The Glass Menagerie
Where: Roxy Theatre
When: Held over to Sunday
Tickets: $25.50 to $42 ($20 student rush tickets available) 250-590-6291 or ticketrocket.org
After a decade-long hiatus from the stage, Victoria’s Joanne Wilson has made a triumphant return as Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie.
The prospect of re-embracing theatre to tackle one of its most challenging roles was both a thrill and intimidating, the actor said. Amanda was famously played by Katharine Hepburn in the 1973 film adaptation of The Glass Menagerie. The movie star set the bar disconcertingly high for anyone who dared follow her.
“It’s a monumental role,” Wilson said this week. “I had moments where I was like, ‘Woah!’ ”
Wilson last appeared on stage in a 2004 Sidney production of Love Letters. Despite her time away from theatre, her performances in Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s production of The Glass Menagerie have been enthusiastically received by audiences and critics. The Roxy Theatre run has been extended to Sunday — the six-year-old company’s first hold-over.
In preparing for the role, Wilson said, she purposely avoided revisiting Hepburn’s iconic performance. Instead, she relied on Tennessee Williams’s script and director Brian Richmond to guide her. In interpreting Amanda — a poverty-stricken mother desperately worried about the future — Wilson focused mostly on the character’s devotion to her children.
“The trap would be playing a screeching, negative person,” she said.
“I took it from a place of her love for her children. Without that, there would be no truth.”
Despite her 10-year holiday from theatre performance, Wilson kept a hand in film and TV acting. She has appeared in several movies of the week and television series including L Word, Arrow and Motive.
She teaches acting at the Screen Actor’s Studio and the Victoria Academy of Dramatic Arts. Wilson has also continued to study, attending workshops and classes in Vancouver.
Her return to the stage corresponds with the fact her children, Elizabeth and Jonathan, are now college-age and independent.
The Hamilton, Ont., native has had a remarkably diverse career. Wilson did the bulk of her stage acting in Edmonton in the 1980s, taking major roles with the Citadel Theatre, Chinook Theatre and Theatre Network. At the same time, she broke into broadcasting.
She was a host for Edmonton radio stations K97 and CISM before moving to Toronto.
Wilson was eventually hired as a host for Q107, Toronto’s biggest rock station, where (under the radio moniker Dusty Shannon) she interviewed stars such as David Bowie.
Assisted by her husband, producer Greg Mason, Wilson stretched out on her own, creating syndicated radio shows (Street Corner, Heart to Heart) heard on dozens of stations. Her broadcasting career included an 18-month stint as a lifestyle reporter for CHEK TV.
She still produces and hosts two radio shows — The Parent Report and @Work — heard on more than 120 Canadian radio stations.
Following The Glass Menagerie, Wilson plans to audition for more roles in theatre, TV and film. In this endeavour, successfully tackling the “beautiful and challenging” role of Amanda Wingfield has given her added confidence.
“I’m very fortunate [director] Brian [Richmond] believed in what I did with his role. I’m hoping to be able to take that and continue on,” she said.