Brian J. Smith on making Tonys history with ‘The Glass Menagerie’ (Exclusive Video)

Brian J. Smith reaped his first Tony bid for playing Jim O’Connor, the ‘Gentleman Caller,’ in the recent rialto revival of Tennessee Williams‘ classic “The Glass Menagerie.” During our recent webcam chat, he explained his theory as to why this staging broke the Tonys curse that had befallen five previous productions.

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Because the original 1946 staging starring Laurette Taylor was so legendary, “that production haunted people for a couple of generations of theatergoers and theater makers. We have gotten to a point historically where we can see the play, for better or worse, without having the ghost of that original production in the back of our minds.”

Smith credits Tony-winning director John Tiffany (“Once”) for going back to the original text and stage directions for guidance in creating this acclaimed production that reaped seven Tony nominations, including Best Play Revival. It leads in that race with odds of 8/11 over “Twelfth Night” at 19/10. 

In the hour before he makes his first appearance, Smith’s character is spoken of with reverence by the rest of the cast — Tony nominees Cherry Jones as the manipulative matriarch Amanda Wingfield and Celia Keenan-Bolger as her fragile daughter Laura as well as Zachary Quinto as rebellious son Tom. The actor spends that time watching them on a backstage monitor and calibrates his performance accordingly. 

Jim has been invited over for dinner by his co-worker Tom as a potential suitor for Laura. The bulk of Smith’s time onstage is spent in an extended scene with Keenan-Bolger. For the actor, “the writing in that scene and in the whole play, works on you, transforms you. You really just have to get on the ride and not have too many ideas to mess it up but just have some fun with it and be alive with it.”

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