This play was like electricity going through me with Jonathan Fried

Hello!

Our guest today is writer, actor, and teacher Jonathan Fried.

Jonathan shares with us how the play The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams saved his life. What’s extra special about this for Jonathan is that not only did this play have life-saving features for him as a teenager, he went on to star in it in a production with Olympia Dukakis!

The Glass Menagerie follows the lives of the dysfunctional Wingfield family, son Tom, mother Amanda, daughter Laura. Tom longs to escape from his stifling home, wanting to be a poet and escape the realities of working in a shoe warehouse. While he “goes to the movies” every night, his mother struggles to find a husband for Laura who lives with a disability.

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Credits

Host/Founder: J.P. Der Boghossian
Executive Producer: Jim Pounds
Associate Producers: Archie Arnold, Natalie Cruz, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Olila, Joe Perazzo, Bill Shay, and Sean Smith
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Transcript

[theme music]

J.P. Der Boghossian: Welcome to the podcast This Queer Book Saved My Life!

My name is J.P. Der Boghossian. I’m a writer, LGBTQ health educator, Lambda Literary fellow, and founder of the Queer Armenian Library.

And on our podcast we meet with LGBTQ folks from across the rainbow who share the queer books that saved their lives and we do this in conversation with the authors who wrote them. Now, there are times, like today’s episode, where our author, Tennessee Williams, has passed on, but in this and all our episodes I hope that you see yourself. Our guests and authors describe coming out, transitioning, facing homophobia in the family, living through an abusive relationship, or finding queer family.

Through these life-giving stories, we’re connecting to this exciting, and messy, and sometimes scary, but also loving queer world of ours.

Today, we’re exploring meeting characters in books who stand in for the family and friends and community we need until we can get out into the world and find them. These are the characters who we see ourselves in AND who provide an emotional bridge for us, creating spaces for us to be us.

My guest is actor, writer, and teacher Jonathan Fried. We’re talking about the play The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. This play follows the lives of the Wingfield family, son Tom, mother Amanda, daughter Laura. Tom wants to be a poet and escapes the realities of working in a shoe warehouse to support the family by going “to the movies” every night.

Tennessee Williams wrote in autobiographical elements of his life into Tom’s character, and while Tom is not explicitly said to be gay in the play, he is certainly coded that way. Particularly his going to the movies.

What’s extra special about this for Jonathan is that not only did this play have life-saving features for him as a teenager, he went on to star in it, in a production with Olympia Dukakis.

So, here we go, welcome to This Queer Book Saved My Life!

[theme music ends]

J.P. Der Boghossian: Why hello Jonathan! Let’s have an introduction! You’re an actor, writer, teacher, AND a graduate student in French?! Tell us everything.

Jonathan: Everything. Ok! I’ve been a professional actor all my life. I was trained as an actor in college and graduate school. I made my debut, I’m using maybe an old fashioned term, but my debut in 1986. So I’ve been at it for a while in New York and a great deal of my work has been doing Shakespeare. I’ve worked in New York a fair amount. I’ve been in the companies at ART, the company which is at Harvard at the Loeb Center in Cambridge, Mass. Also many years at the wonderful Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island. Also regionally, I spent a fair amount of time at Arena Stage in Washington. I also worked at Theatre Festival in Williamstown, Mass. I’ve done some international work performing Shakespeare. In 2009, 2010, I did something called the Bridge Project, which was a project headed by director, Sam Mendez and Kevin Spacey that was a year-long world tour of two Shakespeare plays. At the end, we ended up spending three months at the Old Vic in London. Shakespeare keeps coming back and coming back. I wrote a book with the late and great and very wonderful Alvin Epstein. The first version of it was published as it turned out too quickly in 2016. Alvin was at that point in his late 80s and suddenly he got very ill and it looked like he was on the way out. So I rushed through this self-published version and the Harvard Book Store was wonderful and they and ART put together this reading for Alvin just so that he could be celebrated because it really looked bad. So we had this big celebration and the book was unfinished, but there it was. It was something to hold on to and for him to sign for people. Then it got better. So the book is unfinished, even though there’s a published version of it. So that’s the extent to which I’m a writer. I have a book to finish without my co-author. Alvin died a couple of years ago. His part of it is complete. So I have that ahead in my writing career. The last thing you mentioned is that I’m also a graduate student. I also teach at the Bread Loaf School of English and I’m part of a new camp that we started. The Bread Loaf School of English is the Graduate English Department of Middlebury College in Vermont. We just started a West Coast campus in Monterey, California last summer, and I’m involved in that and teaching there. So I teach graduate students, and my classes are solo performance and Shakespeare. But then there’s my other identity, which is that I am a graduate student. I take off the faculty hat and I put on the student hat, and I’m a graduate student at the School of French at the Middlebury Language School. which for anybody who’s familiar with language schools, it’s a wonderful and very well regarded, very widely known language school. They’re famous for good reason. So now I’m at the first year graduate level with plans to continue as possible. Those are my various hats.

