Strong character development and acting highlight upcoming six-show run of “The Glass Menagerie” at Tusculum University

GREENEVILLE – Experience the brilliant writing of Tennessee Williams and exceptional performances by four experienced local actors in an upcoming six-show run of “The Glass Menagerie” at Tusculum University.

Erin Hensley Schultz, left, and Josie Norton rehearse a scene.

Opening night for the Theatre-at-Tusculum production, which tells a story of a depression-era family in St. Louis in a dream-like and poetic manner, is Friday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. in Behan Arena Theatre. The cast will feature acting veteran Erin Hensley Schultz, who also serves as Tusculum’s costume director, as Amanda Wingfield. It also consists of Tusculum students Tristan Matthews as Tom Wingfield, Josie Norton as Laura Wingfield and Todd Wallin as Jim O’Connor (also known as the Gentleman Caller), all of whom have already developed impressive theater résumés.

“The themes in ‘The Glass Menagerie’ are as relevant today as they were in 1944, when the play originally premiered in Chicago,” said Wayne Thomas, the play’s director. “Many of us contend with having to decide between obligations to others versus ourselves; many of us feel the consequences of either choice. ‘The Glass Menagerie’ has lasted at the forefront of American theater because it evokes empathy in us. We watch, and we understand. We watch, and we reflect on our own choices and the consequences of caring.”

Details about the play

Wayne Thomas

Left to right, Erin Hensley Schultz, Todd Wallin, Tristan Matthews and Wayne Thomas work on a scene in “The Glass Menagerie.”

Thomas, who serves as executive director of Tusculum Arts Outreach and dean of the College of Civic and Liberal Arts, said “The Glass Menagerie” is Williams’ most autobiographical work, with all of the characters based on people from his life. In contemplating the performances in the Behan, those associated with Tusculum’s production did not simply want to emulate their favorite versions of the play.

“The strength of our show is in the performances,” Thomas said. “These thoughtful and high-quality actors built their characters from the ground up, remaining true to the script while also digging to make the play more relevant for contemporary audiences.”

To summarize the play, Tom wants to escape St. Louis and his family to chase adventures, to lead his life with a free and wandering spirit, but he is stuck as the primary source of income for his mother and sister. Amanda can only find meager employment selling women’s magazine subscriptions. Laura is too physically and emotionally challenged to work. So Tom toils all day in a shoe warehouse, unhappy and increasingly more resentful – until Amanda strikes a deal with him. If he will just find Laura a suitor, he is free to pursue his own dreams.

In addition to the actors, Frank Mengel completed an inspiring set design that features artwork from master painter Gary Renfro and lighting by Elijah Collins-White. Andy Ross’ score will encompass authentic sounds from the 1930s, and local high school student Jade Ward will demonstrate her abundant talent on the violin. Gracie Weems is serving as the stage manager.

“Audiences will be treated to menagerie effects throughout the production,” Thomas said. “At a glance, the set might lead you to believe there are so many obstructed views of the play’s action. At a second glance, you’ll realize there isn’t.”

Here are descriptions of the actors and the characters:


Erin Hensley Schultz

Erin Hensley Schultz is in her sixth year with Arts Outreach, but her connections to Tusculum extend to her high school days when she was in the “Actors Coming Together” productions. As an adult, she has performed in “The Addams Family” and worked on the makeup crew for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” She and her husband, Steve, starred in “Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons” in 2022.

She has also participated in several productions at the Greeneville Theatre Guild, Jonesborough Repertory Theatre, Glasgow Theatre Company, Blue Moon Dinner Theatre and Johnson City Community Theatre, as well as performing with Blue Plate Special, her improv comedy group.

“Amanda Wingfield is a difficult, deep character that I really wanted to analyze and get inside of, and it has been very rewarding to explore this family’s dynamic and relationships along with my castmates,” Schultz said. “When she nags at her adult children, it’s easy to write her off as just annoying or mean or even just silly, as so many mothers in fiction and real life are so quickly written off, but when we step into her shoes, we can see that she literally has no other options. She’s a woman in an impossible situation, desperately searching for a solution and pouncing on any little glimmer of hope she can find.”


