I just got cast in a production of Glass Menagerie. When I told this to my mom, her hands immediately clasped in front of her heart and she almost yelled "That's a perfect part for you!" .... my first reaction to this is, really? I like to think of myself as a sword-wielding, red-hooded badass... but alas, I am a bit of a waif. (Working on it - swear to god I went running this morning!) As much as I love being in plays, I used to feel like the character of Laura suffers from the same flaws as too many non-heroines, like Ophelia or that girl in Les Miserables (I'm bad with musicals.) Their own insecurities cripple them to the point that all they can do is fall in hopeless love with some jerk and never really achieve anything for themselves. Yuck. Kinda weak. (At least Laura doesn't commit suicide.)
But! I started to look up some interesting factoids about this play, and Mr. Tennessee himself. Apparently, Glass Menagerie is incredibly autobiographical - Tennessee (actually Thomas!) had a sister, Rose ("Blue Roses") who suffered from some kind of vague mental disorder, and while he was away, her lobotomy (because back then when something was wrong with you they either electrocuted your head or cut a chunk out of it) got botched and she remained institutionalized for the rest of her life. Needless to say: holy cow.
After re-reading the play a couple times, my instincts all point towards Laura definitely having some kind of high-functioning autism. I pushed these instincts aside of course, because pretty little actresses playing pretty little roles aren't supposed to want to be anything but pretty and little - fragile and young, sweet and incomplete without a male love interest. Barf. I don't know how I'd get through that. (Those people don't exist unless they were written by a totally lame playwright - which Mr. Tennessee is NOT.) Laura, to me, is quite obviously missing a couple gears, but she compensates for them in some really fascinating ways. This is my "in" to this character... I know more about neurodiversity than, say, typical female-gendered behavior. I've been reading this and loving it. I feel like I'm starting to finally know what Laura's all about. This is how I get to know my students, too - I look at them and go "There's something atypical about how you approach reality, how you solve problems" and I talk to them a little and try and understand how they learn. It's my opinion that everyone is a little diverse in the way their neurons are wired - some of us just moreso than the mean. As the linked article states:
Anyway, maybe this will come up in some rehearsal in September (that's right, they've cast it months ahead of time) and I'll have to find a different "in" than this one. I've found this all enlightening only because it's in line with how I already approach character - that whole "to a hammer, every problem is a nail" bit. There's always gotta be a way to get your character to leap off the page, and some times you have to sit down and learn why your character is more like yourself than the way you've seen her played before. (Heads up: if I'm ever cast as Juliet, I'm playing her as a tomboy.) But, learning to find a new avenue into the role of Laura may have to happen, and it may be a struggle, but it'll be a fun one. I don't know for certain, but I'm pretty sure the job of an actor is to do a bunch of research and then prepare to throw it away if the director hates it. The cast is excellent, the director is AMAZING, and the whole crew is gonna make it rull pretty... so I am excited.