J.P. You are a man of letters.

Jonathan: I guess…I wish.

J.P: That’s great. I don’t think I’ve ever said this on the podcast before but in a previous life, I was a theater major and I’m an alum of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. I also spent two summers in Oxford training in Shakespeare with the British American Drama Academy. I did all of that education and then decided, no, I’m good.

Jonathan: Oh, really? That’s fantastic. That’s great though.

J.P.: but I need to reach Out to my, my, if I can even track them down, I feel like I do rely a lot on that vocal training in the work that I do here.

Jonathan: Sure. You are in front of the microphone.

J.P.: Right. I don’t do my breath work as well as I should be. So I hope actually that some of my vocal teachers don’t listen to the podcast because I’m sure they’re thinking, you’re breathing too much. Like let’s, let’s do some exercises again, but

Jonathan: Ha Ha Ha. Right. Right. Oh, that’s great. I didn’t know that. That’s great.

J.P.: I always love to ask folks, what were the most impactful stories that you were reading, hearing when you were growing up? I love seeing how those stories end up shaping the conversation and showing up in the conversations that we have. So, for you, what were they?

Jonathan: The first stories that I can remember was, I can’t remember the author, D-A-E-D-U-L-A-S, Douglas, something like that, Book of Greek Myths. It’s also a picture book, but with text. And it was one of those books that… even when I was past the point of needing pictures, it had just an enormous influence or I was just obsessed with it. And it was really the beginning of living into or entering into a book: sort of leaving reality and going into the book. I would be Zeus and then I’d be Athena and then I’d be this one, I’d be that one, and I’d make up all these stories and it was really like, you know, what’s in Harry Potter, the portal in the train station. That’s kind of what it was. I didn’t much like my life, you know, as a child, as a young person, and I needed to create a different life and so that book was the first one that I can remember really using as a portal. Then, of course, there was The Count of Monte Cristo, which was also one of those books I could open it and read it so many times. I could open it to any page and I just knew where we were. I could basically say the words along with it as I read it. It was in translation,

J.P.: Really?

Jonathan: Of course, I was still very young. At the time it was lost on me why it made so much sense to me. Here’s this guy who’s imprisoned and then through his great intellect and great virtue and great luck, he becomes rich and he then vanquishes his enemies. It’s not really a mystery as to why I was so drawn to it. Also, at the time I started reading it, my family and I were living not far from the Chateau d’If, where the first part of the book takes place: where Edmond Dante is imprisoned in the book. I could look out, if I stood at the port where we lived. it was a little tiny village called Cassis. *If I stood at the port on a reasonably clear day, I could see the Château d’If. So the story was very real to me. I mean, it may have been a novel, but in my 8-year-old mind, it was as real as that prison right out there in the water. So that was one that really shaped me and was kind of a precursor to what was going to happen with Glassman Azure. When I was older and understood better what was going on with me and the world and what the problem was.

