances for work in the antebellum era, and the disassociation of many soldiers returning from war in the first half of the Twentieth Century. As she was discussing fracturing of the African American family during this time, it made me think of the family in Tennessee Williams’ THE GLASS MENAGERIE. The more I considered it, the more I realized this story could have been about any family, regardless of cultural background. And with recent events in American society, I thought it was more important to present a story that would make audiences think about the concerns we all share – family, happiness, success – rather than one that reinforces our differences.”
Taking the helm in this production will be NKU professor Daryl Harris (recently named a Fulbright Specialist), who returns after directing two previous NET productions: Athol Fugard’s Master Harold…and the boys and David Mamet’s Race. The cast will feature Talia Brown, Landon E. Horton, Keisha Kemper and Andrew Ornelas. Of Harris, Stump says, “Once I settled on this approach, my first call was to Daryl Harris. His passion for storytelling and his background in multi-cultural performance was the ideal combination for a project like this.”
In the play, Amanda Wingfield is a faded, tragic remnant of Southern gentility, living in poverty in a dingy St. Louis apartment with her son, Tom, and her daughter, Laura. Amanda strives to give meaning and direction to her life and the lives of her children, though her methods are ineffective and irritating. Tom is driven nearly to distraction by his mother’s nagging and seeks escape in alcohol and the world of the movies. Laura also lives in her illusions. She is crippled, and this defect, intensified by her mother’s anxiety to see her married, has driven her more and more into herself.
THE GLASS MENAGERIE by Tennessee Williams
February 9-25 2017, all performances 7:30 p.m.
The Hoffner Lodge, 4120 Hamilton Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45223
About the play: Amanda Wingfield is a faded, tragic remnant of Southern gentility, living in poverty in a dingy St. Louis apartment with her son, Tom, and her daughter, Laura. Amanda strives to give meaning and direction to her life and the lives of her children, though her methods are ineffective and irritating. Tom is driven nearly to distraction by his mother’s nagging and seeks escape in alcohol and the world of the movies. Laura also lives in her illusions. She is crippled, and this defect, intensified by her mother’s anxiety to see her married, has driven her more and more into herself. The crux of the action comes when Tom invites a young man of his acquaintance to take dinner with the family. Jim, the caller, is a nice ordinary fellow who is at once pounced upon by Amanda as a possible husband for Laura. In spite of her crude and obvious efforts to entrap the young man, he and Laura manage to get along very nicely, and momentarily Laura is lifted out of herself into a new world. But this crashes when, toward the end, Jim explains that he is already engaged. The world of illusion that Amanda and Laura have striven to create in order to make life bearable collapses about them. Tom, too, at the end of his tether, at last leaves home.
A drama of great tenderness, charm and beauty, “The Glass Menagerie” is one of the most famous plays of the modern theatre.
About the Director: Daryl Harris is a 40-year veteran of traditional, experimental, applied and educational theatre. He has studied and worked as a producer, writer, director, actor, costume designer, professor and lecturer throughout the United States, Canada, Scandinavia, West Africa, China and Australia. In addition to teaching diverse interdisciplinary theatre courses, Harris’ work involves multicultural programming and projects that link the Underground Railroad Movement to the fields of theatre and dance, connecting themes emerging from the Movement to current social problems in ways that promote understanding and greater social harmony. Mr. Harris holds a B.A. from The University of Southern Mississippi, a M.F.A. from The University of Southern Mississippi and a Ph.D. from The University of Alabama. He was recently named a Fulbright Specialist.
About the Fulbright Program (from the Kentucky Tribune): Northern Kentucky University professor Dr. Daryl Harris has been selected for the Fulbright Specialists program, a five-year appointment during which he will act as an expert consultant for other universities across the globe.
A writer, director, costume designer, and actor who has worked on nearly every continent, Harris will take his expertise to other educational institutions, helping to teach students and assisting faculty in developing curriculum.
Harris is an associate professor of performance art at NKU’s School of the Arts, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences. He specializes in multicultural programming and linking theatre to other disciplines, and teaches his students that theatre is about more than acting.
“Theatre helps students gain confidence when speaking, to think broadly by finding multiple solutions to a problem, and to develop the ability to think quickly on one’s feet. These lessons can be applied to many fields,” he said.
The prestigious Fulbright Specialists Program pairs prominent U.S. faculty and professionals with academic institutions around the world in need of their expertise. Appointments to the program are peer-reviewed and approved by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board (FFSB). The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
The program is designed to build relationships among U.S. faculty and professionals and their peers in more than 140 nations who participate in the program. That includes helping train foreign faculty, hosting seminars and lectures, organizing workshops, and helping develop curriculum.
About the Cast
Talia Brown (Laura) is ecstatic to be in her first production with New Edgeliff Theatre. She is currently a junior at Northern Kentucky University where she is working toward her BFA in Acting. She has performed in several productions at NKU, including “Undraped”, “The Wedding Story”, and “The Bacchae”.
Landon E. Horton (Jim) is from Louisville and is currently finishing his BFA in Playwriting at NKU. He has previously appeared with New Edgecliff Theatre in “Master Harold and the Boys” (also directed by Daryl Harris) as Willie in 2007. He has performed in a variety of shows, such as “Of Mice and Men” as Crooks, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” as Cutler, and “BlackTop Sky” as Wynn. He is overjoyed to be working with the great Daryl Harris and New Edgecliff Theatre once again.
Keisha Kemper (Amanda): A Cincinnati native, Keisha graduated from Withrow High School. She has a B.S. degree from the University of Toledo, Master of Education degree in Health Education from the University of Cincinnati (UC) and has earned her BFA in Dramatic Performance from CCM. Keisha is also a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Keisha has performed as Harry in Harry and the Thief at the Know Theatre of Cincinnati, with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra during a performance of Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet as the Chorus/Nurse, with The Burying Beetles in Revolting Circumstances as Carolyn/Prophet, and Radio Gomorrah LIVE! as Typhoon in the Cincinnati Fringe Festival. She has also appeared in original works with RoJo Productions, Jewel Entertainment Group, & God’s Champion Entertainment. As a student at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (CCM), Keisha performed as Tituba in The Crucible, Antonia in Pentecost, Gilly, Witch #3 and Victim in Living Dead in Denmark and as Caithness in Macbeth.
Keisha proudly served in the U.S. Army as a Health Physics Technician (91SN4). Her Basic Training was held at Fort Jackson, SC and her job training (AIT) at Fort Sam Houston, TX.
Keisha has over 10 years of Healthcare experience as an Exercise Physiologist specializing in Cardiac Rehabilitation and Cardiology. As an Exercise/Fitness Specialist, she worked in a Corporate Health Department providing health screenings and education to workers across Cincinnati.
Andrew Ornelas (Tom) is incredibly excited to be playing Tom. He hopes to bring this beautiful character to life and create a unique world on stage. Andrew is currently a senior at Northern Kentucky University pursuing a Bachelor’s in Theatre and Creative Writing. When not acting at NKU or around it, Andrew enjoys directing and playwriting. This coming semester has many exciting things in store for him and he is beyond thankful!
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