On Sunday, October 25th, Trinity University’s department of theatre was awarded Alamo Theatre Arts Council (ATAC) Globe Awards for Direction and Lighting Design for the production of “The Glass Menagerie” in October 2014. The awards were granted to Kyle Gillette, associate professor of human communication and theatre and director of “The Glass Menagerie” and Timothy Francis, lighting designer and technical director for human communication and theatre, and lighting designer for “The Glass Menagerie.”
For the past 25 years, the ATAC has been granting recognition to outstanding members of the San Antonio theatre community.
“It’s San Antonio’s version of the Tonys. [Some time ago] they separated out college productions, so we are our own category, and within those, each production can get nominated for an award for best directing, best featured actor or supporting actor or actress, lighting design, set design, costume design, sound design”¦ So, all of those are potential categories any individual production could win an award for,” Francis said.
“The Glass Menagerie,” which was written by Tennessee Williams and first premiered in 1944, is what is known as a “˜memory play.’ It is a four-character production that tells a story inside the mind of one of the characters, Tom Wingfield, who remembers his mother Amanda and sister Laura as they all lived in poverty in St. Louis, MO.
“It was a small cast: Sarah Tipton played Laura Wingfield, the daughter; Tristan Harness played Amanda, the mother; Dallas Atkins played Tom; and Tyler Osiri played Jim O’Connor. There were many other students involved too. The assistant director was Ruthie Banks, and this award I very much consider a representation of all of their work, not just mine,” Gillette said.
According to Gillette, others involved include Jodi Karjala as costume designer, Sarah Martin as set designer and Katie DeVolt as stage manager.
“This production, I feel very proud of what everyone did on this. They’re focused, the cast was so specific and careful; they brought such sincerity to their relationships and such rigor to the rehearsal process. The designers also did such a lovely job, particularly Tim [Francis], of isolating, creating this sense of a floating island that really helps accentuate the actors’ work. It’s a beautiful play,” Gillette said.
The preparation process for “The Glass Menagerie” was long and arduous. According to Gillette, the designing process was initiated in the summer of 2014, long before rehearsals even began. Work intensified once the semester started.
“We worked for five weeks since the beginning of the semester: building the scenery, painting the scenery, hanging the lights, focusing the lights, choosing what sounds we’d use, cueing those in, building costumes from scratch and, of course, rehearsing the show. Even a fairly small show like that, which only had four characters, behind the scenes, there was at least forty people,” Francis said.
“It was four-hour rehearsals, six days a week and that’s a lot,” said junior theatre major Ruth Banks, assistant director of the production.
Students had active roles in the production of the play as well. Under Gillette’s and Francis’ direction, they were instrumental to all elements of production, including lighting design and both the design and construction of the costumes and set.
“The visual elements were designed and constructed specifically for that show. We bought the raw materials and made [the set] from scratch. [“¦] With lighting, students assisted me as well. Students who were in the theater class would help hang and focus all of those lights under my direction. [“¦] Not only did students perform in our show, but they are primarily responsible for the construction under our supervision of the scenery, the lighting and the costumes,” Francis said.
“The Glass Menagerie” was Banks’ second instance working as an assistant director for Gillette. During her first year, she took part in the production of “The Skin of Our Teeth.” As a sophomore, her goal was to have an even more active participation in the production of the play.
“When we started working on “˜The Glass Menagerie,’ I was determined to make more of a mark on this show, and Kyle really gave me the opportunity to do that. [“¦] From the get-go, I felt like my input was valued, and that was great, especially since I was only a sophomore, because in most schools you kind of have to work your way up to doing anything significant,” Banks said.
The participants in the production of “The Glass Menagerie” were not solely theatre majors. Students from all sorts of academic paths participated in all aspects of production simply due to interest in Theatre.
“What’s one of the strengths of a liberal arts institution of our size is that really anyone who wants to be involved in theatre is able to be involved in any capacity. Our theatre stage is our version of a laboratory where students get to experiment and learn a craft. For example, Dallas, who played Tom, is a physics major, but he works a lot with theatre. I have a lot of students working with me who are not theatre majors, especially in the costume making studio,” Francis said.
According to Banks, when invited to the ATAC Awards, the members of “The Glass Menagerie” did not know what to expect, since invitees do not receive specifications of the recognitions they are to be given. They had not expected to win more than a single award, and were surprised came when Gillette was called to the stage for the Direction Award.
“I was so excited for Kyle and I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that I had assistant-directed, until he shook my hand and was like, “˜Congratulations,’ and I was like, “˜For what? You won the award!’ and he was like, “˜You directed it too!’ and I was just like, “˜Whoa! That’s true!’ “¦ It was exciting to have a sort of visualization of your hard work,” Banks said.
“I feel really proud of the students. I feel really honored to have worked with such talented students to create such a lovely ensemble together, [especially] with Ruthie Banks, my assistant director. I feel like it’s their award, and I feel deeply grateful for their hard work and their open-heartedness and their open-mindedness in rehearsals, and then I feel proud of Tim and just the whole department,” Gillette said.