Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Playback Tuesday: The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

I do love plays. I can always count on coming back to them no matter how much I moan and complain about the few that are very hard to read and understand. It's like having a running dialogue going on in your head. And I get to imagine each character (with help from the playwright, of course). I am familiar with this play, mostly because it tends to yields some very good monologues for many a young actress, but this was my first time reading it start to finish. I was entranced from the beginning. And by beginning, I do not mean page one of the play, but rather with the first introductory note by the playwright.

I absolutely love it when playwrights right introductions or notes or thoughts about the plays they have written. I feel as if there is something very special about that. A way for me to connect to the playwright, their emotions and feelings, without having them in the room. A way to bypass the question and answer after the reading, but still gain insight. The more I learn about the craft of play writing the more entranced I become with the playwright. How did their life experiences influence the play, the characters, the overall theme?

In the case of The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, Paul Zindel's past experiences with his mother and sister played a key role in forming his play. He says, "For me, the play continued to resonate on many levels. There was the unspoken, the personal, in which my sister had always been my hisotorian and guide...while our mother dreamed and held on to a bizarre, preposterous pride, some nights there would be no food to eat, no coal to burn."

He also talks about his influence on the character Tillie, "I sketched a speck of myself into Marigolds, changing my sex to become the fictional, life-affirming Tillie. And the lesson I learned by writing the play with thoughtfulness, honesty, amazement, and terror was that youth is resilient in the clutch of darkness. Between the lines was a love letter to my teachers and librarians and the entire public school system, the world that had been my, and my sister's , salvation from the madhouse."

He calls his introduction, Marigold's Revisited. Zindel goes back to watch a production of the play in 1996, the play was written in 1970 (and won the pulitzer prize in 1971). Paul Zindel died of Cancer in 2003. Marigold's seems to be a play that at once mirrors the trouble life he led as a child, and serves to encourage hope in others who find themselves in similar situations.

A good read indeed.

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds
Paul Zindel

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