The undergraduate theatre organization, All Campus Theatre, will be presenting the play, "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds," from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 at the Clarence Brown Lab Theatre.
The play was originally written by Paul Zindel in 1964, who earned a Pulitzer Prize award for Drama and a New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for his work on "Gamma Rays." The play follows a family made up of a single mother named Beatrice and her two daughters, Ruth and Tillie.
"The play is a play about how the abuse of bullying and the power of hatred can mold a family into something that it's not, how it can morph a family into a totally different entity than a family should be," said sophomore Brock Ward, play director and College Scholar studying therapy in theatre.
Written in a Tennessee Williams style, this drama revolves around themes of discrimination, abuse and egotism.
The play begins by focusing on the protagonist, Matilda "Tillie" Hunsdorfer, who uses marigold flower seeds that were exposed to radioactivity in her science project for her school's science fair.
Malorie Cunningham, junior in journalism and electronic media, plays Tillie and said she identifies with her character in more ways than one.
"Tillie has a lot of strengths in her, her ability to overcome and not care what others think of her, to be her own person and to do her own thing, regardless of what other people think of her, which is a big relation that I have with her," Cunningham said. "It is able to make her a strong character even though she can come up one dimensional, it can give her more of a platform and more dimensions than just, 'oh she's sweet, oh she's nice,' it's like she's got this strength to her that lets her overcome a lot of things."
The play's cast is female dominant. Ward said he chose to propose this play to the All Campus Theatre because of its message on bullying and its strong female characters.
"It has a strong stance on the effect that bullying can have so I thought that was a message that we could all relate to at this time of our lives, coming from the high school setting," Ward said. "I wanted to make a stance against bullying but I've also seen a bunch of plays where females were used as just companions or almost accessories to male characters. They were never really their own character, they were always half of a couple, or always had something to do with a male character. But in 'Gamma Rays,' these are three individual females who have real problems and real lives other than the world of men."
Playing the role of Beatrice is freshman majoring in public relations, Jessica Karsten. Karsten said that the play, in short, is about a bond between a family that can overcome any obstacle.
"I think the play will go great, it's a very entertaining story, but it's also very encouraging for people that are going through the same problems the characters are," Karsten said.
Ward said the characters and their different sides are his favorite part.
"Each character is totally rounded, there are no flat characters in this play, and it's interesting to see how different their personalities are, like the different masks they put on depending on the characters they talk to," he said. "When the youngest daughter Tilly is talking to Beatrice, it's completely different from when she's talking to Ruth and it's really interesting to see how the dynamic of a person's personality can change regarding who they're talking to."
Cunningham said her favorite part of the play is being able to see how the three characters deal with the conflicts in their storylines.
"I think it shows you three different scenarios," she said. "I think each woman in this place has dealt with bullying in some sort of way or just something that is messed up in their life and how each one deals with it differently. One lets it destroy them with Beatrice, one becomes a part of it and conforms to it which is Ruth, and Tilly overcomes it."
Sophia Shefner, playing the role of Ruth, said her character is comparable to herself.
"Ruth has a little edge to her and I think that anyone who knows me well would agree with that in my personality also," Shefner, sophomore in journalism and electronic media, said. "She's dealt with some hardships and that manifests into some hardships into her own life which makes her pretty interesting."
This is Karsten's first performance with All Campus Theatre and she said her experience so far is "amazing."
"I joined All Campus Theatre and they promoted a whole bunch of auditions that we could go to, and when Brock talked about 'Gamma Ray' so much and it seemed like a great opportunity to get involved and the story sounded amazing, it's a very encouraging story," she said.
Cunningham hopes that students will take something away from seeing "Gamma Rays."
"It's not just something to entertain but it actually tells a story," Cunningham said. "I think it will be well received and hopefully (students) can see all the things that we see as characters, all the things that we've put into it, and all the different ways each character is as a human, that they can see the little things that they do that can become lost in the story and in essence become a part of it."
Ward said that the students who go to see "Gamma Rays" shouldn't expect a big fight scene or amazing special effects.
"The reason you're going to come and see it is because it's a family story and it's a story we can all relate to and in a story that's so normal, you can find something extraordinary."
Attending the event would give UT students a nice change in their weekend events, Shefner said.
"I think that theatre is a really nice way for people that don't get exposed to that thing a lot to break out of the monotony of what you do every weekend and I think it's a really good way to get some culture and see what people are doing artistically on campus, it's a good way to spend a night and it's a cheap date," she said.
Performances of "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds" will be shown from Jan. 31 to Feb 2, at 8 p.m. and on Feb. 3 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets for students are $5, and for non-students, $8. Tickets can be purchased at the Clarence Brown Theatre box office.