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A Look Inside The Glass Menagerie: A Q&A with Mill Mountain Theatre

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by Takoda Poindexter

Mill Mountain Theatre presents the play The Glass Menagerie for all who love classics! With David Federman as Jim and Lauren Wainwright as Laura, the play is a glassy hit! Playwright Tennessee Williams set the story in St. Louis in 1937. The Glass Menagerie is a memory play, and its action is drawn from the memories of the narrator, Tom Wingfield. Tom is an aspiring poet who works in a shoe warehouse to support his mother, Amanda. His sister Laura, the other main character, is a timid young woman. Their father fled the household years ago, leaving one postcard behind. Amanda attempts to bring Laura out of her shell and away from the animated world of her glass collection by trying to get her to marry or get a job.

Christopher Castanho, MMT’s resident creative and teaching artist, said about why he’s promoting the play, “Having worked on The Glass Menagerie in acting classes myself, it’s been really nostalgic hearing these words again and seeing all of the characters we know and love on stage.” Christopher also noted that the profits of the play will go to the actors and actresses, as well as toward the lighting, props, and anything used in the play’s production. Mill Mountain Theatre is a nonprofit organization.

Sitting down with the cast was an amazing experience—both Lauren and David were excited to talk about the play. Lauren Wainwright, who has also appeared in Once, Violet, The Winter’s Tale, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Guys and Dolls, Love’s Labours Lost, and Medea, said she is thrilled to be in Mill Mountain Theater’s production of The Glass Menagerie. She has appeared in many plays ranging from Shakespeare to children’s theatre productions, from off-Broadway to Bryant Park. She also appeared in the film The Ides of March.

David Federman’s past credits include the role of Apemantus in Timon of Athens with the Fools & Kings Project, Doug in Gruesome Playground Injuries with Alliance Repertory Theatre, and Laertes in Hamlet with Stag and Lion. He is thrilled to be working on his first production with Mill Mountain.

T: What is something the audience in the Roanoke Valley will take away from the production?

David: A few years back, I did have audience feedback from the production of Terry Jones from New York. Thinking back on the difference between doing it here and doing it in New York, New York responds in a way that accepts this is a great piece of work. However, when you get to the South, you have a familiarity with what is going on in the play that you don’t see up north. The recognition of the places is more realistic for people in the South than those up north. It is special when doing these types of plays because you get to reflect back to people in their own life.

T: What do you think is the resemblance between you and your character?

Lauren: I tend to be on the shyer side, similar to Laura. I also deal with social anxiety and self-confidence issues, which relate to her, too.

David: With my character, I think about the resemblance a lot in terms of the things I say as the character — like getting yourself in trouble and going a little past yourself. There is an element of no matter what kind of situation I’m in, I try to answer the question honestly and then find myself in a weird place — much like Jim.

T: What attracted you to begin a career as an actor?

Lauren: For me, there was nothing else I wanted to do. It’s said that if there is anything else you want to do in the world besides acting, do that instead. There was nothing else I liked as much as being on stage. When I see a good play or a good movie, I tell myself, “This is it, this is what I want to do.”

David: I remember when I was working on stuff in college, before I took any classes on acting — I had no idea what I was doing. When I did go up to the stage, even for a couple minutes in the show or in rehearsal, there was something in the air that you could feel. I wanted to feel that. I started studying more rigorously and started taking acting more seriously. There is something about the feeling in the room when you know you hit on something raw and human, and you get a response to your acting.

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T: What has been your greatest accomplishment as an actor?

Lauren: This play was actually a big one, and I’ve wanted this part for many years now. It was very exciting to get the opportunity to be a part of it.

David: Getting this part is a pretty big deal. This is the first time I’ve left New York. It was a large house I worked — I do a lot of Shakespeare. My proudest accomplishment outside of classical themes would be Gruesome Playground Injuries, which was a two-person show I studied for a decade.

T: In your opinion, what was the most difficult aspect in bringing this production together?

Lauren: It seemed pretty easy from my standpoint. I guess that finding one of the characters, Amanda, that was pretty hard.

David: The set was pretty much already made and the props were already there. Nothing really happened where we were like, “Aw, man, how do we get through this?”

T: How do you motivate or help your other castmates get into character?

Lauren: We all have different styles. I don’t like to step on anyone’s pre-show routines. This is the way I know to do it, and I see this is how you need to warm up. I’m not going to impose any beliefs onto your process, because it is a sacred thing.

David: There isn’t a whole lot of sitting there and thinking about how I can play as Jim. I’m just going to go out and do the show now! There is a lot of space and not a lot of us, so we can carve out our own space and rehearse alone.

T: In the play, do you think Tom made the right move walking away from his mother and sister? What do you think happened to Laura afterward?

Lauren: Tom made the best choice for him. I think if he had stayed in that environment where he was feeling suffocated any longer, he would’ve had a mental breakdown. It sucks for Laura that he left, but ultimately Tom made the right decision for himself. I think I need to believe that Laura is going to be okay. She is going to eventually find a job, a jewelry shop, where the atmosphere is somewhat similar to her menagerie and have success in that. I do think, also, that the future looks bleak.

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T: For Jim’s character, what do you think Laura and Jim’s kiss symbolizes?

David: Jim is a ‘takes everything at face value’ kind of person. Once Amanda leaves, he thinks that this is where we are. He doesn’t think anything is trying to be done to him. He goes off and responds to things and genuinely tries to help. I think he believes right in that moment that the best thing that can happen to Laura is for someone to kiss her. It is faulty logic, but I can understand how he believes that. He understands what it can do, but I don’t think he can understand the implications. He just sees the heat of the moment, but then in the next moment, he realizes the consequences of his actions. He does things without thinking about the future.

T: Do you embrace your character even if you are off-stage with a fourth-wall monologue to the audience?

Lauren: In the second act, when I go off-stage, I try to stay pretty terrified even then. I try to live in that space for as much time I can before going back on the stage in the dinner scene.

The Glass Menagerie is a play filled with human feeling and interaction and is one the whole family can enjoy. It’s now playing at Mill Mountain Theatre, with shows until Sunday, October 6! Find showtimes and get tickets at the Mill Mountain Theatre website.

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