Tag Archives: Glass Menagerie

A Prism For Your Soul

The Glass Menagerie is 1,000 points of light being refracted into a kaleidoscope of emotion. It will give you many feelings, big and small. You may have feelings that you don’t know where they come from and you possibly never will. The performances are so raw they will reach you on a cellular level instead of an emotional one. Basically, The Glass Menagerie may break your heart into a million tiny pieces lying on the floor of the Watermark Theatre. You may not be able to mend it until you’ve had a good cry in your car after the show.

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In Watermark Theatre’s 9th season Robert Tsonos, in his 1st year as Artistic Director, introduced this classic written by Tennessee Williams who wrote his first play as a teenager in 1935. Williams was a cutting edge playwright & most widely recognized for winning two Pulitzer Prizes, with “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1947) and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1955). This play, I’m told, is partly autobiographical based on his college years in St. Louis providing him with a time & place for his first masterpiece.

Tsonos also took time to thank the interns that are part of the company this season as part of their Mentorship Program. We were talking with one of the stage hands during intermission who was grateful to get some hands-on experience through this program. Another example of how much this theatre continues to care about giving back to the next generation of talent. According to the program: This is a great set for learning. The theatre is small enough to be nurturing & large enough to have processes & policies in place to keep an intern safe.

In the early moments of the first act, Gracie Finley (raised in Charlottetown, trained in London, England, Ms. Finley is best known for playing Anne Shirley at the Charlottetown Festival from 1968 to 1974 and again in 1984 and 1985, being the first Islander to play Anne. She has had numerous roles at The Watermark including The Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, the Nurse in Romeo & Juliet, & Lady Markby in An Ideal Husband) pranced around the stage cleverly decorated with antique furniture (compliments to set designer William Layton who created a convincing depression era St. Louis atmosphere on this unique in-the-round stage) as she reminisced about her younger days of entertaining her multitudes of callers. In a most intense performance, she plays a mother who is extremely worried about the future for her daughter & feels as though something has got to give for better or worse. Finley in my opinion is the face of Watermark this year & gets my vote for MVP of this company.

Leah Pritchard (who has worked throughout the Atlantic provinces & helped lead Watermark Theatre’s youth theatre conservatory for the past two summers) plays Laura, a china doll of a woman who has a penchant for collection glass trinkets. In the grips of the shyness of her character often loses her composure. She displays convincingly that she lives with a disability & very low opinion of herself. I had high expectations of Pritchard’s portrayal of the sensitive, delicate Laura and I was not disappointed. Similarly, Gracie Finley did an outstanding job in her interpretation of the aged Southern Belle Amanda Wingfield. The play was the perfect vehicle for both performers and they pulled out all the stops.

Daniel Briere (who has spent the last 3 seasons at the Stratford Festival of Canada. Recent credits include Hamlet (Shakespeare Bash’d), Antony & Cleopatra, & Romeo & Juliet (Stratford Festival) makes an appearance as the much anticipated dinner guest, and Laura’s high school crush, Jim O’Connor. He is charismatic and dapper, and everything Laura deserves. The scene where Laura and Jim sit on the floor talking may be my favourite part of the show. This is where we see Laura turn into the ethereal, beautiful creature she has the potential to be. And the kiss was pretty spectacular as well.

Rounding off the cast of four, Joshua Browne’s (who has worked at IFT Theatre, Circlesnake Theatre, Theatre Gargantua & more) portrayal of Tom Wingfield is an excellent case study in how raw emotion can be conveyed just by standing still. I’m not sure what method Browne used to master the 1,000-yard stare Tom adopts, during critiques of his character by Amanda, who accused him of being as eloquent as an oyster, but it was effective. And universal. I felt scenes much like that one, between mother and son, were being played out in households all over the world in a million different languages. Often times getting poetic, the young low-wage warehouse worker spoke of magicians, late night travels, & a thirst for adventure. I must admit I was a little surprised to see him smoking on stage, but I later learned it was actually an e-cig, which is apparently acceptable indoors.

I’m not sure how much information to give about the much anticipated second half, for fear of spoilers, but it may not incorporate the ending audiences were hoping for. However, it could be the ending we needed in order to realize how invested we’ve become in the characters.

Robert Tsonos, who directed the play and is doing great so far as Duncan MacIntosh’s successor as Artistic Director for the Watermark Theatre this year did an amazing job in leading the cast and crew to create something, I hope, they will always be proud of. After the show, I think I heard Tsonos’s voice crack as he invited the audience to a reception. He seemed to be quite moved by the performance, and rightly so. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay at the reception for long. I had to go to my car and cry.

