Mom in COM theater’s ‘Menagerie’ not a meanie, actress says

May 17, 2019 GMT

Barbara Winburn had already played shy, fragile Laura in a 1970s production of “The Glass Menagerie” when she was cast as the show’s domineering mother, Amanda, in a version of Tennessee Williams’ classic memory play that is onstage May 16 through June 2 at College of the Mainland Community Theatre in Texas City.

“Amanda is one of the great stage roles for women,” said Winburn, who lives in Santa Fe. “It is a delight and a challenge to bring her to life.”

Her biggest goal, said the actress, is to thwart any perception by the audience that Amanda is “not a very nice person” based on how sternly she treats her children.


“You can’t emphasize enough that Amanda loves her children immensely,” said Winburn, explaining that Williams is widely considered to have based the character on his mother. Likewise, the character of Tom is a stand-in for the playwright, while Laura’s limp is a symbol for the mental instability of the author’s beloved sister, Rose.

“Amanda is a single parent in 1937 who has had to make a go of it since her husband abandoned them 16 years ago,” Winburn said. “One of my favorite lines of hers is ‘Life calls for Spartan endurance.’”

In contrast, Tom is a dreamer who longs for the life of a poet rather than working in a shoe warehouse to help support his mother and sister in a cramped St. Louis apartment.

When Amanda insists that Tom invite a “gentleman caller” home to dinner to meet Laura, Tom chooses genial Jim O’Connor, a go-getter who attempts to bring Laura out of her shell.

David Wheelis of League City plays Tom, with fellow Clear Falls High School graduate Jordyn O’Banion as Laura.

Gerik Lussy of Dickinson portrays Jim.

The production is helmed by guest director Brian Hamlin of League City.

Winwood was born in Hillje and graduated from Louise High School in 1972 before attending Wharton County Junior College. With no formal training as an actress, and even though she wasn’t a theater major, Winburn landed the role of Laura in the college’s production of “The Glass Menagerie.”

The characters of Laura and Amanda are a study in contrasts, said the actress.

“Amanda, by her very nature is outgoing. Laura is closed-in,” said Winburn, describing how Laura likes to escape into a world of tiny figurines, including her favorite, a glass unicorn.

In 1976, Winburn received a bachelor of science degree in medical records administration at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.


It wasn’t until 2001 that she returned to the stage, playing wealthy socialite Margot Mary Wendice in “Dial ‘M’ for Murder” for a theater group in La Marque and long-suffering Grace Miller in “Requiem for a Heavyweight” at College of the Mainland, whose theatre holds open auditions for students or non-students.

Since then, Winburn has played more than 25 roles at various Bay Area playhouses, including Clear Creek Community Theatre, Pasadena Little Theatre and Dinner Theatre at Franca’s.

Winburn, who has two stepsons, retired in January from the University of Texas Medical Branch.

She has been married for 19 years to Mike Winburn, who grew up in Deer Park and recently retired as the executive director of the Gulf Coast Center, the mental health authority for Galveston and Brazoria counties.

The couple has four grandchildren.

Performances of “The Glass Menagerie” will be at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sundays at the theater, 1200 Amburn Road.

Tickets range $10 to $20.

For further information, call 409-933-8345 or visit www.com.edu/theatre.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net