Astra premieres with ‘Glass Menagerie’

Astra/The Glass Menageri

A new production company, Astra Theatre Company plans its initial production, a Tennessee Williams masterpiece, “The Glass Menagerie” which mounts his famous four-character play at The Living Room Theatre.

“We chose ‘The Glass Menagerie’ because it is a widely popular American play where we can explore its modern relevance. Although the play takes place St. Louis in the 1930’s, it is a ‘memory play,’ and we are allowed the freedom to smudge the edges of reality,” Taylor Harlow, director, said. “Additionally, I think the story is so transcendent and beautiful that everyone can find a piece of themselves in it.

Astra Theatre Compan

Astra Theatre Company is dedicated to artistic excellence while enriching the Kansas City community. Astra plans to utilize local artists in our process and eventually infuse the productions with other regional artists, Harlow said.

To illustrate Astra’s position, Harlow said, “Astra will always utilize local artists in some aspects—so when I say a NYC playwright using ‘local’ talent, I mean a New York playwright using Kansas City talent. The same with Chicago. So, we would be using other regional artists and infusing them with Kansas City local talent.  The local, Kansas City talent may be in the form of playwright, actor/actress, designer, etc.”

As for “The Glass Menagerie,” Harlow envisions a fresh take on the main characters.

“I think Laura Wingfield is generally approached as a victim: someone who is weak and soft spoken. From the beginning, I was adamant about finding every opportunity in the text to build Laura up and expose her strengths. When Bree walked in the room, I knew she had to be Laura. She is a strong black woman with an amazing facility for language.

“While our version of The Glass Menagerie isn’t a story about race, Bree being the beautiful person she is will innately lend itself to viewing Laura through a new lense.”

“My vision for the show is to tell the story of a mother who can’t let go of her children. We want to explore how that woman influences her children and ultimately pushes them away by loving them too fiercely. It’s a relatable story of family, love, and that special way only your closest family can make you crazy. The production will be staged very intimately, with audience members extremely close to the performers and the world they inhabit,” he said.

The cast includes Kathy Breeden as Amanda Wingfield, Colin Fewell as Tom Wingfield, Bree Patterson as Laura Wingfield and Josh LeBrun as Jim. “The Glass Menagerie” will be directed by Taylor Harlow. Elizabeth Reese will voice and speech coach the production.

“Our mission: Astra Theatre Company is a collective of artists dedicated to artistic excellence. By championing new works and reinvigorating the published theatrical cannon, Astra seeks to provide a professional environment where established and emerging artists alike can foster innovative storytelling. Astra seeks to produce transformative, truthful theatre that is as vibrant and diverse as Kansas City itself,” Harlow said.

“The Glass Menagerie” opens Friday, Sept. 27 and runs through Saturday, Oct. 5. We will run for 9 performances. Evening performances begin at 7 on Sept. 27-29 and Oct. 2-7. Afternoon matinees begin at 2 p.m. on Sept. 28-29, and Oct. 5. The Living Room seats 80 per show. Tickets can be purchased through the Astra Theatre Company website.

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