J.P.: Wow, a beautiful segue though I do want to say that I’m impressed that you’re reading The Count of Monte Cristo at eight years old but. So tell us, what is the book that saved your life or in this instance what is the play that saved your life?

Jonathan: The play is The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. It’s particularly precious to me because, one, I think it saved my life, or it had a huge impact in saving my life when I first encountered it in eighth grade. I don’t remember if I was 12 or 13, but it was that year. And then, 20-something years later, in 1992, I was in the play and in a very wonderful production of it and was playing Tom and got to examine it from a completely different viewpoint. So the combination of those two experiences make it very important to me and very precious. I encountered this play in what I believe was kind of a “great moment” in world playwriting or drama or something like that. It was some year long eighth grade course. I know it was the first Shakespeare we read, Midsummer Night’s Dream. I think The Importance of Being Earnest maybe, Glass Menagerie and probably some others. Probably, Death of a Salesman or something, you know, typical for that time, which was the early seventies. So, I read this play and the similarities between the play, the situation in the play and Tom and myself at the age of 13 were just really overwhelming. Here’s this guy who has a secret. He understood what being Gay was by that point. I think I probably did because that was puberty era by then and I think by then I really did. Of course it’s never actually stated that Tom is Gay, but it’s, as you said in the introduction, the coding is pretty loud and pretty fluorescent, you know. It’s hard to miss and my 13 year old eyes and ears didn’t miss it. The code is, where are you going Tom? His mother was always saying, why are you going out? Where are you going? Where are you going? And he says, I’m going to the movies. I’m going to the movies. Why do you go to the movies so much? I like adventure. You need a lot of adventure, stuff like that. So it’s all coded with, “I go to the movies”. They live at the Wingfields and live in a small apartment with his sister, Laura. who’s mental health and physical health is not good, and is very dependent. He works in this shoe factory, although he wants to be a writer, a poet, no less. He basically is sacrificing himself for his destitute mother and ill, destitute sister. So the pressure on him is enormous, but he’s slowly going mad. The similarities for me were just, it was incredible. I mean, it was like, Tom is me in the future because I was living in a very small apartment. I’m an only child. There were a couple of cousins who were my age, who I saw one day a year. By that point, I had learned that playing with girls was, you know, dangerous. I already wasn’t into sports, which was already dangerous. So I had stopped playing with girls. I couldn’t really play sports. And I had just become more and more isolated. I was isolated at home, my parents were divorced, living in this small apartment with my mother, so who I was trying to increasingly keep the secret from?

So this play was just like electricity going through me. Not only was it incredible as a story, but it was a play. And I don’t know, I loved the theater. The idea of transformation, The idea, which is something, I think many, many Queer people experience early on this idea of metamorphosis and transformation and illusion. You know, very, very typically, I suppose fascinated me, but I also understood somehow that that was part of my secret. I couldn’t talk about what I wanted to do. I couldn’t talk about the theater because that was part of the horrible secret. That was as bad as not playing sports. It was as bad as having friends who were girls as opposed to girlfriends. Here was this story and it was a play. So it sort of hit all the buttons and checked all the boxes. So it really was this very quiet sort of, I don’t know what this is, like an earthquake, like an internal, kind of apocalypse going on inside me. But of course, not showing nothing, as always, you know, not letting on. But inside, it was a kind of…I’ve heard other people on the podcast talk about a book or a musical…the thing that saved them was giving them space or giving them courage or giving them room. I identify with that. I would use similar words. This gave me the idea of room. I had space. I wasn’t fighting this unknown, lonely, angry battle, that seemed the only way out as if I just had to grow up and escape somehow. It was, even though the story, is very depressing, all that was lost on me at the time. Of course at the time I had absolutely zero empathy or consideration for Laura and particularly for Amanda, the mother. It was all about Tom and it just gave me some space and gave me some room. It was really a big deal. It didn’t mean that I suddenly came out. I didn’t. It was too dangerous. I didn’t come out until college, until I left and I got out of the apartment. But it really gave me room to breathe. I guess that’s a good way to say it. Tom became this very real person to me in the same way that, and I guess this is, a very typical actor thing, but you know, you make these characters real people. And so in the same way that the Count of Monte Cristo became a real person because I could see the real chateau on a clear morning, you know, right out there in the Mediterranean. So Tom became real to me. He lived in my head and, in my heart, I guess. He became absolutely real and the realer he was, the more I could lean on him so I wasn’t alone. It was as if he was a sibling I didn’t have, or a cousin I didn’t have, or a friend I didn’t have. That’s this imagination that I had always leaned on and needed because the landscape was so empty. I think this is a very common story with artists of all kinds. I certainly know this story with a lot of theatre people. A lot of people who are children of military families or state department or people who move all the time and also only children. It’s not at all unusual to start to really create a family or create a tribe in your head before you can actually find a tribe in real life Feeding that imagination and the muscle of that imagination i think is actually healthy if in the end you do have a career in the arts because that muscle has been nurtured and watered and exercised from a very young age. So that’s the bright side of all this. There’s a very beautiful side to all this, which is that my imagination was really burnished in those early years. It served me well, and I think it continues to serve me well.

