Rebecca Baldwin Fuller can’t look at an empty stage without wanting to put on a play.
Fuller, a western Loudoun resident and former professional actor, launched Loudoun’s newest community theater group, The Hillsboro Players, this year. The company’s debut production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie” runs June 10-12 at the Hillsboro Old Stone School.
After a strange and stressful two years for America and Loudoun, 2022 is the perfect time to revive Williams’ 1940s classic, which brought to life one of 20th century theater’s most dysfunctional families: Amanda Wingfield and her young adult children Tom and Laura.
“To me it’s really important that we do stuff that’s thought-provoking and that generates conversions,” Fuller said. “I want to entertain, but I don’t want to just entertain. I want to make people think and feel.”
Fuller produces and co-directs the play while starring as Amanda Wingfield, Williams’ faded southern belle turned manipulative mother. She’s joined onstage by three talented young actors, including two very familiar faces for Loudoun audiences: Main Street Theater alums Serena Parrish and Matt Curtis.
Fuller’s vision of Parrish in the role of Laura, Amanda’s fragile daughter, was one of her inspirations for choosing the piece for the Hillsboro Players’ debut. Parrish, a Woodgrove High School senior who has already earned numerous professional roles, will move to New York this summer to pursue an acting career. So “Menagerie” may be locals’ last chance to catch Parrish on a Loudoun stage before she hits the big time.
The petite Parrish, who has played younger roles for most of her career, has embraced the challenge of playing an adult woman. The 23-year-old Laura lives with physical and emotional disabilities, creating her own world of glass figurines that lends the play its title.
“I often play children. I always play younger than me,” Parrish said. “I wanted to experiment and try playing someone older.”
The role is also a break from tradition for Parrish since it doesn’t involve singing, one of her claims to fame on the local theater scene.
“It definitely takes the pressure off in some ways,” she said, allowing her to delve into the iconic character of Laura.
For Fuller, “Menagerie” was a chance to jump into the juicy role of Amanda, a part she’d dreamed of since she played Laura in a production decades ago.
“She’s driven by this need to have her children launch … and they both have very complicated stuff that’s preventing them from launching–one of which is that [Amanda] is horrible,” Fuller said.
Fuller says she’s excited to return to the stage after letting go of her own life as a professional actor to switch careers and have a family. Fuller now works as a nurse practitioner and is a mom of three kids–but she’s never let go of her creative side. And when the Hillsboro community came calling, she answered.
“I can’t see a stage that nobody’s using and not think, ‘I need to put a play on it,’” she said.
Fuller lives near Lovettsville but has strong ties to Hillsboro through her role in helping launch Loudoun’s second public charter school at the former Hillsboro Elementary School building. And working with town leaders to launch a resident theater company in what she calls “the coolest little town in America” is a dream come true.
Fuller brought on another familiar Loudoun face as co-director. Evan Kagarise is a Loudoun Valley High School graduate now studying theater performance at Virginia Commonwealth University. Kagarise has taken on most of the day-to-day performance direction, a Gen Z director digging into and recontextualizing a classic.
“The concept of a person wanting to express themself in a particular way and needing to express themself will never change,” Kagarise said. “To be able to do that around here with these incredible actors who have so much respect for it, it’s been amazing,” Kagarise said. “They’re all invested in telling the story, and that’s what theater’s all about.”
With her two female leads cast from the outset, Fuller held auditions for the male roles. She cast Curtis as Tom Wingfield and Towson University theater student Wilson Seltzer as the Gentleman Caller–Tom and Laura’s former classmate whose visit shakes up the family dynamic. Curtis, who works as a professional voice actor, had taken a break from local stage work since Main Street closed its doors in 2019. For Curtis, a hefty role that offers a window into a period of social upheaval was the perfect chance to return to the Loudoun stage after living through two years of a pandemic.
“The big theme is, of course, change–and I think that’s why it resonates,” Curtis said. “For me, living in this time, a lot of what [Tom] is talking about—the fire, the way the world is, it resonates. … It’s definitely worth a look again.”
That resonance was a big part of Fuller’s choice for her first production.
“I wanted something that’s familiar but not necessarily hackneyed and overdone,” she said, adding that the play has particular relevance for contemporary women.
“Women are still trying to figure out where our place in the world is. The idea that the only place for Laura is to be married–we don’t feel that way about women anymore. But we’re still pushing up against what women’s expectations and roles are,” Fuller said.
Fuller is still finalizing her choice for the company’s next project but plans to stick with straight plays for now rather than moving toward musicals–often an audience-drawing community theater staple. Meaningful theater in a community that’s dear to her heart.
“It feeds two things: my desire to do something for the community and also the creative impulse,” she said.
The Hillsboro Players production of “The Glass Menagerie” runs Friday, June 10 at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 11 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, June 12 at 3 p.m. at the Hillsboro Old Stone School. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. For tickets and information, go to thehillsboroplayers.com.