Arts & Culture

Lean Ensemble Theater to open 'The Glass Menagerie' on Hilton Head

Nora Leahy and Matt Mundy star as siblings, Amanda and Tom Wingfield in lean ensemble theater's production of Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie".
Nora Leahy and Matt Mundy star as siblings, Amanda and Tom Wingfield in lean ensemble theater's production of Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie". 33 Park Media

When the curtain falls at the end of Lean Ensemble Theater's "The Glass Menagerie" opening soon on Hilton Head Island, some may come away feeling slightly depressed.

Then again, some may not.

"It's definitely there -- that light at the end of the tunnel," says the theater company's founder and artistic director Blake White, who clearly falls in the glass-half-full camp.

"If you believe the character of Tom is Tennessee Williams, then he survives. These people survive and come out on the other end."

Now directing Lean Ensemble's first full season, White says he's OK with the different reactions to the classic Tennessee Williams play, which opens the company's 2015-2016 season, simply because White wants to start a conversation.

"Theater is one of the few things that remain a communal live experience," he says.

In fact, the conversation, he says, really starts "when the lights go down," which is why the group offers audience talkbacks with members of the cast following each show.

"There's no agenda," he says. "We just come out and have a conversation. We want to know what people think about the play even as rudimentary as what worked for them and what didn't."

It's all part of the company's philosophy to try to change the paradigm of "come in, buy a ticket, see a show and leave."

Starting a conversation is just one of the strategies the company employs. The use of a dramaturg is another.

According to Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas, a dramaturg is someone who works to "contextualize the world of a play, establish connections among the text, actors and audience, and create conversations about plays in their communities."

For Lean Ensemble that role is filled by Katie Rasor, who holds an master of fine arts in dramaturgy from Harvard University's American Repertory Theatre.

Blake says Rasor's input has been vital to the group's productions.

"Especially for material like this where it's historical in context and there's the autobiographical nature of the story."

It's all about trying things no one else is trying, he says.

The payoff is a much richer theater experience for both the actors on stage and the audience as well.

"We are here for the joy of being in a room with 200 other people and experience these live events, these human connections that we don't get everyday," he says.

IF YOU GO

Lean Ensemble Theater's production of "The Glass Menagerie" will run at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 22-24 with a matinee at 2 p.m. Oct. 25 at Main Street Theatre, 3000 Main St., Hilton Head Island.

Tickets are $40 for evening performances; $35 for the matinee.

Lean Ensemble will continue its season with "The Waverly Gallery" Jan. 28-31 and "Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike" May 5-8.

Season subscriptions to all three plays are available.

To purchase call 843-715-6676. For more information visit http://www.leanensemble.org.

Follow reporter Mindy Lucas on Twitter at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.

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