This, much like other classics over the years in Rustico, is not light theatre, although there are plenty of laughs scattered throughout the script. The lesson I took from this play is the harsh reality present early in the Twentieth Century still holds true today that if we can’t believe in ourselves we simply cannot expect anyone else to & I can totally relate to that scenario, as I’m sure many others in the audience probably could at some point in their lives. Bottom line: Great show all around. If it is not the ending audience members are hoping for, they can read A Pretty Trap by Tennessee Williams. That oughta cure what ails them!

Review by Kimberley Johnston and PL Holden. Used by permission. Originally posted on http://www.onrpei.ca.

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Watermark Theatre on Verge of Summer Season

The sets are being built, costumes designed, music composed and the lights are being focused as Watermark Theatre prepares for their 2016 summer season. There is definitely an excitement in the air this summer as the company embarks on several new initiatives and two famous plays that are sure to please local audiences and visitors alike.

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Everyone is waiting with anticipation for the announcement of which plays are to be included in the new Play Reading Series in August, the new Watermark Mentorship Program has a series of design and backstage interns already hard at work preparing for the season, but of course it is the plays of Tennessee Williams and Noel Coward that has everyone eagerly awaiting the start of the season.

The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams is one of those beautifully written, honest, and heartbreaking plays that come around once a decade, if not once a century”, says director and new Artistic Director Robert Tsonos. “The cast and I are mining the script for any clues into the minds of these very human and flawed characters. The play is about hope, about family, about dreams and aspirations. It’s based on Tennessee Williams’ own family and depicts his life growing up in St. Louis during the Depression. It’s a play that is sure to touch the heart and reach into the soul.”

Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit is his most famous play and thought by many critics to be the best constructed of his comic plays”, says director Alan Kinsella. “The cast and I have had so much fun bringing this fantasy-comedy to life with its larger than life characters and hilarious situations. The play was first produced in the spring of 1941 in London during the Blitz as an antidote for those troubled times. Years later the play still stands the test of time and is as relatable and funny to a modern audience as it was then.”

Blithe Spirit begins performances on June 28th and The Glass Menagerie on July 8th and both run until the end of August at the Watermark Theatre in North Rustico.

Mr. Williams at the Watermark Theatre

Tennessee Williams wrote “The Glass Menagerie” – on this summer at the Watermark Theatre! Thomas Lanier “Tennessee” Williams III was an American playwright and author of many stage classics. Along with Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller he is considered among the three foremost playwrights in 20th-century American drama.

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Tennessee was born on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi, the second of Cornelius and Edwina Williams’ three children. Williams described his childhood in Mississippi as pleasant and happy. But life changed for him when his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. The carefree nature of his boyhood was stripped in his new urban home, and as a result Williams turned inward and started to write.

His parent’s marriage certainly didn’t help. Often strained, the Williams home could be a tense place to live. “It was just a wrong marriage,” Williams later wrote. The family situation, however, did offer fuel for the playwright’s art. His mother became the model for the foolish but strong Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie, while his father represented the aggressive, driving Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

When he was 28, Williams moved to New Orleans, where he changed his name (he landed on Tennessee because his father hailed from there) and revamped his lifestyle, soaking up the city life that would inspire his work, most notably the later play, A Streetcar Named Desire.

In 1940 Williams’ play, Battle of Angels, debuted in Boston. It quickly flopped, but the hardworking Williams revised it and brought it back as Orpheus Descending, which later was made into the movie, The Fugitive Kind, starring Marlon Brando and Anna Magnani.
Other work followed, including a gig writing scripts for MGM. But Williams’ mind was never far from the stage. On March 31, 1945, a play he’d been working for some years, The Glass Menagerie, opened on Broadway.

Critics and audiences alike lauded the play, about a declassed Southern family living in a tenement, forever changing Williams’ life and fortunes. Two years later, A Streetcar Named Desire opened, surpassing his previous success and cementing his status as one of the country’s best playwrights. The play also earned Williams a Drama Critics’ Award and his first Pulitzer Prize.

His subsequent work brought more praise. The hits from this period included Camino Real, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth.

The 1960s were a difficult time for Williams. His work received poor reviews and increasingly the playwright turned to alcohol and drugs as coping mechanisms. In 1969 his brother hospitalized him. Upon his release, Williams got right back to work. He churned out several new plays as well as Memoirs in 1975, which told the story of his life and his afflictions.

But he never fully escaped his demons. Surrounded by bottles of wine and pills, Williams died in a New York City hotel room on February 25, 1983.

Gracie Finley Treads the Boards in Spirit and Menagerie

Watermark Theatre is thrilled to announce the first casting news for the 2016 Summer Season. Company member Gracie Finley is to play the pivotal role of Madame Arcati in “Blithe Spirit” and the iconic Amanda Wingfield in “The Glass Menagerie”.

