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Menagerie manufactures meaning

Student staff produces annual spring show written by Tennessee Williams.   |   Eliana Park/THE CHIMES

 

Lace curtains, white clothes and thin sheets hang precariously from clothing lines placed against the backdrop. A rusty typewriter sits behind a ripped Victorian sofa, and a woman with a top-reverse roll 1930s hairstyle chats on a rotary telephone. A petite table perches in the middle of the floor, displaying a generous array of glass figurines, making up the final touch of the set of the Glass Menagerie.

Months of preparation

After months of preparation, the theater department will present their spring show, an entirely student-run production of the Glass Menagerie, to bring the writing’s sapient themes to the Biola community.

The show, one of Tennessee Williams’ most famous plays, consists of a four-character cast and will debut from April 28 to May 7 in Theatre 21. Set in St. Louis in the 1930s, the play follows the tragic memory of Tom Wingfield’s life as he takes care of his disadvantaged sister and copes with the pressure of his controlling mother. The family, whose father left them, struggles to navigate Depression-era trials with their unhealthy family dynamic.

“I don’t think I had any idea how much work it would be, but it brings a lot of purpose to my semester,” said Marc Dejager, freshman communications major who plays Jim O'Connor, a gentleman caller.

The director's vision

Andy Marderian, junior theatre major, knew last semester he wanted to direct a small student show this spring. Coincidently, the theatre department needed a director for the spring show, so they offered him the position. He did not expect he would get the opportunity to direct the main spring production of the theatre department. Once his position as director became established, he decided on the show and worked to put together the production by recruiting other student workers to accompany him, such as Emily Castro, the marketing director.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all. I was really, really honored and a little bit intimidated as well.” Marderian said. “I think because it’s a student-run production, everyone’s been so supportive.”

Because the play is told from the memory of Tom Wingfield, Marderian decided to decorate the set with cloth hanging from clothing lines to portray three things: the socio-economic status of the family, a web-like trap keeping Tom from his dreams and a mystical background to show the imagery of a memory.

“I knew the set needed to be a little bit more abstract because it’s not a realistic play necessarily,” Marderian said. “I also wanted it to feel like Tom was trapped in his own home and his own life.”

Experienced thespians and fresh faces

The close-knit cast holds both experienced and new collegiate thespians, and they portray the story with believable familial chemistry. A controlling mother traumatized by the departure of her husband years before, a shy and thoughtful daughter with a crippled leg and caring heart, her homely and kind suitor, and an unhappy son dabbling in his father’s habit of drinking to escape his aspiration-suffocating life describe the characters that fill the melancholy story.

“I am just blown away by the quality and caliber everyone has brought to the table here. It’s just so fulfilling to work with a group of students,” Castro said. “We’ve been able to really serve as a cohesive unit and we’ve really grown in love and trust for one another and we’ve been able to encourage and lift each other up during the process.”

The slightly dysfunctional family dynamic brings to the surface questions such as life’s meaning and where one can find fulfillment. It shows the detrimental effects of flawed people attempting to love each other, and it ultimately brings about the lessons of contentedness and gratefulness in a somber way.

“The most important thing I’ve taken from this show is that love doesn’t always look the way you expect it to,” said Victoria Sanchez, junior theatre major and daughter character. “They are a family. They do love each other, but they just don’t work.”

For a play set entirely in a small apartment with only four characters, the underlying messages and lessens remain copious. Audience members will relate to the themes the sentimental production presents, such as the longing for the fulfillment of dreams and the struggle to find satisfaction in every circumstance.

“I was drawn to this script, probably over a year ago, because it asks some good questions just about what it means to be a human — what it means to be a person,” Marderian said. “It speaks a lot to the longings that all people have for lives of significance and lives of meaning.”

Two of the leads bring fresh faces to the stage, as this is their first college performance. Bright-eyed freshman sociology major Amanda Petrowski, dressed in her 1930s garb, grasps the audience’s attention with her accentuated maternal instincts as she plays Amanda Wingfield, the mother. New to college theater, she described the experience of participating in this unique student-run experience as an enjoyable yet challenging one.

“I had to build my guts up to audition for my first college show, but I’m so glad I did because I just love the people and I wanted to experience theater in a different atmosphere,” Petrowski said.

Outgoing Caleb Bailey, freshman English major who plays Tom Wingfield, decided to audition for the show after becoming interested in the character of Tom. He explained the complexity of Williams’ writing produced important themes in the show.

“I had heard a lot of great things about this show, specifically being written by Tennessee Williams, and watched a few different versions and fell in love with the character of Tom Wingfield,” Bailey said. “It is a sad show in a sense, but it teaches some very practical morals that transcend time in regards to family and the different things that are tough with family and kind of the American Dream Tom deals with.”

The production’s themes speak to the issues many college students face as they come to school: attempting to follow their dreams, maneuvering difficult relationships with parents and facing the depravity of life. Students will relate to the lead character as they try to gain independence in adulthood as their parents try to control them as a misconstrued way of loving them.

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