Tristan Matthews

Tristan Matthews has been active in theater for about 10 years, but this will be his first performance at Tusculum. A new student at the university, he has extensive acting experience with the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre with comedic roles in “Singing in the Rain,” “Newsies,” “Welcome to Mitford,” “Mary Poppins” and “Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe.” He wanted to switch to drama, and Erin Schultz and Steve Schultz, who serves as director of Tusculum Arts Outreach, suggested he audition for “The Glass Menagerie.”

“I knew I would enjoy drama and roles where I would have to contemplate every movement and word and break it down,” Matthews said. “I am able to achieve that in ‘The Glass Menagerie.’”

He immediately fell in love with the role of Tom and the dialogue when he read for the part.

“Tom thinks a lot and is a very deep person,” Matthews said. “Because of his father leaving, he has been forced at a very young age to take on the responsibilities of a grown man and care for his mother, Amanda, who is never really happy with what she is given. He loves her and his sister, Laura. Laura is very special to him. He feels empathy and sympathy for her and wishes his mother would not put such high expectations on her. He is a young man who wants to discover who he is and what the world has to offer.”


Josie Norton

Josie Norton has participated in theater since March 2021 and has already contributed on many levels, including acting, directing, writing and serving on the crew. She wrote one of the “5 X 10 Plays,” directed one of the plays in the Tusculum Youth Actors Studio Showcase earlier this year and performed in “Company.” Being a cast member in “The Glass Menagerie” tops her list of theatrical activity, she said.

“One thing that is different about this show is that it is academic theater, which means it was approached in a very technically aware manner from script to stage, and it has been such an educational experience,” Norton said. “Being in a prominent role in this story has allowed me to bring unique experiences and emotions from my own life to coincide with the feelings my character Laura has surrounding the perception of being different and self-aware to her detriment. Playing this role is helping shape me into the type of actress I am becoming, one that goes for the risks, does the hard work and shares the rewards with her community.”

She said Laura, who has a disability, is viewed as a dainty blue rose lacking get-up or ambition in her career.

“Laura has fire of courage and power trapped within her, as I’m sure many people can relate to this in real life, so within the story she gains the confidence to make a lasting mark on the Gentleman Caller,” Norton said. “All of this is sadly at the expense of her older brother’s freedom from his true passion in life.”


Todd Wallin

Todd Wallin has participated in the Tusculum theater program since fifth grade when he joined what is now the Tusculum Youth Actors Studio. In more recent years, he has been on the stage for several Tusculum productions, including playing one of the leads as Sky in “Mamma Mia” and performing as Banquo in “Macbeth” and in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Most recently, he was one of the actors in “The Letter,” one of the “5 X 10 Plays” in the spring.

“I was interested in taking on a different role from anything I had played before,” Wallin said. “When I started out, I was usually a member of the ensemble, and I tried to put a comedic element into my performance. Since then, I have usually played comedic characters. This show has given me a chance to break that barrier and give the audience something it isn’t expecting from me.”

Wallin will appear in the final scenes of “The Glass Menagerie.” His character works with Tom, who has invited Jim to dinner to introduce him to his sister, Laura. The two male characters knew each in high school when Jim excelled in every aspect.

“When Wayne Thomas was describing this character to me, he would always tell me to look for an affable approach,” Wallin said. “In this story, we see the Gentleman Caller after high school. He is a bit slower but still has energy. He is always seeking approval from those around him and keeps a seemingly polite manner about himself at all times.”

Ticket information

Todd Wallin, left, and Josie Norton, rehearse a scene.

Show dates and times are Sept. 29, Sept. 30, Oct. 6 and Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 1 and Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $17 for anyone 12-59 years old, $15 for those 60 or older and $5 for children younger than 12. One can purchase tickets at or at the door. All forms of payment are accepted.

Behan Arena Theatre is located on the lower level of Annie Hogan Byrd Fine Arts Center.

“We are thrilled to share ‘The Glass Menagerie’ with the community as part of Tusculum’s commitment to civic engagement,” Thomas said. “We are proud of our tradition of theatrical excellence at Tusculum and welcome this additional opportunity to showcase the caliber of this component of our Center for the Arts. The community will have a great time at this show, and we encourage everyone to join us.”

Further information about the performances is available from Rouja Green, director of the Center for the Arts, at To learn more about the university, please visit