Raised in Charlottetown with summers spent in Alberton, Ms. Finley is well known to PEI audiences. Her early career was like “A Star is Born” come to life. A local teenager who, the previous summer had been performing for children in the Charlottetown Festival’s “Circus Tent Theatre” is elevated to the role of Anne Shirley in “Anne of Green Gables: The Musical.” Ms. Finley became the musical’s second “Anne”, and had both the longest continuous run in the role – seven seasons ‐ and the longest total run of nine seasons.

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Following her triumph as Anne, Ms. Finley went on to act in “Mary Queen of Scots”, “Jane Eyre”, “Sunshine Town”, “Private Turvey”, “Life Can be Like Wow, Joey…” all with The Charlottetown Festival as well as “Butterflies are Free” with Theatre New Brunswick, and “Rumpelstiltskin” with Neptune Theatre.

Ms. Finley took a break from acting in the mid 1980’s, but made a stellar return to the theatre at North Rustico’s Watermark in 2013, playing Alfie in “The Shore Field” and The Queen of Hearts in “Alice in Wonderland.” She followed these roles up with a magnificent characterization of Eleanor of Aquitaine in “The Lion in Winter” (2014), and portrayals of the coarse and earthy Nurse in “Romeo and Juliet,” and the garrulous Lady Markby in “An Ideal Husband” (2015).

The summer of 2016 may well present Ms. Finley with one of the finest challenges of her career. On the one hand, she will play the zany and bizarre Madame Arcati–the medium who manages to summon up the ghost of a dead wife – in Noel Coward’s comedy Blithe Spirit, and on the other hand, in Tennessee William’s The Glass Menagerie, she will tackle one of the most powerful roles in theatre, Amanda Wingfield, the aging faded southern belle, abandoned by her husband in 1930’s St. Louis, longing for the comforts of her youth, and alienating her son and daughter in the process.

The Watermark is thrilled that, with the return of Gracie Finley, these strong female characters will be in very capable hands. The teenager of “Anne” is now the mature woman of “Eleanor” and she will bring that maturity together with all her other considerable skills to the Watermark stage in this coming summer of 2016.

Watermark Theatre Announces 2016 Season

The Watermark Theatre’s Artistic Director Robert Tsonos, and General Manager Andrea Surich are proud to announce the 2016 Summer Season.

The season will include the American modern classic The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, and the Noel Coward comedy Blithe Spirit. A new initiative, The Watermark Play Reading Series, will be presented throughout the month of August, and our popular music series Classic Music Reignited rounds out the programming for the summer.

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The Glass Menagerie became an instant and enduring hit when it appeared on Broadway in 1945, winning the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play and brought Tennessee Williams, until then an obscure young playwright, to prominence. In a cramped St Louis apartment in 1945 the regrets, hopes and frustrations of an abandoned family are revealed with the truth, humour, and compassion for which Tennessee Williams is renowned. Celebrated as one the greatest plays of the English‐speaking world!

In Blithe Spirit, while researching his new novel, Charles Condomine invites the implausible medium Madame Arcati to his house for a séance. Arcati unwittingly summons the ghost of Charles’ dead wife Elvira who soon makes a play to reclaim her husband, much to the chagrin of Charles’ new wife Ruth. One husband, two feuding wives and a whisper of mischief in the air – Noel Coward at his comedic best!

A Play Reading is as simple as it sounds. Actors, with scripts in hand, using minimal movement on stage, act out plays for an audience. Plays by Arthur Miller, Eugene Ionesco, Lillian Hellman, Eugene O’Neill, Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Dario Fo, Clare Boothe Luce, and Harold Pinter are only a few of the possible playwrights featured in the series. Classic Canadian plays will also be included in this series. Plays by David French, Sharon Pollock, Michel Tremblay, John Murrell, and Judith Thompson.

In addition to the great plays of the English‐speaking world, we will also present play readings in French from the masters of French theatre as well as some French‐Canadian classics. Plays by Moliere, Marivaux, Michel Marc Bouchard, Jean‐Paul Sartre, Jean Cocteau, Jean Racine and Gratien Gélinas, to name a few.

Classic Music Reignited is our popular music series curated by Rob Oakie. Island musical artists interpret classic composers in a way that you have never heard before. Last summer we celebrated the music of Edith Piaf, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and The Rat Pack trio of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior and Dean Martin. Our 2016 lineup will be announced soon.

Season Tickets are now on sale at early bird rates of $99 for 4 tickets and $124 for 6 tickets. For more information please contact Andrea Surich at 902‐963‐3963 or generalmanager@watermarktheatre.com

The Watermark Theatre is at 57 Church Hill Ave in North Rustico, across the street from the Church of Stella Maris.