News Column

Hollywood Was Quinto's Path to Theater Dreams

September 22, 2013

YellowBrix

Success in Hollywood came quickly for Zachary Quinto, and it became the stepping-stone he was hoping for.

Heading to California after graduating in 1999 from Carnegie Mellon University in his native Pittsburgh, he soon began getting cast in TV-series episodes.

Then came a season on "24," and a recurring role on "Heroes" from 2006 through 2010. He made a breakthrough in films in 2009, playing the young Spock in "Star Trek," and then reprised the role this year in "Star Trek Into Darkness."

All of that made his goal possible.

"I thought if I established myself in TV and films, it would give me the chance to do plays," Quinto said. "That was what I always wanted."

He had a stage triumph three years ago with a vivid performance in the off-Broadway revival of Tony Kushner's epic "Angels in America," and now he's on Broadway, starring in a revival of Tennessee Williams' 1945 drama "The Glass Menagerie."

Currently in previews, the play opens Thursday night at the Booth Theatre.

To prepare for his role of Tom Wingfield, Quinto said he read widely about Williams.

"[Tom] is the purest distillation of who he was," said the intense, soft-spoken actor. "He's the most autobiographical character he ever wrote."

Speaking before a rehearsal, the 36-year-old Quinto said he saw himself in aspects of Tom, who is trying to create a career in the arts, as a writer. "I feel very connected to him."

The production has arrived on Broadway with momentum, having received a lauded presentation last winter at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass.

Besides Quinto, whose Tom narrates the memory play, the company includes Cherry Jones ("Doubt") as Tom's formidable mother Amanda, who tries to keep her family together, even as Tom plots to leave to pursue his writing; Celia Keenan-Bolger ("Peter and the Starcatcher") as his shy, crippled sister Laura; and Brian J. Smith ("Come Back, Little Sheba") as Laura's Gentleman Caller, whose visit destroys the family's fantasies.

This is the sixth revival on Broadway of "The Glass Men-agerie," Williams' first great play, which returns every decade or so. (The last previous production, in 2005, starred Christian Slater and Jessica Lange.)

This version promises to be somewhat unusual.

The imaginative British director John Tiffany, who was greatly responsible for the success of the musical "Once," has taken a fresh approach.

Usually, despite its framework, "The Glass Menagerie" is presented in fairly realistic style.

Tiffany comes at theater -- all theater -- from a different angle. "It's not, for me, a place for naturalism," he said. "The theater is a place of visual and textual poetry." He's given the tale the dramatic and scenic form of a reminiscence. It flows from Tom's mind as he looks back.

The key to the staging, said Tiffany, derives from Tom's opening speech, delivered directly to the audience, in which he says, "I give you truth in the pleasant disguise of illusion."

For Quinto, the experience, he said, just reinforces his desire to work on the stage.

"I'm excited. I'm grateful for my relationship with this production and these people. I just want to keep coming back to the theater."

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