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Student-directed play opens the second half of the 2013-14 theatre season

"The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds"

Play rehersal

Grace Ellinghaus as Tillie and Kenzie VanDerwerker as Ruth, with Lindsay Taylor as Nanny in the background during a rehearsal. Photo by Elizabeth Dreher RU'14.

It may sound cliché, but for Radford University senior theatre major Sarah Meade, directing “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” is something of a dream come true.

“I've always loved the story, and felt that I was able to relate to each of the characters in a different way,” says Meade.

In fact, when Sarah was considering material for her final class project in advanced directing, she proposed staging the second act of the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama. It was then that she first looked at the play from a director’s standpoint.

“I really fell in love with the journey that this family takes, and how each character deals with it so differently,” she continues.

That project was ruled because it was too much to take on with the time available. Then the play came up for consideration by the RU theatre play selection committee. It was chosen and Meade was chosen to direct the full play.

Her production opens the second half of the Department of Theatre and Cinema’s 2013-14 season.
Describing her approach to the play Meade says she has really focused on the why of the characters’ actions, “I’ve asked a lot of ‘Why are you saying this?’ and ‘Why are you walking away from her?’” She adds that this exploration has led cast in bringing to life some already very distinct characters.

The cast includes Grace Ellinghaus as Tillie; Morgan Hardy as Beatrice, Tille’s mother; Kenzie VanDerwerker as Tillie’s sister; Lindsay Taylor as Nanny, a boarder; and Courtney Rice as Janice Vickery, a science fair competitor of Tillie’s.

The play centers on a bookish young girl named Tillie who lives a fairly dismal existence in a rundown former vegetable shop. She shares this ramshackle home with her prettier, but neurotic sister and their domineering mother. Life seems pretty bleak until a teacher encourages Tillie to undertake an improbable experiment. Through this experience Tillie, like the marigolds of the title, starts to come out into the light.

For playwright Paul Zindel the work is a reflection of his own Staten Island childhood. The former science teacher-turned-dramatist said of his early years, “I was forced to dream of worlds that could be, rather than the world that was for me.” The work won Zindel the 1971 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award.

Meade says of the play, “To me, it’s about everything that life throws at you, and the way you choose to handle those obstacles can affect your past, present, and future. It really does go to show that, ‘even from the rankest soil, beauty can grow.’”

“The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” runs from Wednesday, Feb. 19-22, in the Hawes Studio Theatre, Porterfield Hall. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. each evening with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday, Feb. 22. Tickets are available at the Porterfield Box Office noon-6 p.m. beginning Monday, Feb. 17. Admission is free but seating is limited. Reservations may be made by calling (540) 831-5289.

Feb 17, 2014

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