Fans of theater found their way to the Clarence Brown Lab Theatre Friday to show their support for All Campus Theatre's production of "The Effects of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds," written by Paul Zindel.
All Campus Theatre, UT's undergraduate theater club, produces four shows per year. Each show is directed, performed, designed and crewed entirely by students. "Gamma Rays" finishes out the 2012-2013 season for ACT.
"My junior year of high school I was in a thing called Forensics, which is competitive performance," Director Brock Ward, a sophomore in the college scholars program studying theatre as therapy, said. "We would see one-act plays, and one of the ones we saw was 'Gamma Rays,' and it stuck out in my memory because I remember that it was truthful and that it was something we could relate to."
Ward also recently directed a stage reading of a play he wrote last summer called "Homebound: A Play For Nobody." He has proposed it to ACT as a play to direct in the 2013-2014 season.
"Gamma Rays" follows the story of a dysfunctional family of three. Jessica Karsten, a freshman in public relations, plays the mother, Beatrice — a divorced, cynical woman who transfers the pain of her misfortunate life onto her two daughters, Ruth and Matilda.
Older sister Ruth, played by journalism and electronic media major Sophia Shefner, struggles with balancing her home life, school and a psychiatric condition that causes her to have hallucinations and convulsions. She tends to accuse her younger sister of being "the crazy one."
Matilda (Tillie) seeks to overcome the abuse and neglect her mother and sister throw her way. She channels the negative energy in her home into her science project that explores the play's title.
"For my character Tillie, I think she really values human life and sees that no matter all the horrible things in the world, you can still find your strength, and you can still overcome no matter what your situation is," Malorie Cunningham, a junior studying journalism and electronic media, said.
Because of the close-quarters nature of the Lab Theatre, audience members were given a personal and first-hand look at friction within the Hunsdorfer family.
"I loved Tillie's monologues, just how passionate she was," Molly Kessler, senior in French, said. "('Gamma Rays') is such a small cast, it's very intimate. You really get to know the characters. You learn a lot about them."
There was also a fourth actor on the stage: a bunny named Maverick who played Tillie's pet rabbit, Peter.
"I know Maverick," Kressler said. "I've met him before, and I think he did a stellar job."
"Gamma Rays" left its audience with a hint of hope for Tillie, despite the emotional mistreatment she suffers at home.
"I think that's the biggest message of 'Gamma Rays,'" Cunningham said. "No matter where you are in life, you always have a little bit of strength inside yourself. Don't care what anyone else thinks. Do what you love, and pull that strength out of you."
The show opened on Thursday, Jan. 31, and ran through Sunday.