Staged Reading: The Glass Menagerie

Russ Cusick Brings Tennessee Williams to the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance

David Stone
Last Month's "The Lion in Winter," Directed by Russ Cusick at MST&DA
Last Month's "The Lion in Winter," Directed by Russ Cusick at MST&DA
Photo courtesy Russ Cusick/MST&DA

"The Glass Menagerie is probably the best 'memory play' ever written," says Russ Cusick, a veteran actor and singer who will direct his second staged reading of a classic play at Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance on December 5th. "It is an excellent way to create a new outlet in our space and lift some great theatrical literature for the Roosevelt Island audience."

Following the MST&DA's successful staged reading of The Lion in Winter, last month, director Russ Cusick pulled his crew together quickly to begin work on Tennessee Williams's intense, challenging and universally admired The Glass Menagerie.

Staged readings make a good match for MST&DA's intimate space at 548 Main Street, delivering a vehicle able to take full advantage of the architecture of its new auditorium. As plays unfold, audiences sit in close range of actors who deliver stories straight up, unsupported by much in the way of props.

Adding texture to that, The Glass Menagerie is the original memory play, its male lead, Tom, sharing charged reminiscences of his mother, sister and absent father, their fates merging in a single incident critical to his life's direction. Mother Amanda and Laura, whose treasured collection of glass figures gives the story its affecting reference point, touch audiences with authenticity only a playwright with Williams's genius can muster.

Echoing his main character's ambitions, Tennessee Williams jumped out of obscurity into fame with the first production of this play in Chicago in 1944. So perfectly etched and affecting, it's seen countless revivals, multiple transitions into movies and emergence as an iconic reference in American culture.

Now, it gets another professionally stage reading, this time a special treat for Roosevelt Island's theatre lovers.

Russ and Jackie Cusick

Graduates of Southern Methodist University, Russ and Jackie Cusick arrived in New York City in 1988 to further their acting careers. In 1999, starting a family brought them to Roosevelt Island.

"We are both still active members of Actors’ Equity and SAG/AFTRA," Russ told the Daily

While continuing theatric careers, the couple raised three children here. Following the family vocation, daughter Joan Marie graduated with a BFA, this year, from the State University in Fredonia. Jacqueline Lucid-Cusick , Jackie, teaches and directs at MST&DA

Russ also manages a career in global human resources as he has for more than a decade. 

The Glass Menagerie as a Family Affair

The Staged Script Reading Series the director proposed to the MST&DA Board will conclude with George Bernard Shaw's Getting Married in February.

"For the first year, I chose three plays that I think are classic and timeless," he explains. "They also all happen to center around families."

As do the productions.

Mother Jacqueline and daughter Joan Marie were directed by Russ in The Lion In Winter and will be paired even more intimately as the emotionally entangled mother and daughter Williams sketched from memory in The Glass Menagerie.

"The cast is rounded out by Mark Diven as Tom and Pablo Vazquez as the Gentleman Caller."

As a fresh initiative enlivening MST&DA's calendar, the Cusick clan has chosen productions with the power to stay with audiences long after the curtain drops on the final scene. They are presented at no charge, although a donation of $5.00 to the group's scholarship fund is suggested.

Doors open at 7:00 for a 7:30 showing. Plan to arrive early. Seating is limited to the first 100 people in the door.

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