Kelleen Moriarty ’19 will present her interpretation of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie at the Bentley Theater on May 9, 10 and 11, at 8 pm. This production of the classic play is the culmination of Kelleen’s honors thesis in the Department of Theater, and highlights themes of disability, fragility and brokenness. I asked Kelleen some questions about the origin of her project, her engagement with disability, the directorial process and its joys.
MJ: Why the Glass Menagerie? Can you talk a bit more about the theme of disability in the play?
KM: The Glass Menagerie has been my favorite play for as a long as I can remember. I don’t even remember the first time I read it – it’s that lodged in my artistic consciousness.
In my senior year of high school, I started to experience chronic head pain that we eventually learned was the caused a congenital spinal misalignment that was only now showing its face. For the past four years, I’ve been grappling with my own body and with what this new, very present information meant for my understanding of myself as a person. Throughout my time at Dartmouth, I’ve struggled to incorporate this disability into my identity as an adult person, and, the even harder task: into myself as an artist.
In many ways, this play is the pinnacle of the American dramatic canon. It is beautiful and raw and vital. It is also the only major representation of disability within that canon. The play engages in many of the damaging ableist tropes that most of literature does: disability as a metaphor, as the only personality trait of a character, or as a symbol of brokenness. For my culminating project in the theater department, I really wanted to interrogate this play that I love so much as a disabled artist, working through these troubling aspects of the play in order to reinterpret and reclaim it for myself. Throughout this process, I have been melding critical scholarship and artistic dramaturgical practice, doing a great amount of research in the fields of both disability studies and theater arts, learning more about the history and criticism of disability in this play and on the American stage, as well as best practice with regard to accessibility. We’ve been working very hard to highlight the issues of disability, fragility and brokenness in the project, as well as learning about how to make the production itself as accessible as possible – and our limitations and internalized biases. We’ve also been investigating how disabled identity interacts with identities of womanhood, queerness and whiteness throughout the play and in American society.
MJ: What does directing mean for you?
KM: I’ve wanted to be a director since before I got to Dartmouth. Directing is about vision and concept, but most excitingly for me it’s about collaboration. In this position on this project, I’ve had the opportunity to take the helm of reinterpretation and reclamation, working with artists with disabilities and other diverse identities to tell the story that’s important to me.
MJ: Can you tell us about some rewarding moments in the process so far?
KM: One of the most exciting things about working on this project has been the wonderful people I get to collaborate with. My production team is amazing, my cast is amazing. The professors and advisors in the Department of Theater have been incredibly supportive. Jamie Horton has been such a champion of me and of the project as a whole, and has both encouraged and challenged me. This process has been so challenging for me as I work through the daily mini crises of directing a large scale full production and learn to believe in myself and in my art.