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YSU theater takes new approach with ‘Glass Menagerie’

YOUNGSTOWN –Director Matthew Mazuroski called Youngstown State University Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Glass Menagerie” a hybrid of theater and film.

“I’m not a big fan of the static camera in the back of the house,” he said. “It can’t capture that live performance feeling.”

Instead, Mazuroski filmed the cast over two nine-hour days for a production that will premiere Friday online.

He frequently shot actors in close-up and altered the blocking to best position them within the camera frame. The actors also had to take a different approach, playing the roles less physically than they would before a live audience.

“The camera will take what you’re doing and it will distill it, concentrate it,” Mazuroski said. “Especially for the actors but also the crew, having this experience really gave them an opportunity to explore film acting techniques, building character for the camera. Acting is acting, but it’s about how you translate it to this medium.”

The cast features three students — Nate Montgomery, Elise Vargo and Mitchell Sharp, all theater majors — joined by veteran local performer Molly Galano, who stepped into the role of the manipulative mother, Amanda, late into rehearsals after the original performer dropped out.

In addition to her work at Youngstown Playhouse, Rust Belt Theater Company and Oakland Center for the Arts, Galano also appeared in YSU’s “The Spitfire Grill” in 2014 and “Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike” in 2016.

Mazuroski and Galano have worked together several times, and she had played the role before, which eased the transition.

“When a change needed to be made, I think the cast was worried that a new actor stepping in would mean going back to square one,” he said. “Molly is such a professional. When she stepped in, she met them where they were, and it really took off from there.

“Amanda is one of those roles, as much as you can work with a twentysomething, having someone with that life experience and all of the theater experience Molly has had, Molly is able to discover things a 20-year-old simply isn’t able to.”

The Tennessee Williams drama set in St. Louis in the 1930s tells the story from the perspective of Tom Wingfield, who lives with his sister Laura and their mother. Tom dreams of leaving St. Louis and pursuing his dreams but feels bound to his family. His sister, who is painfully shy and has a bad leg, has retreated from society and escapes into the imaginary world of her glass figurines.

Their mother, whose husband abandoned the family 16 years ago, deals with the disgust over how her life turned out by reinforcing and entrenching all of her children’s insecurities. Those issues are intensified when a gentleman caller comes to the house.

“For the students in the production and the students who read it and auditioned for it, on first read it might seem to them like this musty old thing they’re reading because they have to,” Mazuroski said.

But many of the issues it addresses, from Laura’s panic and anxiety to Tom’s sense of obligation to his family, are just as relevant today.

“When does that obligation kill your dreams? In this valley? That is something that is right here now.”

Instead of posting the finished work online to be streamed at any time, theatergoers will need to purchase a ticket for a specific time, and they will receive a link to view it (the performance is available at 7:30 p.m Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday through Oct. 4). Just like a live production, viewers won’t be able to hit pause for a snack or a bathroom break, but “The Glass Menagerie” will be presented with an intermission.

Mazuroski said those restrictions were put in place by the copyright holder to keep performances of the protected work from being widely available and distributed online.

The presentation was born out of necessity, but Mazuroski said he would like to continue incorporating this hybrid approach even if there isn’t a virus to avoid.

“I do think this experience is something to continue to offer at YSU, whether its on the main stage or some other project,” he said. “I’d like to use this as a way of exposing students to this kind of acting.”

agray@tribtoday.com

Watch party

WHAT: Youngstown State University Theatre online production of “The Glass Menagerie”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Oct. 4

WHERE: Online

HOW MUCH: $10 for single viewer and $25 group viewing / watch party and free for YSU students, faculty and staff. Tickets with viewing link are available online at www.showtix4u.com/events/YoungstownState University

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