The lightening of an inventive and inspiring series of performances — “For nowadays the world is lit by lightening,” . The Glass Menagerie Project is a part of the Tennessee Williams Centennial Festival (the Tenn Cent Fest for all you abbreviation-savvy Hoyas), which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Tennessee Williams.

Born March 26, 1911, Tennessee Williams began writing at age 13. His family life was filled with turmoil; his father was neglectful and abusive, his mother was well–intentioned, yet unstable, and his sister Rose was schizophrenic. Much of his writing deals with his troubled family life and his struggle to express his homosexuality.

“He’s one of the forefathers of American theater. I think it’s wonderful that we can call him our own,” Lucy Obus (COL ’11), an artist affiliated with the project, says. One of Williams’ most famous plays, “The Glass Menagerie,” is a memory play with loosely autobiographical themes. The play focuses on the conflicted Tom Wingfield, a young man who longs to escape his overbearing mother, Amanda, but does not want to abandon his fragile sister Laura.

The Glass Menagerie Project, the focus of the Tenn Cent Fest, boasts a presentation of the well-known play itself in addition to interactive exhibits and performances. Georgetown’s theater and performance studies program has collaborated with the American studies program and Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater to produce a cohesive exploration of Williams’ life through his personal writings, short stories and plays. The unique mix of material allows the audience to immerse themselves in Williams’ life both by watching the drama unfold and by interacting with the performers and the displays.

This investigative approach stems from a dynamic class called Tennessee Williams’ World. Professor Derek Goldman taught the class and is the artistic director of the Tenn Cent Fest as well as the director of the play “The Glass Menagerie.” Much of the work the students completed during Goldman’s class appears in the project.

Courtney Ulrich (COL ’11) has created an interactive piece based on Williams’ short story, “The Man in the Overstuffed Chair,” the subject of her final project in Professor Goldman’s class. The story explores William’s familial relationships and his reaction to the death of his father. Ulrich’s interpretation of William’s autobiographical reflection takes place in the lobby of the Davis Performing Arts Center. An overstuffed armchair sits in the middle of the lobby in front of a backdrop which resembles the walls of a house. The scene is motion-activated and includes excerpts from the short story, music and sound effects. “It’s really about feeling like you’re sitting in the chair in Tennessee Williams’ home and feeling like there are these ghosts of his family circulating around you,” Ulrich says of her project.

Another piece that captivates the audience is Jimmy Dailey’s (COL ’11) adaptation of Williams’ “Service of My Desire,” a reflection on his homosexuality and unrequited love. This performance is also interactive; the audience is in Tennessee William’s bedroom as Williams (Dailey) explores his feelings of rejection and hope. “Since it is a first person narrative with the audience being addressed the entire time, it really gives you an intimate look; it really tries to get the audience into this man’s mind as closely and as intimately as possible,” Dailey explains.

But it’s not just students that are involved in The Glass Menagerie Project. Professor Sarah Marshall plays Amanda Wingfield, the controlling, yet hopelessly nostalgic mother. Even a few Georgetown alumni are taking part in the experience.

“It’s not just faculty teaching the students; it’s a more layered relationship than that,” explains Goldman. However, the Glass Menagerie Project is more than a learning experience. It is a chance for students to experiment with their ideas outside of a classroom.

In continuing their partnership with Arena Stage, the cast of “The Glass Menagerie” will perform the play at the local theater from June 9  to July 3. This series of performances provides another wonderful opportunity for the alumni who are beginning their careers in the world of acting, Ulrich says.

So if you want to join Edward Albee, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and rumored attendee of the Glass Menagerie Project, block out some time to visit the Davis Performing Arts Center this weekend, Feb. 24-27. You can find the different performances and start times online at performingarts.georgetown.edu/theater. The project pieces are free, while the performance of “The Glass Menagerie” is $10 for students and $15 for faculty, staff, and alumni.

Immerse yourself in the Tennessee Williams experience by participating in a series of performances as reflective and intricate as Laura Wingfield’s collection of glass figures.

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