Maureen Stapleton on Amanda Wingfield

Maureen Stapleton and Pamela Payton Wright in The Glass Menagerie, directed by Ted Mann, 1975.

I remembered this horrible dream--this horrible recurring dream--in which I can't get myself out of a place or up a hill. I'm stuck. I'm stuck and I'm mad and I'm terrified. I have this dream often, and I wake up full of anxiety. Tenn told me about the painting by Andrew Wyeth, Christina's World, and he told me about a theory that the girl was crippled and abandoned and she's looking at this house, this distant house, and she's wondering how in the hell she'll ever get there. And who the fuck left her there? I mean, this haunted me for a long time. And then Tenn told me that a critic, I don't know who [It was John Leonard]  said that the house might be on fire. [Leonard actually stated that Joan Didion's character Maria from her novel "Play It As It Lays" reminded him of Christina, but that in her rendering the house would be on fire], and I thought that Amanda was stuck on this hill, her legs and her dreams and her meager talents and her massive concern useless, and the house she's looking at is the one with a husband and a healthy daughter and tables on which rest notes and flowers from her son--her sober, successful son. And God help her, she can't get to that fucking house.

Then I thought, Wait a minute. Isn't this girl in the painting Laura? Isn't Laura the cripple? And Tenn said that all the characters are crippled, but only Amanda wants to survive: The others only want to escape. So Amanda is the one aware of the loss and the struggle.

Well, I worked on that part a lot. Twice. I had a harder time when I did it with Ted [Mann, at Circle in the Square, in 1975], and I don't really know why. I had more experience with children and loving them and worrying about them, but I had a difficult time dreaming of the husband, wanting to be cared for. I was past that by then. Something was missing.

Tenn helped me, yet again. He always did. He told me to listen to "Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell. Over and over. It was one of the records Tenn liked to listen to in the dark. It made him dream and it made him sad, and he thought that the husband--out on his long-distance disappearance--was in places that felt and sounded like that song, and sometimes Amanda just wanted to get out there with him, get lost, get drunk, and frolic in the mental jonquils all she wanted to.

So I listened to the record, and I longed for the man.

And I got it.

Christina's World/Andrew Wyeth/1948/

© 2013 James Grissom
From Artistic Suicide


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