Theatre as Autobiography: Director Mark Ramont Connects Tennessee Williams’s Life to “The Glass Menagerie”

Great American playwright Tennessee Williams was an unknown when The Glass Menagerie debuted on Broadway on March 31, 1945. Shortly after the production began, his world was transformed. Biographer John Lahr writes, “The hubbub of Williams’s new life began almost immediately.” Williams was photographed for Vogue and interviewed for the New Yorker. The play was a hit—so much so that on opening night, the cast took 24 curtain calls.

Today, The Glass Menagerie is known as one of the greatest American plays of the 20th century—as evidenced by six Broadway revivals, not to mention countless performances across America and around the world, since its debut. This presents an incredible challenge to those who choose to direct the play for contemporary audiences. How do you present a worthwhile revival of a play so many people have already seen or read?

For Mark Ramont, director of our production here at Ford’s Theatre, the answers lies in the playwright himself. Ramont focused on the autobiographical elements of The Glass Menagerie, especially the fact that Laura’s character is based on Williams’s sister, Rose. Rose struggled with mental health issues throughout her lifetime, and Williams’s parents decided to lobotomize her. Ramont notes that, like Tom in the play, Williams would never forget what happened to his sister. Ramont says, “He felt regret and guilt over that for the rest of his life.”

Watch this interview with Mark Ramont to learn more about how he created the touching, often-humorous, always-moving production of The Glass Menagerie at Ford’s Theatre.

The Glass Menagerie plays at Ford’s Theatre now through February 21. Get tickets and see other videos on our website.

Sara Cohen is the Marketing Manager at Ford’s Theatre, where she helms the Ford’s Theatre Facebook and Twitter accounts, among other projects that share Lincoln’s legacy with the world.