PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Cherry Jones, Inhabiting Broadway's Newest Glass Menagerie

By Michael Gioia
21 Sep 2013

Jones in The Glass Menagerie.
Photo by Michael J. Lutch
Was Laura Wingfield originally the dream role?
CJ: When I was younger, I kept thinking surely someone would cast me as Laura. I auditioned for it several times, but I guess I was a little too "hale and hearty" for Laura. [Laughs.] [Actor] Peter Frechette and I auditioned together for Julie Harris' production [in 1994]. We did not get the roles, and when we left the callback, Peter Frechette said, "We can only play Tom and Laura if Nancy Marchand were playing Amanda." [Laughs.]

Tell me about the character of Amanda. She's flawed. How do you find the balance between portraying a polished Southern belle, yet having such flawed qualities?
CJ: She's desperate is what she is. She has somehow managed to feed and clothe and house those children for their entire childhood and teenage years, and now they're in their twenties, and she has a mentally [and] physically challenged child, [Laura Wingfield, played by Keenan-Bolger]. And, like everyone who has ever had a child who cannot survive on their own, the nightmare is: What will happen to that child when I'm gone? So, I have tremendous sympathy for this woman, who is on a mission to either get this child socialized and able to work or married to a good man who will always care for her. To me, [Amanda] is this great heroine who is, unfortunately, ill equipped for the job.

In our column Cue & A, actors often respond that the one performance they wished to have seen was Laurette Taylor's in The Glass Menagerie. It's been said that her performance was iconic. Taking on this role, are you feeling any pressure?
CJ: No… I've read her biography ["Laurette. The Intimate Biography of Laurette Taylor"] while I was doing the play [at the American Repertory Theater] — avoiding [details about] The Glass Menagerie at the end of the book until we had closed, to tell you the truth. But I feel so close to her. Everyone should read that biography. It's called "Laurette." It's by [her daughter] Marguerite Courtney. Her life read like fiction. But, you know, bless her heart — we lost her before she could do the film [of The Glass Menagerie], and that early death made it possible for women to approach this role because she was the end-all. She must have been the "be-all and the end-all" in that role. Had we had it on film, it might have been very difficult for us to take it on, but, God, I would have loved to have seen it!

( staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)