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University of Iowa News Release

March 25, 2005

University Theatres Celebrates 60th Anniversary of 'The Glass Menagerie'

The University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts will honor one of its most distinguished alumni when it celebrates the 60th anniversary of Tennessee Williams' Broadway coming-out with a production of "The Glass Menagerie," opening at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 7 in E.C. Mabie Theatre of the UI Theatre Building.

Additional performances will be at 8 p.m. April 8, 9 and 14-16, and at 3 p.m. Sundays, April 10 and 17.

The success of "The Glass Menagerie" on Broadway in the 1944-1945 season marked the arrival of a playwright now generally acknowledged as one of America's greatest dramatic writers. The starkly autobiographical drama -- depicting Williams' agony and guilt about the fate of his sister, whose emotional problems were "cured" by a lobotomy -- remains a frequently produced staple of American dramatic literature.

The parts of the narrator, Tom; the sister, Laura; and the mother, Amanda (played in the UI production by faculty member Carol MacVey), remain among the richest and most appealing roles in American theater.

"When you look at a piece of delicately spun glass you think of two things: how beautiful it is and how easily it can be broken," Williams wrote. When he used this symbolism in "The Glass Menagerie," he announced a theme that would dominate his playwriting career -- compassion for society's frustrated misfits, outcasts and failures.

Director Alan MacVey's production will include a silent "chorus" that provides an impressionistic frame for the minimally designed production. "There are two scripts," explains MacVey, the chair of the Department of Theatre Arts. "The original version was very impressionistic -- too 'out there,' really -- and the realistic Broadway production was adapted from that script. Both scripts are still produced, and this production will strike a balance, combining elements of both."

Attracted by the UI's growing reputation as a center for the creative arts, Williams arrived to study with E.C. Mabie in 1937 as Tom Williams, a shy, slight and sickly southerner grappling with family turmoil, previous academic struggles and his sexual identity. He departed a year later with a bachelor's degree, acknowledging and embracing his homosexuality, and bearing the new nickname he adopted as his nom de plume.

"The fellows in my class could only remember that I was from a southern state with a long name. And when they couldn't think of Mississippi, they settled on Tennessee. That was all right with me, so when it stuck, I changed it permanently," Williams recalled in "Conversations with Tennessee Williams."

Legend held that Williams wrote -- or at least began writing -- "The Glass Menagerie" during his time at the UI, but while evidence does not support that story, the scripts he DID write as UI class projects, "Spring Storm" and "Not About Nightingales," have been produced in recent years, including at the UI.

"The Glass Menagerie," which Williams adapted from a screenplay rejected by MGM, won the New York Drama Critics Circle award. During the next decade he twice won the Pulitzer Prize, for "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." These, and several other of Williams' plays -- including the 1961-62 honoree of the New York critics, "The Night of the Iguana" -- were successfully transferred to the screen.

Williams died in 1983, and the next year Iowa Summer Rep produced a festival of his work, launching a unique single-playwright summer tradition that continues at the UI to this day.

Other artistic contributors to the 60th-anniversary production of "The Glass Menagerie" include set and lighting designer David Thayer and costume designer Jae Hee Kim.

Tickets -- $17, UI student, senior citizen & youth $8 -- are available in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance will be available one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box office.

Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to 319-353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through Hancher's website: http://www.hancher.uiowa.edu.

Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail: hancher-box-office@uiowa.edu.

The Department of Theatre Arts is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, ur-acr@uiowa.edu.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Winston Barclay, 319-384-0073, winston-barclay@uiowa.edu

PHOTOS are available at http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa/photos.html.