Walking onto the set of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds, I’m overcome with a sense of palpably positive energy. The director and stage manager converse on the set, talking animatedly about blocking, as the four-women cast laughs together in the corner. In all the play interviews I’ve conducted, I’ve never encountered an environment so positive, and so comfortable. It’s immediately clear the group has positive chemistry, and when I begin talking with the cast, I feel immediately at home.
The play, which highlights the struggles and eccentricities of a dysfunctional family, is unconventional in the sense that there are only four members in the cast, all of whom are women. Senior Sophia Rucireta plays “Beatrice,” an eccentric widowed mother to rebellious “Ruth” (played by Junior Joye Anderson) and quiet, studious “Matilda” (played by Freshman Maia Gelser). Junior Olivia Yokas takes on two roles, those of “Janice” and “Nanny”. Additionally, the director (Senior Sophia Morrow) and stage manager (Junior Margaret Stoops) are also all women, making the whole production an entirely female-run show.
The play itself has a rather unique backstory. Playwright Paul Zindel began writing plays for fun as a child and teenager, and continued into adulthood. He wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning play Gamma Rays when he was a high school science teacher, before it was later produced off-broadway in 1970. When asked about what drew Morrow to the play, she replies,
“The way that it’s written, and the words that pop off the page really caught my attention … it’s a very hopeful play, and it has a sense of childlike wonder … to me it’s a story that shows that anyone can do anything, even given whatever circumstance you’re born into … I’ve never read anything like it before, it spoke to me … it’s a kind of a play that this university hasn’t done before, at least in my experience, and I just fell in love with it.” Morrow is a senior theatre arts major, and a very active member of the theater department, having been a part of at least one production at the University of Redlands every semester since transferring here her sophomore year.
I sat down with the four-women cast to discuss their thoughts and experiences thus far with the play.
“It is really unique, because it’s just four of us,” Yokas said. ”There’s a lot of memorizing for these three [other] girls for sure, but the work they’ve put into it, and that everyone in the production crew has put into it is going to make it just fantastic.”
Anderson jumps in to add:
“I think we definitely bonded a lot quicker, compared to a cast of like 15-20 … since there’s only four us I feel like collectively … we really got close and I think it’s just going to make the show even better.”
Yokas interjects again, saying:
“We were really able to get down and sit one on one with our director and talk about our characters and their pasts and their intentions and everything, and that was really amazing … [often] you have to do a lot more work personally but this was a lot more collaborative and we all got to discuss each other’s characters together, it was really great.”
This sense of intimacy was definitely reflected in the crew’s interactions with each other; the mood of the room was very familial, and it was clear that the group was very tightly knit. Margaret Stoops, the stage manager for the production, elaborated on this further:
“My favorite thing thus far about this process is that everyone who’s in the room is a woman … there’s just a really fun energy in the room, and we deal with a lot of heavy topics, [but] I think that everyone’s really comfortable in this space, and we just have a really nice energy. It’s a super welcoming and fun space to work in.”
The show opens on February 14th at 7pm, and will be playing through the 16th. For additional times and for information regarding tickets, click here.