The Glass Menagerie was the breakthrough play for Tennessee Williams. It premiered in Chicago in 1944 and soon made its way to Broadway, where it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award in 1945.
Williams called it “a memory play,” and in fact, each character in this melancholy show is haunted by something from his or her past: the mother, the son, the daughter, the gentleman caller. Williams was himself haunted by the memory of his sister Rose, on whom the character of Laura is based. In the play, Laura's disability is portrayed physically as a limp. In life, Rose's troubles were psychological, and ended with the misguided decision to lobotomize the young woman. Williams never quite got over the situation, and Rose appears, in glimpses of characters and in rose imagery, throughout his work. While Williams continued to mine his own life for material in his stage plays, The Glass Menagerie is considered his most autobiographical.
Escape was another frequent theme in his plays. In The Glass Menagerie, Tom wants to escape the shoe factory; in A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche is escaping the mistakes of her past; in The Night of the Iguana, Shannon is trying to outrun his depression, in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Brick is trying to escape his personal truth. Williams confronts our vulnerabilities with poetic vision and language that had never been seen or heard onstage before.
Newman University is putting The Glass Menagerie onstage at Jabara Theatre from October 12th through October 15th.