J.P.: Can you tell me more about Tom being real for you? How did that work? Was it that he was able to say things that you couldn’t say? Was he able to get out of the house? How did that manifest itself? What did that look like for you with Tom being real and Tom being a friend? I think you used the term older brother that you could lean on. What did that look like?

Jonathan: It was, first of all, that he had already grown up. I was just entering my teens. But this continued through my teens. So for sake of argument, let’s say I was a teenager, but he was an adult. Let’s say he was late 20s and he could leave the house. He didn’t need permission. He didn’t need to explain himself. Although he was treated, he was infantilized by his mother. But he fought back and he could fight back and he went to the movies, quote unquote. And what that meant was that he was out finding companions, as he says in the very last speech. It’s all again coded, but in the very last speech, there’s a beautiful line he says, if I’m in a strange city before I have found companions, which is a very vague but I think very beautiful way of saying before I found the bar. you know, or the neighborhood or found the guy I’m going to sleep with tonight or the pick up or whatever, he’s already living that life. He’s finding it! He’s leaving the prison of the house and he’s going out there at night. He says, I’m going to the movies, but he doesn’t go to the movies. He goes out to the bar, he goes out to some place in St. Louis where you cruise. In my mind it was always a park because I grew up in New York, and so in my mind it was Central Park, the Rambles. In my mind I sort of transferred the Rambles to St. Louis. I don’t know but I’m sure there are parks in St. Louis! I just sort of did a little mental transfer: A substitution. as Uta Hagen would say. So that’s how he became real to me. He was what was possible. He showed me that he was me, except he was me in the future. He had survived being a teenager. And he was getting out at night, and he was finding people like him. And then in the morning. He would have to come back in the middle of the night. He talks about how he’s always tired, and he’d go to work at the shoe factory on very little sleep. So his life was an ordeal, but at night he could go out and be with his own people, his own kind. That was just incredibly exciting to me because, you know, I could not. I suppose if I had been a more daring teenager, I mean, it was the 70s in New York, there was certainly plenty of other closeted teenagers who were finding their way to 42nd Street and Christopher Street. I grew up in the East Village. It wasn’t a long walk over to Sheridan Square. But I was very, very, very closeted and very afraid of being found out. Let’s say that the consequences of being found out would have been enormous. I guess I just wasn’t up to courting that kind of danger. So I did not risk it early on the way many other people had the courage or the wherewithal to do. We had no money, but I went to a very snooty, fancy school. My parents took out lots of loans to do it. So I’m not trying to sound snooty. But the point is that the atmosphere and arrogance of that school was so pronounced and the hatred of anybody who didn’t fit in was profound. I already didn’t fit in because I didn’t live on the Upper East Side and a limousine didn’t come to pick me up, I went to the subway, you know, I had no part in anything that was going on, I was too afraid to be part of the theater, I was not in any sport, so the consequences of being found out were… It just seemed like I would be stoned to death or something. So I was not one of those brave, young, Queer kids who found their way to Sheridan Square and made their way early.

