Classic Takes the Stage January 17-February 2, 2020
“I know what you’re dreaming of…”
The Phoenix Theatre’s inaugural season of dreams continues with the company bringing new life to Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie. This memory play runs January 17- February 2, 2020 in Chester County at SALT Performing Arts in Chester Springs, PA. Members of the media are invited to Opening Night, Saturday January 18 at 7 p.m. If Media are not able to attend, they are welcome to review another performance date. The theatre is dedicated to re-envisioning and reinvigorating the classics, making theatre accessible and affordable for all. The Phoenix Theatre is in residence at SALT Performing Arts, 1645 Art School Road, Chester Springs. Tickets for The Glass Menagerie are already on sale online at www.thephoenixtheatrepa.com. Tickets cost $25 for adults and $15 for students. There will be an accessible relaxed matinee performance on Saturday, January 25 at 2 p.m.
Tennessee Williams’s autobiographical “memory play”, a defining moment for theatre history, looks at the Wingfield family—frustrated writer Tom, his nagging mother, Amanda, who is often lost in memories of her genteel past, and his painfully shy sister, Laura—and the effect a visit from a “gentleman caller” for Laura has on all their lives. The play is an intimate portrait of a young man reliving his past to make sense of his present. The Glass Menagerie, written by one of the great American playwrights, holds a mirror up to illusion and reveals truth, as this broken family struggles with their reality while relentlessly holding onto their youth. Phoenix Theatre Managing Director Michael Hajek directs this classic work.
“Tom goes back home to confront the demons of his past. We see the heart-wrenching events that drive him to leave his family. This story can be told over and over in any time setting, as it happens again and again through many generations,” said Hajek. “I believe we can all remember and experience pieces of our own lives while watching Tom navigate his relationships with Amanda, Laura and Jim in The Glass Menagerie. We hope to bring the audience a slice of life where each character has dreams to follow, dreams to protect, and dreams that drive them forward.”
The Wingfield family at the center of this piece features two newcomers to The Phoenix Theatre. Catherine Ogden is playing Amanda, the matriarch of the family. Ogden has appeared in regional, touring and Broadway productions. Some highlights include: National Tour as Maria (The Sound of Music); Regional: Julie (Carousel), Nancy (Oliver), Mother (Ragtime), Shelby (The Spitfire Grill) & Diana (Next to Normal). Hannah Brannau will be playing Laura. Brannau appeared in this year’s Philly Fringe. She has been a part of Acting Without Boundaries (founded by Christine Rouse in 2004) since it began. AWB is a non-profit theater group for physically disabled actors (Brannau was born with mild cerebral palsy). The organization rehearses at the Haverford School, with monthly workshops and puts on a fully staged musical every year.
“I’m really grateful to be a part of this production and cast! I’ve loved Tennessee Williams’ work for years and am so honored to get to perform in this beautiful play. As an actress with cerebral palsy, advocating for access and inclusion for disabled performers in theater, and performance as a whole is incredibly important to me. I’m excited to continue promoting inclusion with this show and hopefully, many more to come,” Brannau said.
Phoenix Theatre Artistic Director Seth Reich is playing Tom Wingfield. Reich, who is on the faculty of the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School Center for Performing and Fine Arts has not appeared on stage in five years but has been directing and teaching consistently. He has extensive stage and film credits appearing in: The Blacklist, All My Children, As the World Turns, Mystic River and more. Ryan Cassidy, who earned raves as Ferdinand in the theatre’s debut production of The Tempest, returns as the Gentleman Caller, Jim. Cassidy recently appeared in the Eagle Theatre’s World Premiere of Bruce Graham’s Gary.
Phoenix Theatre Resident Designer Stephan Moravski is designing the set. The company is focusing on elements of nostalgia and bringing Williams’ own history into the play with its design. Inherent Style is designing the costumes. Reich is performing double duty – designing the sound and creating a soundscape drawing from the blues sounds of Clarksdale, Mississippi where Williams grew up in the early 1900s. The company is dedicated to bringing a contemporary light to classic works and will be focusing on a modern design, while honoring Williams’ history.
Hajek feels this story is timeless and has a personal connection to it. “The story of Tom Wingfield needing to leave home drew me to The Glass Menagerie. I left home when I was 17 (I first read the play when I was 16). I get that desire to escape. I had different reasons. I don’t have guilt over leaving family behind but Tom’s story affected me deeply.”
He added, “The theme of escape is timeless. How we make that escape, be it through memories, schooling, dreams, or actually getting up and leaving is at the heart of this play. This play deals with that and the guilt of leaving some behind is yet another part of the story. Audiences can expect a good story via an emotional roller coaster with the classic work.”
About The Phoenix Theatre
The Phoenix Theatre is a professional, 501c3 non-profit theatre company dedicated to building and inspiring community. We strive to tell stories that encourage our audiences to see the world in a new light and rise to action. We are committed to making people laugh, cry, and cheer by re-envisioning and reinvigorating the classics that have shaped the theatrical world as we know it.
All Photos by Amelia Rehrman