PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Cherry Jones, Inhabiting Broadway's Newest Glass Menagerie
By Michael Gioia
Two-time Tony Award winner Cherry Jones, often referred to as one of the greatest stage actresses of her generation, returns to Broadway in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie — the critically acclaimed production which transferred from Cambridge's American Repertory Theater and landed at Broadway's Booth.
Southern-born stage actress Cherry Jones, who took home Tony Awards for her performances in the award-winning productions of the 1995 revival of The Heiress and the John Patrick Shanley drama Doubt, reluctantly admits that Amanda Wingfield — the faded and flawed Southern belle brought to life in The Glass Menagerie by iconic playwright Tennessee Williams — was never a role on her radar. Laura Wingfield was. However, the actress never got the chance to play Laura — the role crafted by two-time Tony nominee Celia Keenan-Bolger in the 2013 Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie, which will officially open Sept. 26 at the Booth Theatre. Instead, Tony-winning director John Tiffany (Once) convinced Jones to play Amanda in a reading of Menagerie, and the rest was history.
The actress, who now cannot explain the thrill she is given from stepping into Amanda's shoes nightly in Menagerie, returns to her Southern roots to navigate Williams' language and explore the classic memory play set in 1937 St. Louis. Playbill.com spoke with Jones — whose Broadway credits also include A Moon for the Misbegotten, Our Country's Good, Mrs. Warren's Profession, Angels in America and Faith Healer, among others — at press day for The Glass Menagerie.
What I find so fascinating is that you've said before that you did not want to play this role…
You're from the South — born in Tennessee — so tell me about interpreting Tennessee Williams' language. Did you feel a strong connection to the world when you approached the script?
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?
In our Playbill.com 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?
(Playbill.com staff writer Michael Gioia's work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.)
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