J.P.: I want to dive in more to that, but let’s take a quick commercial break here. I want to share with folks about how they can invest in our podcast, become an associate producer, as well as some book buying announcements. So stay tuned. We will be right back.

(Music)

J.P.: Welcome back. I’m talking with Jonathan Fried, actor, teacher and graduate French student. We’re talking about the play that saved his life: The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. While Jonathan first read the play in high school, he eventually had the chance to perform it at Trinity Rep with none other than Olympia Dukakis. Please tell me more about that.

Jonathan: Well, I’ll start since you mentioned Olympia, I’ll start with Olympia, which is that collaboration was as wonderful as it sounds, if not more so. She was truly a great, really a great artist and a great colleague and just the most fantastic scene partner you could imagine. It was always this wonderful feeling that everything was alive. She would throw something out and throw something back. I mean, it was always for the first time and at the same time, it was very disciplined. It wasn’t a free for all, but it was this perfect balance between telling the story in a disciplined way and respecting what the audience needed. But at the same time, the two of us were on that wonderful razor’s edge. It was absolutely alive and it was just magical. It was 30 years ago and I can still see and hear her and feel her: those exchanges. They were all over the map as they are in the play. Some of them are incredibly tender and some of them are incredibly vicious and everything in between. So she was unbelievable. And what a big heart to everybody. The play was directed by the wonderful Richard Jenkins. Most people now know him as a movie actor. I know he’s been nominated for at least one Oscar.

J.P.: Richard Jenkins! Oh wow, that’s amazing!

Jonathan: He’d already started making movies, but he was the artistic director of Trinity Rep. I was in a very happy period where I was… at Trinity and doing lots of plays with him. He was a brilliant director, absolutely brilliant. He wanted to do a production of Glass Menagerie. Nowadays, the production we did would not be in any way surprising or revolutionary. However, 30 years ago, it was. 30 years ago, The Glass Menagerie was most often done, I think it’s safe to say it had become a kind of a museum theater thing. Tom is very wispy and it’s a memory play. He says it’s a memory play, but he doesn’t necessarily say it’s a nice memory play. It was kind of wispy and faintly and recalling in a kind of fond, painful, bittersweet way. That’s how it was done. I remember Olympia saying, I never wanted to play Amanda because I couldn’t stomach the kind of, sort of reverential kind of, I don’t know exactly what the word is, but let’s just say museum. It was reverential to the history of the play. But then Richard wanted to just throw all that away and make it a memory play, but a very unresolved memory play. So instead it being set in their apartment in St. Louis, Richard and the brilliant scene designer, Eugene Lee, came up with this fantastic idea for the set. Instead of it being the apartment in St. Louis, it was a very rundown, grim room in a Salvation Army. Rent by the day, maybe rent by the hour, whatever. The idea was that Tom, was, as he says in the play, basically going from city to city and constantly on the run trying to escape his mother, the guilt, the unbearable guilt of having abandoned his mother and sister. Richard, I remember on the first day, said, think of his mother and his sister as not a memory but the furies from Orestes: the furies who are pursuing him and will not let him rest, will not let him stay put. So this is only the umpteenth horrible Salvation Army room. It’s not a Salvation Army room, it’s a shelter; it’s a street corner; it’s a park. It was fantastic! We were lauded to the skies and we were absolutely demolished by some critics.

