Sunday, February 5, 2012

Arts Reporting: Terry Teachout Reports That Ransom Center Has A Recording of Laurette Taylor Reprising Performance as the Original Amanda Wingfield

Laurette Taylor as Amanda Wingfield (image via and Wall Street Journal theatre critic Terry Teachout reports the discovery in his article "A Sighting of the Grail" in this blog About Last Night (dated tomorrow) on An excerpt:

Over the weekend I received the following e-mail from Reva Cooper, a New York-based arts publicist:

In 2005, you wrote about a Laurette Taylor recording from The Glass Menagerie, and asked if anyone knew where to locate it. I'd heard about it, too, saw your entry on a search about it, and am writing to tell you that I located the recording and just heard it at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The librarian said that due to copyright restrictions, she wasn't allowed to put it online, so you have to go there to hear it....

The recording you're interested in is called We, the People, and is an awards ceremony where [Taylor] is honored by a journalism association. As part of the event she reads scenes from Peg o' My Heart, Outward Bound, and The Glass Menagerie, and discusses her preparation for each of these roles (the scenes aren't listed, and I just wrote to the librarian in followup to suggest that they be added to the index title, to make it easier to locate).

Her Amanda is fascinating, not at all like later Amandas I've seen, much more hardscrabble working class, living in the present in St. Louis, playing against the memory--but suddenly she remembers...and that's the surprise--much more realistic. And her accent is a bit more lower-class Southern than other actresses have used--she said she copied Tennessee Williams' accent.

This is--to put it very mildly--staggering news.

Playbill, Glass Menagerie (via Neal, who saw Taylor play Amanda Wingfield on Broadway, said in Broadway: The Golden Age that she gave "the greatest performance I have ever seen in all my life." According to Harold Prince, "I knew when I watched it, and I sat in the balcony, you'll never see greater acting as long as you live." Seeing as how countless other theater professionals who saw Laurette Taylor's Amanda in the theater have said pretty much the same thing, I can't imagine another hitherto-unknown archival document that would be of more compelling interest to scholars and aficionados of American theater in the twentieth century than a sound recording of Taylor reading a fragment of The Glass Menagerie, however brief. Would that I were in a position to catch the next plane to Austin!

Click to read the full article at . . . .

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