Cripping “The Glass Menagerie” – Phoebe Fico

Listen (29 min)

Phoebe Fico, a disabled woman, is currently playing one of the classic disability theatrical roles, that of Laura in Tennessee Williams, “The Glass Menagerie.”  The production by Cal Shakes utilizes a multi-racial cast to portray the conflicts of this thinly-veiled autobiography set during Williams’ younger years.

Phoebe Fico, a disability activist and poet as well as an actor, joins us to discuss what has and has not changed since Williams penned this play in the early 1940s.

“The Glass Menagerie” is the story of Williams’ conflict between caring for his sister and moving into the larger world.  It became his breakthrough play.  After he left home, his sister was lobotomized and then she lived in an institution for the rest of her life.  What might have happened if he had stayed?

Williams, himself, was disabled.  As a child, he was too sick to attend public school and he suffered a mental breakdown shortly before leaving home for good.  How did his disability affect his decision to leave his mentally disabled sister behind?  What might have happened if he had connected with Laura about their shared experience rather than helping to identify her as  the family problem?

How do all these dynamics play out in a multi-racial world?  Williams was white but the multi-racial cast of this production forces us to consider what would have been different, (and what would have been the same), for a black family.

Williams was white but this refreshing multi-racial cast forces us to consider these questions as they play out in communities of color.

We talk to Phoebe Fico about these and other issues and we’ll listen to some of her poetry.

“The Glass Menagerie” is in its final weeks at the beautiful outdoor Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda, California. It plays every day except Monday through July 30 with a generous sprinkling of matinee performances.  For tickets and other information, go to

Produced and hosted by Adrienne Lauby

Original air date: 7-21-17

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