I mean I had some of the best reviews of my life and absolutely the worst reviews of my life. People were horrified. It was very, very exciting. We knew we had done something because people cared one way or another. It was more exciting because this play had been so important to me and had saved me as a young Queer person. It was very interesting coming to it as an out person. By that time, I was 10 years into a partnership and very settled and openly Gay. I was a very different person than that 13 year old. It was still the AIDS crisis which was still absolutely a crisis. I’m not trying to say it was a rosy time, but in terms of my feelings about myself and my being open to the world, it was completely different. I had a sense that all my friends knew. Most of my friends probably were Gay. I had countless friends in the theater. I was in a profession that was filled with other Queer people. So revisiting the play from a position of relative self-possession, or self-respect, and the absence of fear of exposure, was very telling. I felt mostly compassion for myself. I hadn’t looked back a great deal, if at all. The play made me look back. It made me think about not just myself, but about Queer youth in general. I was thinking about kids today, meaning 1992, and generally thinking about how I got out of it, but that doesn’t mean other people have gotten out of it. I think it opened my eyes too. I was so intent on escaping myself that I hadn’t really thought enough, or at all, about other young people. I think it just started to wake me up to the fact that just because I had escaped, it didn’t mean that it wasn’t still going on.

J.P.: In an episode that we did in season two, I got to talk to Greg Louganis and he was talking about how he did the play Jeffrey and how in doing that play, it gave him words and space that led him to want to write his memoir. I’m curious for you, you had this amazing internal relationship with Tom. What was it like to then revisit him and literally inhabit Tom on stage in front of all these other people? I mean, in a very public, very big, lauded production of it. So you weren’t doing it at a community theater, you were doing it in front of everyone.

Jonathan: Enough time had passed that I absolutely used my own experiences to understand where he was coming from. It was so automatic that there was a great deal of work that I might normally have done to sort of figure out the emotional landscape of a character that I just didn’t need to do. That was just there. But enough time had passed that all that’s internal. There was no feeling of exposing myself. It was completely immaterial how I was using my own past. It was all integrated. Maybe if I’d been a younger actor at that point, I might have felt some self-consciousness, but I’d been in the profession several years at that point. I’ve been working a lot. I felt very comfortable using my first encounter with the play to deepen my second encounter. And I didn’t feel on the spot or looked out too closely. I could not communicate anything that I didn’t want to communicate and I could use what I wanted at that point. It only helped me. As far as I was consciously aware, it was only a help. I think it also helped me in unexpected ways. My first encounter with the play, as I mentioned, I had no feeling whatsoever or interest in the other characters. It was all about Tom and what Tom was giving me. But then 20 years later, I could read the play and see the tragedy and the human comedy, the extraordinary characters that Amanda and Laura are in the fact that they’re such a combination of heroism and absurdity and they’re so real. They’re human. I could feel such rage at Amanda and then in the next second I could feel such tenderness and sadness for her. That was not something that was even on my radar the first time I read the play. The mother was just some villain and the sister was just some impediment. But then the second time, it was totally different. It was much more of an adult, more thankfully, because I wasn’t an adult, but it was a much broader understanding of the family dynamics and how… devastating Tom’s choice because in the end he does leave. They have a huge fight after the gentleman caller scene and he leaves and he never comes back. And what that does to him, what it does to his mother and what it does to his sister is enormous and that really becomes a part of playing Tom because he’s both inside the play and then he steps outside and tells the audience the story. But in our production, he was not telling it from a place of, I’ve come to terms with it and let me tell you the sweet, bittersweet story that happened to me. He’s haunted and he’s maddened and he’s desperate to escape. So it was not in any way resolved. It was a very different landscape. I just felt so lucky. First of all, just to be in the production, it was just such a lovely thing. The whole cast wasn’t just Olympia. It was Patricia Danuk. and Danny Welsh for the two other actors. uIt was a superb, fantastic cast. It was just a great experience. But then to also be able to revisit something that had had such a profound and positive influence on my young Queer self was really…I was just very, very lucky. I continue to be grateful for it. I continue to think fondly of it. I have a picture of Olympia and myself at the table in the rehearsal studio. Both of our hair is, I don’t know, wild!

J.P.: Hahaha

Jonathan: It’s a very silly picture. It looks like we both stuck our finger in a light socket at the same time. My hair was very long and wild, and her hair was long and wild, and we just looked like we’re both mad scientists. It’s a very funny picture, but it’s also very sweet to remember working with her in that way. I should have brought the picture, I didn’t think of it.

