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Between Shifts Theatre tackles The Glass Menagerie

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The Glass Menagerie put Tennesee Williams, one of the most celebrated of American playwrights, on the path to theatrical superstardom in 1945. A four-character "memory play" of a family's breakdown, it was his most autobiographical work.

A fading southern-belle matriarch, Amanda, worries about the future of her introverted daughter Laura. Amanda's son Tom does his best to support them all, years after his father abandoned the family, and has secrets of his own. Laura believes she has a chance for a happier future with Jim, a former schoolmate Amanda refers to as "The Gentleman Caller."

Between Shifts Theatre Company presents the play at the Eagle Eye Community Theatre in Squamish from April 3 to 5 and 10 to 12.

"It's the 20th year of Between Shifts and we thought it would be a perfect time to tackle this cornerstone classic," says Michael Hewitt, technical director of the theatre company and the director of their production of The Glass Menagerie.

"There are so many peaks and valleys in this script, it's so dark and then you get to that point and then the characters are brought out and then 'boom!' Tennessee wrote in the script 'The Sky Falls' and literally everything comes crashing. It is that much more tragic because of the love that everyone has for each other."

Amanda is played by Kathy Daniels, with Sasha Law as Laura, Todd Weitzel as Tom, and Maclean Falkins as the Gentleman Caller.

"We're into full runs of the play in rehearsal and it's phenomenal to see the play take shape and really bringing those characters to life... Bringing that love that the characters have to life has been a remarkable experience. It only gets better as we go through it," Hewitt says.

"The story is all struggles and very dramatic. There's a lot of anger in the play right off the top, but it settles down when they do get to those moments between the two of them, when we genuinely see that they do love each other, its beauty.

"It's a drama but it also has a great sense of humour to it, there are a lot of lighthearted scenes within everybody. The script is just so great in that regards."

A lot of question asking and workshopping went into the Between Shifts production, Hewitt adds.

"I like to go through things over and over again, ask questions and keep shifting. It's how we found different aspects of the play. The receptiveness of the cast worked to my advantage because they were always taking what I asked and they throw it in. If it works, it works, but if it doesn't at least we gave it a try," he says.

He says it suits audiences from teenagers to seniors.

"It's easy to relate to. Everyone has their baggage, everyone has obstacles to overcome, whether you're 20 years old or 70. Because the play resonates 70 years later after its initial production just shows how amazing it is," Hewitt adds.

Thirteen people brought the production together from the four actors, Nancy Thompson's "genius blurred" set, and a "haunting" original music score by Toronto composer Joelysa Pankanea.

"Everyone is a volunteer... I couldn't be happier with the team that I've surrounded myself with," Hewitt says. "It's great when you get a good core group."

The play will be taken to the Theatre BC Zone Festival in North Vancouver later this spring.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. More information and a link to online ticket sales can be found at www.betweenshiftstheatre.com.

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