Ignition Theatre and Prime Stock Theatre are joining forces to present the American classic The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.
Performances run March 12th-14th and 17th-21st at the Scott Block Theatre, with curtain at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $27 for adults and $23 for students and seniors. All tickets for the Tuesday evening show are $20.
Tickets are available at Sunworks or online at www.ignitiontheatre.ca.
According to a release, Amanda Wingfield is a southern bell past her prime, living with two grown children in a small apartment in St. Louis. She dreams of a better life for her and her shy and crippled daughter Laura, and so she pushes her son Tom to find a ‘gentleman caller’ for the girl.
However, the arrival of the gentleman caller sends shockwaves through the family and causes cracks to form in the delicate fantasies that have kept them going.
The cast features Sebastian Kroon as Tom Wingfield, Josephine Christiensen as Amanda Wingfield, Kirstie Gallant as Laura Wingfield and Evan Hall as the gentleman caller.
“In my opinion, when you ask a cast and creative team and especially an audience to revisit a play with such history, it’s important that you find new angles with which to approach,” said Matt Grue, artistic director with Ignition Theatre.
“Academics would suggest the play lives within the text, and generally that’s true, but this to me is an obvious exception to the rule. Additionally, it’s very autobiographical. So I’ve been reading a lot of Williams biographies to see what else I can find. My process has been one of a detective. Pulling for all this source material and trying to introduce new ideas to a familiar story while remaining consistent and true to Williams’ portrait of the Wingfield family.”
As for casting, Grue said the key is to find not only great actors, but ones who are generous and willing.
“The play demands actors that are capable of and willing to go several layers deep into uncomfortable territory,” he explained. “It demands that they find the ways in which their characters live and breathe beneath the text. And because we’re trying something a little new, we need a whole team committed to exploration with the ability to pivot as we make new discoveries.”
That’s not to say it’s been a challenge-free process to craft a fresh rendition of such a classic piece. “It’s a challenge to make it something more than a museum piece. As I said above, to ask artists and audiences to revisit this play, it must evolve.
“I love this play – and each day in rehearsal I try to inject that love into our work. And I rely as heavily on the cast and creative team as they do me. This production starts with my vision, but we are working together to fully realize and build upon it.”
As mentioned earlier, he couldn’t be happier with his cast.
“Sebastian Kroon (Tom) is an award-winning Vancouver based actor. We went to RDC together more than a decade ago. I actually first studied the play during my time there and, for whatever reason, always heard and saw Sebastian as Tom when reading the play.”
Christiensen (Amanda) moved to Canada just one year ago from Australia.
“She has worked in Australia, New Zealand and London to name a few. Casting Amanda was certainly a challenge. We went through several casting rounds trying to find the right actress. Finally, rather than continue with traditional auditions (monologues, reads), I decided to meet with actresses and just talk about the play. Jo asked a lot of the same questions of the script that I was asking and we really saw eye to eye in terms of the best course of action to take with Amanda.
“Kirstie Gallant (Laura) is a Calgary-based actor who I had seen at a general call several years ago and had noted on her resume that she would make an interesting Laura,” said Grue. “I invited her to callbacks to see how she might play against the actors I was seeing for the role of the ‘Gentleman Caller’ and it quickly became apparent to me why I had written that note in the first place.
“And Evan, an Edmonton-based actor, was traditionally cast. He booked an audition. Came in. Nailed it. And when partnered with Kirstie, it was clear that we had something beautiful and exciting to build from.”
As for the play’s enduring appeal, Grue said it boils down to a few key reasons. “At its core, this is a story about family. About love. We project ourselves, our own families, upon the Wingfields and exorcise our own demons as we go on this journey with them.
“But it’s also a play without an easy ending. It’s a play we want to go back to in an effort to discover something new that will ease the pain it has inflicted. We’re left with so many questions that we want to have answered. And there is something about going through all of this in a communal environment that makes the experience so much more profound.”
After a hiatus, local theatre fans have been thrilled to see the return of Ignition. Grue said the time away was critical to recharge.
“But something I can’t emphasize enough is this – we do not do this for ourselves. Theatre is for and depends upon its audience,” he said, adding it’s also critical to land consistent support of the community as Ignition moves forward.
Meanwhile, he’s excited to re-acquaint folks with an amazing piece of theatre that has been touching audiences for decades.
“I want to remind them how heartbreakingly beautiful this play is. I want to provoke all kinds of emotion. I want to inspire them with the tremendous power of live theatre and The Glass Menagerie is the shining example of that idea.”
Rounding out the creative team are Stephanie Ridge and Derek Olinek (stage management), Anna Pinder (assistant director), Patrick Beagan (set and lighting design), Bob Francis (technical director), Rick Knievel (assistant technical director), Dustin Clark (sound design), Jesslyn Miller (costume design), Erin Odell (hair design).