The Glass Menagerie – Rehearsal Diary, Week 3
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Written by Dan Hutton, Assistant Director
And so we start putting it all together…
After the relatively quiet and calm(ish) contemplation of the first fortnight, we’ve had a mad, busy week. We’ve been pulling scenes apart, playing with dozens of ideas, getting to know these characters inside-out and throwing things around – both literally and metaphorically (I can neither confirm nor deny that we have tragically lost a number of glass animals in the past few days). Where the first two weeks saw us staging the scenes as isolated moments, now we have to begin thinking about the whole thing, working out what common threads are and how different moments speak to each other.
It’s a thrilling thing. Something as simple-sounding as making one scene run into another can reveal interesting layers in the relationships between characters and help develop visual language of the piece as a whole. Though it might seem easy enough to get the people and objects on stage from one setting to another, it’s important that the ideas you settle on work within the overall logic of the show and help to tell the story. Yes, there is a version of this play which has long blackouts between scenes and uses lighting and sound design to signify a change in time. This production, however, isn’t that version.
Instead, we’re interested in how scene changes can allow us a little more insight into these characters and the world in which they live. Take the shift between scenes one and two, for instance. At the end of the former, we see the Wingfield family – Tom, Laura and Amanda – all in their own internal world, with everyone attempting to escape to somewhere in their mind’s eye. The beginning of scene two, by contrast, begins at a different time of day with (according to the stage directions) Laura alone on stage. Amanda enters to start the scene.
So how to tackle this moment? On our non-literal set, any space can signify anything we choose, and with intelligent lighting design we can isolate characters if necessary. There are also a number of ‘tasks’ which need to be completed in this moment: Amanda needs to get into a hat and coat; the glass menagerie needs to introduced and we need to understand Laura’s relationship to her typing homework for the following scene to have the impact it should. So why not just show these things? Williams himself tells us the play isn’t realistic, so there isn’t any reason we have to hide these things from an audience within the rules of this world.
Over the course of an hour or so, then, we have a sketch of what this transition might look like. At once, we learn more about these characters and the world they live in (playing music underneath can tell us something about their context) whilst also being reminded that what we are watching is a fiction. These things can always change, of course, but now we have a better idea of the flow of the scenes and how the overall picture might look. It’s still a pencil drawing, but now we get to colour it in.