If Deanne Driscoll looks familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen her on one of the many stages in San Diego. From The Old Globe, Moxie Theatre, Diversionary, and more DeAnna has performed from San Diego, to New York and back again. Now she finds herself playing the challenging part of Beatrice, a mother of two daughters in Cygnet Theatre’s production of THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS.
Written by Paul Zindel, a playwright and a science teacher, in 1971, this play is a Tennessee William’s style drama about a dysfunctional family made up of Beatrice, the mother, and her two daughters Ruth and Tillie. Beatrice is a single mother whose unfortunate strategy for coping with a life of bad decisions and cynicism is by taking it out on those around her. Yet the play also offers the hope that maybe, like the flowers in the title, people can thrive even under the worst conditions.
I had a chance to chat with DeAnna about this play, the role, and what its was like working with this cast.
Beatrice is not the mother of the year to put it nicely. What is the biggest challenge in playing a character like this?
Probably the most challenging thing for me is to think completely outside of my ‘parenting box’. I am a mother myself and would never dream of being verbally or mentally abusive to my daughter.
As far as Beatrice goes, I think it’s crucial that the audience understands her to some degree and doesn’t just write her off as a cruel woman. She is more than that, like we all are. The way we treat people is so dependent on the way we were treated as children and the levels of values and empathy that we were taught.
This play is an all-female cast, what do you think that dynamic brings to the play and the stage?
Having an all female cast is unusual and refreshing. Strong roles are usually written for men. The beauty of this play is that Paul Zindel created full characters for every woman in this play. Even Nanny who never speaks. She still has a story to tell.
How do you decompress from playing a dramatic or emotionally taxing character?
Honestly, it’s hard to ‘come down’ after playing this character. I try to surround myself with those who I love, spend lots of time in nature, and meditate while burning a lot of sage!
Do you have a tradition or habit for the last thing that you do before the curtain goes up?
I really work on my breathing and remind myself of the trust we have built as a cast. And, I have a mantra, but I’m not willing to give that away!
You have a 10 minute break during rehearsal, how are you spending that time?
I eat something nutritious and try laughing a bit. But, I am an actor who doesn’t like to stray far from my character during rehearsal so often I will be quiet and reflective.
DeAnna, and the cast of THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS will be performing at the Cygnet Theatre through September 24th. For tickets and show information go to www.cygnettheatre.com