Lorna McLellan rehearses a scene from The Glass Menagerie

Lorna McLellan rehearses a scene from The Glass Menagerie

Poetic play captures old family conflict

Lorna McLellan sought out by artistic director of Nanaimo theatre company for role in classic Tennesee Williams play

A Nanaimo actress landed a “plum role” in the classic retelling of a time-honoured play.

Lorna McLellan plays Amanda Wingfield in Western Edge Theatre’s production of The Glass Menagerie, a play by Tennessee Williams.

“The pictures he draws with the words the characters say is just poetry,” McLellan said. “I read it for years and years.”

McLellan said she used Williams’s words to get inside her character’s head. Amanda is a fading southern belle, tasked with raising two children on her own in Depression-era St. Louis.

McLellan said Amanda’s pride and her vision of the world harkens back to her earlier, more comfortable life in the American south.

“It doesn’t fit with the world she’s living in,” McLellan said.

Amanda’s son, Tom (played by Jesse Cooper), escapes the poverty of his home life by attending movies. Amanda pressures Tom to help find a suitor for Laura (played by Karrie Ennis), his shy, disabled sister who finds comfort in her collection of glass figurines.

The family drama only increases when Tom invites a “gentleman caller,” his friend Jim (played by Antonio Gradanti), with whom Tom and Laura went to school in the South.

The Glass Menagerie was staged countless times and turned into movies on the big screen and television. Great actresses such as Joanne Woodward and Katharine Hepburn have played Amanda Wingfield.

“I’m hoping nobody compares me with either of those people,” McLellan said.

It was McLellan’s role in the play Light Sensitive that Frank Moher, artistic director for Western Edge, thought she would make a good Amanda Wingfield.

“She was kind of a quirky character,” McLellan said. “Frank said, ‘this reminds me of Amanda Wingfield’.”

The play is based on characters’ memories, which gives director Eliza Gardiner leeway to present the material. Some memories are concrete, while others grow hazy over time, said McLellan.

“Eliza’s given a lot of thought to the visuals in this play,” McLellan said.

McLellan’s involvement in theatre extends as far as she can remember, from acting and singing, to costuming and whatever else needed doing.

“It’s hard to know when I started,” McLellan said. “I’ve been involved almost all my life.”

In addition to her roles with Western Edge, McLellan also worked with Nanaimo Theatre Group, starring in the musical Blood Brothers, and with Schmooze Productions in Rocky Horror Picture Show.

McLellan adds The Glass Menagerie to her long list of credits beginning Friday (Feb. 10) at Nanaimo Centre Stage. Performances continue Saturday (Feb. 11) and Feb. 17-18 at 7:30 p.m. A matinee is set for 2 p.m. on Feb. 19. Tickets $20; $17/seniors; $10/students by calling 250-668-0991 or visit www.westernedge.org. Tickets are also available at Headliners, 165 Fraser St.

arts@nanaimobulletin.com

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