“The Glass Menagerie”: Perspectives of a Virtual Performance

By Douglas M. Campbell

Television and laptop screens glow as “The Glass Menagerie” enters its second weekend, not in the theater, but in the homes of paying customers and Youngstown State University students. 

Matthew Mazuroski, director of “The Glass Menagerie,” sought to perform Tenessee Williams’ semi-autobiographical American classic last year. 

“We actually started having conversations on the show last academic year and the design discussions at the end of the spring semester,” Mazuroski said.

The casting process was completed at the end of the spring semester. Rehearsals, script reads and discussion of character-work began Aug. 17.

“A lot of that early work was done via Webex because we didn’t have guidance from the state or from the university yet to rehearse in person,” he said.

Performance of “The Glass Menagerie” are not performed in front of a live audience due to the pandemic. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mazuroski.

Practices were conducted safely through performing arts COVID-19 guidelines set by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. These guidelines presented a challenge to Mazuroski and the actors.

Nate Montgomery, a senior Bachelor of Fine Arts major, portrays the leading character Tom Wingfield, who is a stand-in for Tenessee Williams. He was excited but felt different performing under the guidelines.

“It has been a bit of a different experience; I’ve never had a performance or rehearsal process like this,” Montgomery said. “It is a bit difficult as an actor to be truthful in those moments.”

Mitchel Sharp, a sophomore Bachelor of Fine Arts major, portrays the character Jim O’Connor, a gentleman caller. 

“There’s the face-shield with the lights where you can see your reflection back at yourself as you’re acting, which is a wild experience,” Sharp said.

Elise Vargo, a sophomore Bachelor of Fine Arts major, portrays Tom’s sister, Laura Wingfield. She felt acting through Webex wasn’t as effective but is thankful for the experience.

“It’s not ideal, but I would rather be doing it in-person in some way than to not be in-person at all. I was grateful that we got to be here at all,” Vargo said.

Mazuroski has mixed feelings streaming “The Glass Menagerie.” Having never directed a video show before, he said he always looked forward to the challenges of filming. However, he said he feels the synergy between the audience and the performer is slightly lost in this medium.

The show was recorded with Canon XA50 and Canon XA55 4K cameras. Both camera positions were planned for each scene to showcase the performance of the actors.

The benefit of performing close to the cameras, according to Mazuroski, is how the camera can tell when an actor isn’t being “truthful.”

“If the impulses are real and they are coming from a motivated place, then they will read real,” Mazuroski said. 

Montgomery agrees with Mazuroski’s approach to truthfulness in performing.

“Because that camera is there and can pick everything up, we need to be very truthful and we can’t wander off,” Montgomery said.

The show was shot the weekend of Sept. 19, with the recording of the show carefully scheduled so the actors could film without their masks on. 

“We got to see the raw footage, and it looks good. I am confident that this is the best performance I’ve ever given,” Montgomery said.

The show will continue to stream Oct. 2, 3 and 4. More information is available at www.showtix4u.com

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