J.P.: As you’re looking back on it now and you’re part of this production where Tom is haunted and that’s the place that he’s telling the story from, what would a resolution, dare I say happy ending be for Tom? How does he resolve that?

Jonathan: I suppose a happy resolution would have been somewhat far-fetched. I suppose a happy resolution would have been for him to find somebody else to take care of his mother and sister so that he could leave without leaving them destitute. How that actually would play out, I can’t imagine. Amanda has her charms, and I don’t think it’s completely unrealistic if he set out instead of trying to find someone for Laura, but instead went out to find a widower, someone let’s say Amanda’s age, who was interested in someone of charm and courage and tenacity. Amanda has many wonderful qualities along with her not-so-great ones. He could have gotten her a husband as opposed to Laura, which I think is a much harder thing to do: to get a young man to marry Laura with all of her issues. I think that would be the closest to a happy ending that I could imagine. It wouldn’t be a happy example exactly, but I could imagine it reducing the weight, the crushing guilt that pursues Tom. Happy-ish,

J.P.: Happy ish right! The reason why I asked the question is that so many Queer folks have to get away right and then they wrestle with this guilt of having harmed the family and I’m putting big air quotes on harmed because it gets perceived as harm but really it’s what they need to do to survive! Do you feel like he has the sense that I need to do this for myself? I will literally suffocate if I don’t get out. I think he makes that choice to save himself, which doesn’t mean that he’s necessarily harming them. Obviously there is some harm there, but I guess I’m interested to hear your take on what resolution could be for Tom, just because so many Queer folks do have to get out, right? We do have to live with this and have that estrangement that we’re navigating and how much of that guilt should we be carrying on ourselves?

Jonathan: Well, I think the solution that I just came up with is not the play or the character that Tennessee Williams wrote. Tennessee Williams wrote something much tougher and much more real. What he wrote is much harsher and much truer to life than, you know, the sort of sentimental thing that I just came up with. If Tom was a different kind of person, he might have thought of that and the play wouldn’t have the spine that it has. I think they have to be sacrificed for him. I think that’s the horrible news from Tennessee Williams, in this story. I’m not saying that’s the story for everybody or anywhere, but the pain of this wrenching, tearing apart of the family it seems to me is necessary to make the play what it is. Without that essential wound, it doesn’t have its power. It doesn’t have its humor. It doesn’t have its poetry. So I think it is necessary. I think they have to be sacrificed. in order for him to escape, which is not a happy ending, but I don’t think what Tennessee Williams wrote has a happy ending.

I want to thank Jonathan for being on the show today.

He has been preparing a class on Shakespeare performance, but specifically for high school teachers. The idea behind it is that Jonathan will distill his significant knowledge of Shakespeare into lessons that high school teachers can learn from so they can better direct their school’s Shakespeare plays and help students learn how to speak the verse.

He is also studying for the French government’s Dalf exam to earn a proficiency certification so that he can apply for grants.

AND Jonathan is planning, within the next 18 months, to complete Dressing Room Stories, the book that he wrote with Alvin Epstein. This will be the complete first version, compared to the earlier version that was printed. Jonathan isn’t on social media, so stay tuned to this space and we’ll help get the word out when it is published.

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That’s our episode for today. If you listened on Apple Podcasts, can you rate us at 5 stars? You should do this for all your podcasts, actually, who have guests because agents, publicists, and managers look at those when we reach out to them. Giving us 5 stars helps us out!

Our Executive Producer is James Pounds. Our Associate Producers are Archie Arnold, Natalie Cruz, Paul Kaefer, Nicole Olila, Bill Shay, and Sean Smith.

Transcripts are available at thisqueerbook.com

We’re going to be focusing our social media more on Instagram and Facebook, so follow us there. We’re @thisqueerbook

And until our next episode, see you queers and allies in the bookstores!

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