One of Tennessee Williams' best-known plays is coming to the Clayton Center for the Arts stage. A cast of three Maryville College students and one area actress present "The Glass Menagerie" next week.
The play is the first of what Clayton Center Executive Director Robert Hutchens wants to become a series of productions of literature often studied in high school. Hutchens directs "Menagerie."
The play's public performances are 8 p.m. Sept. 21, 2 and 8 p.m. Sept. 22. Tickets are $15 and at the Clayton Center box office, 865-981-8590. School performances are 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sept. 21; tickets for students are $6 with discounts for students receiving free or reduced lunch. Shows are in the 200-seat Haslam Family Flex Theatre at the Clayton.
Set in 1937, "Glass Menagerie" tells the story of the poor, dysfunctional Wingfield family. The play is narrated by Tom Wingfield, a young man who wants to escape his family and then looks back on the time with regret. Tom is played by Maryville College senior and theater major Walker Harrison.
The play is a favorite of Harrison's."It's kind of interesting," he says. "Four years ago I was memorizing Tom's final speech for an audition to get into the Maryville College theater department. Now I'm playing Tom."
The play centers on Tom, his nagging, faded Southern belle mother Amanda and his crippled, painfully shy sister Laura. Local actress and Clayton Center Director of Marketing Cheri Compton plays Amanda. Maryville College junior and theater major Caitlin Campbell is Laura; she and Harrison have played opposite each other in Maryville College theater productions. Maryville College sophomore theater major Cameron Hite plays Jim O'Conner, the "gentleman caller" Amanda envisions as a husband for Laura.
The play is the fourth presented by the Clayton Center, which also is the home of productions done by area or touring theater companies. Two previous plays — last year's "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and this summer's "Last Five Years" — were part of the center's Community Theatre Festival that Hutchens began. The third, a one-woman, Civil War-era play "A World Kicked to Pieces: Mary Boykin Chesnut on Love & War" was presented last fall. Another play "Master Harold and the Boys" was planned for April but was canceled due to casting issues.
"Menagerie" is the first of the plays planned to relate to literature that is often studied in high school or as part of a high school curriculum. The second in that series is William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" to be presented Feb. 8-9, 2013, in the center's 1,196-seat Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre.
"We are sort of wading into it," says Hutchens of the series. "This year we will do two."
Saying "if I had to predict a pattern" for the Clayton-produced plays, Hutchens sees one play presented for each summer's Community Theatre Festival and then two done during the academic year and selected from high school curriculum literature. Those two plays, he said, are "in a way for young audiences but they are plays that adults watch."
What: Tennessee Williams' look at a dysfunctional familyWhere: Clayton Center for the Arts, Haslam Family Flexible Theatre, Maryville College
When: Public performances 8 p.m. Sept. 21, 2 & 8 p.m. Sept. 22; school shows 9 a.m. & 1 p.m. Sept. 21
Tickets: Public performances $15; student show tickets for students $6, discounts for students receiving free or reduced lunch; at http://www.claytonartscenter.com or 865-981-8590
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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