HOME ABOUT US ADVERTISING INFORMATION CIRCULATION & DISTRIBUTION CONTACT US
CURRENT ISSUE
CALENDAR NEWS COVERS EDITORIAL ARCHIVES EDITORIAL ART GALLERY
ART GALLERY GUIDE
ATTRACTIONS GUIDE COLLEGE GUIDE DINING GUIDE MUSIC & THEATER SEASON GUIDE ADVERTISER LINKS

Handling 'Glass' With Care

by Carla Reublin

FLORIDA REPERTORY THEATER will start off its 2008-2009 season with Tennessee Williams’ classic, The Glass Menagerie. The play is being featured as part of the One Book One Community program in conjunction with the Lee County Library System. At the helm of the production will be new Associate Producing Director, Chris Clavelli. Clavelli is no stranger to Florida Rep, with guest directing credits including Side Man, Visiting Mr. Green, Rounding Third, Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks and Almost, Maine.

Clavelli attended Emerson College, a performing arts college where he studied acting. As his career began to grow he was asked to direct for friends and small productions. From there, he segued into directing larger venues and professional theaters, while still maintaining his acting career. “I am definitely what many would call an actor’s director. As an actor, I know what it feels like to get onto a set, hoping to get it right and the terror that goes along with that. I have a very gentle hand with actors in the rehearsal halls to let them know that they can trust me.”

Clavelli began his relationship with Florida Repertory Theatre in 2000 when Producing Artistic Director Bob Cacioppo hired him to direct the tender and deeply personal Warren Leight play Side Man. The play’s focus is the son of a jazz musician whose career starts to crumble when rock’n’roll begins to firmly take root in America. It is a raw look into the lives of men who struggle with their love of music in a changing world while trying to find balance and human connection.

With graphic language and strong themes of drug use and violence, in the wrong hands the play could have come across as crass and insensitive, but Clavelli delicately crafted a nostalgic tale that at its heart has a man trying to understand his father. Clavelli recalls, “Side Man had an enchanted cast. There was truly a sense of communion. Everyone felt the potential for an extraordinary night of theater. And it was emotionally crushing. I still think about that last scene where the son tries to say good-bye to his father and they try to hug, but they can’t. As a guy, that was so powerful to me.”

The plays that attract Clavelli are stories that are well crafted and simple. “I don’t conceptualize theater. There are plenty of directors that do abstract, bizarre pieces, but that is not me at all. The Glass Menagerie is really a perfect fit for me.”

The Glass Menagerie was written by Tennessee Williams in 1945 and went on to win the prestigious New York Critics Circle Award. It was Williams’ first successful work and is considered by many to be his most autobiographical.

Like Side Man, The Glass Menagerie is a memory play, its actions being drawn by the memories of the narrator. One of the most prominent themes in the play is the difficulty the characters have relating to reality and to each other. Each character has a form of escape, whether it is exaggerated memories of youth, delicate animals made of glass or the actual physical fire escape which leads to an outside world full of promise and adventure.

Although the play is set in St. Louis during The Depression, its subject matter is still very relevant today. At its core, The Glass Menagerie is focused on a dysfunctional family dealing with poverty and emotional conflict. “It really is such an incredible story, I couldn’t ask for a play that is better devised or structured. When reading it, everyone will have a different experience.”

The Glass Menagerie, as Clavelli sees it, is a sincere drama that shows the effect of one family’s struggle to coexist, despite inner turmoil. “For me, the play is about claustrophobia and the inability for people living in a house together to love each other the way that they need to be loved. Everybody is trying to reach out and make the best of it, and yet, it just doesn’t work. With that said, everyone in this family really loves each other. That is the one thing that I really want to stress when I direct it.”

Clavelli revels in the art of story telling. He has an unfettered affection for his audience and reveals that he has a strong sense of responsibility to them. “I feel that you should be an honest audience member as a director. If you don’t tell a good story then the audience gets upset with you. The playwright had something in mind and it is your job to use the script as a map. If you paint the journey for these characters, then at the end of the performance the audience is aching for the characters’ loss.”

The Glass Menagerie will play Florida Repertory Theatre’s Arcade Theater in downtown Fort Myers October 3-12. Call 332-4488 for information. •

from the September-October 2008 issue


Chris Clavelli

"For me, the play is about claustrophobia and the inability for people living in a home together to love each other the way that they need to be loved. With that said, everyone in this family really loves each other. That is the one thing that I really want to stress when I direct it."

"I am definitely what many would call an actor's director. As an actor, I know what it feels like to get onto a set, hoping to get it right and the terror that goes along with that."