You may recognize the name Rob Lufty from your Cygnet Theatre programs as both the Associate Artistic Director of the theatre and as the director BADJEWS, SHOCKHEADED PETER, amongst other plays over the last few years. His newest directorial project is THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS, a lyrical drama that follows a mother and her two daughters, and the beauty that can come from blooming under perseverance.
I had a chance to talk to him about his newest play THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS, currently playing at the Cygnet Theatre through September 24th.
I really loved SHOCKHEADED PETER and BAD JEWS this past year, what do you look for in material that you want to work on? What about this play spoke to you in a way that you wanted to direct it?
I want a theatre that is has impact. I want a theatre that surrounds you with sight, sound, and smell. Theatre that enters into you and immerses you in the world. Theatre in which you experience and participate. This is what most excites me and what I feel is missing from theatre of today. I want my theatre to be bold, daring and theatrical. I also look for plays that start a conversation that I want to have with our audience.
I love this play. I always have. It is a beautiful example of the American gift to drama—a combination of realism and expressionism in the home. More importantly, it has taught me empathy and forgiveness in ways no other play has. In my final year of college I set out to read every Pulitzer Prize winning play. It was then that I first read Paul Zindel’s beautiful play about the radiation of a mother. The same themes that struck a cord with me then still ring true to me: hope in the face of adversity, the past’s effect on us, the strength of dreams, self-image, half life, and fear. I am sure we all have seen first hand the damage that parents can and do inflict on their children. We have also seen many young men and women who flourished despite that damage. I have met so many Ruths who withered in the presence of parental radiation, and thankfully, even more Tillies who bloomed despite it. Paul Zindel himself was a high school science teacher, and wrote this Pulitzer Prize winning play from that unique perspective. Though the play is over 50 years old, and though the world has changed so much in that time, Marigold’s truths still resonate today, the beautiful and the ugly.
This play requires an all female cast, do you think that this brought a different dynamic to the stage?
Yes. I made sure that my assistant Kristen Fogel had a voice in the room and that I listened to the actors in the play without making assumptions or pretending to know about the female experience in this world. The process has been wonderful in every way. The cast bonded very quickly and our rehearsals are filled with laughter and love. The characters in this play can be difficult to play. They have to go to some dark places. It is easy to write the characters off in this play, as we do in our day to day lives. It is easy to put someone into a box that is easily identifiable. BUT the women of this play are anything but one dimensional. They are survivors.
What is challenging about bringing this show to life?
Riding the double horse of realism and expressionism. If I lean too much into the “kitchen sink” reality then the poetry of the play doesn’t come through. Conversely, if we lean too much into the lyricism of the play the scenes feel out of place. It is also always hard to direct a play that you have wanted to direct for a long time. There are added expectations but theatre making can’t be entirely result oriented. You have to let each piece breath and find its own rhythm on its own.
What do you hope the audience be thinking about in the car as they drive home after this show?
The resiliency and forgiveness of a 14 year old. She discovers that we’re all made of star dust. Of atoms that once were stars and planets and moons. The beautiful and the monstrous: coexisting through a complex chemical bond. The underlying scientific structure of the world becomes a source of hope for Tillie. It keeps her sane. We have a choice to continue a cycle of pain or break from it. Tillie chooses the later.
You have a 10 minute break during rehearsal, how are you spending that time?
Walk outside or hang out with fellow collaborators. It’s important to laugh when working on a play like this, and luckily my team has me in stitches every day.
THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS is playing at the Cygnet Theatre through September 24th. For show time and ticket information go to www.cygnettheatre.com