Lavin Cuddihee &Marianne Carruth head to head over Cuckoos Nest

Published 3:00 am Friday, March 27, 2009

You are two faces that I&squo;ve seen around theatre and the arts in Tryon, but never onstage. What about One Flew Over the Cuckoo&squo;s Nest brought you out into the spotlight again? Marianne: This is the first show I&squo;ve done with TLT in 22 years. It&squo;s just time. Lavin: That&squo;s funny, because we both went away for 22 years. Marianne: Ooh? Lavin: Our birthdays are two days apart. What about this 22 year? Was it the show itself or the right time and the right place? Lavin: Well, it was the right show because I was involved with experimental theatre in California. At the time, I liked to do that type of theatre. Things like first runs, not that this show is that, but at the end of the day this show is just so meaty and so unusual and so me, I had to come down when I heard that it was auditioning and see if they would give me some part, any part. What part did they give you? Lavin: McMurphy, Randall P. McMurphy. And that was played by&ellip; Marianne: Jack Nicholson. Lavin: Jack in the film, Kirk Douglas when it debuted on Broadway. It&squo;s the meatiest of meaty parts. Lavin: There aren&squo;t any bigger parts, I don&squo;t think, not in this show. Unless of course maybe the director. I was not expecting to be cast in that role, but when Chris asked me if I would like to do it I didn&squo;t hesitate, most definitely. What about for you Marianne? Marianne: Why this show? Well, I love this show and it&squo;s a good meaty female role and it is fun. I was really glad that Chris wanted me to do this part. Yeah, I was thrilled. When he said he was going to do it, I was thinking, &dquo;Mmm, that&squo;s the part I want next year.&dquo; What has been occupying you the last 22 years instead of the stage? Marianne: Well the last 10 years I&squo;ve been doing children&squo;s theatre, teaching children and I never did that before. I just did that after I had children. I thought I would always act. I like to do experimental stuff, that&squo;s my favorite, off the wall parts and small cast multiple parts. That kind of thing has always appealed to me. What&squo;s some of your background in acting before coming to Tryon Little Theatre and working with the children? Marianne: I like doing Shakespeare. I think the last big role I did was Viola before this one, so there&squo;s your age range. I worked with a theatre company in San Antonio and we did some original stuff. We wrote our own monologues and put them together. I like doing that kind of thing. Triumph of the Spider Monkey and really bizarre things. In college I did Amelia and Mrs. Higgins. I&squo;ve always done a Mrs. Higgins, Gwendolyn Fairfax, that kind of thing, haughty annoying women. The haughty annoying women have always been&ellip; Marianne: fun. Lavin: They come natural. Marianne: Yeah, unfortunately that&squo;s the part that&squo;s blown my mind. They say, &dquo;What part are you?&dquo; I say, &dquo;Nurse Ratched.&dquo; They say, &dquo;Ah ha ha, of course.&dquo; I thought I was nice. You mentioned college, did you go to school for theatre? Marianne: I majored in Speech and Drama. From? Marianne: Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. How did that get you to Tryon? Nurse Ratched telling Billy (Dave Sistare) that she had to report some of his recent activity to his mother. Nurse Flinn (Jade Day-Burdett) is seen in the background in the nurse’s station (photo by Connie Clark) Marianne: I was born in Tryon. I grew up here. I went out to school in Texas because of an advisor that found a school he thought would match me well and he was right. They had a good program out there. The guy who started Dallas Theatre Center was running that theatre program at the time. It was an artsy approach to acting. It wasn&squo;t very practical at all. But, it was real rich and a lot of fun and we played with colors and lines and shapes and sounds. A more abstract approach to theatre than some schools teach. I found that appealing. Then after college I did some outdoor drama. Lavin: So did I. Marianne: Did you really do outdoor drama? Which one did you do? Lavin: Tecumseh. Marianne: In Ohio. Lavin: Chillicothe, Ohio. We&squo;ve had a lot of Tecumseh company members at Poetry Alive! Marianne: I was an intern up at the Playhouse too and Robroy Farquhar was such a sweet man, I told him, &dquo;I&squo;m going to do outdoor drama.&dquo; He said, &dquo;Oh, it&squo;s a good experience, but don&squo;t do it twice.&dquo; Lavin: I did not. Marianne: I didn&squo;t either. Lavin: I wouldn&squo;t trade that summer for anything. That summer was great. Marianne: It was pretty fun. It&squo;s an experience. Lavin: Tecumseh is supposed to be the largest outdoor drama in a huge amphitheatre. Everybody lives on site. The stars, which I was not, lived in little cabins. All the grunts, everybody else, we lived in tents, all summer. Marianne: I had the female lead, and I lived in just horrible places. It was a bad. Lavin: We got paid nothing. I ate peanut butter and jelly two and three times a day for sixty days. Marianne: Extra crunchy. I&squo;m not going to go into too much detail about my summer doing outdoor drama, but it was an experience. Lavin: You need some Irish whiskey to get through it. Marianne: I meant to bring some, but I ran out of time. Were you a theatre major as well, or was it something that you just dove into? Lavin: My mom was a theatre person. She wasn&squo;t in plays so much, but she was a dancer. She was real involved with it when she was growing up. It was always around. I never really got into it. I did some community theatre in high school. I never did any high school productions, and I can&squo;t remember why. Maybe it was just because I didn&squo;t want to get in front of my peers. I didn&squo;t mind to get in front of the community. I don&squo;t know what that was about. When you&squo;re graduating from high school, you&squo;re at this crossroads. What do you want to be when you grow up? I am that crossroads again right now, actually. I&squo;m a big automobile fan as well. I wanted to get into something automotive, or I wanted to get into the theatre and it was almost a spin of the wheel, a turn of the card. Marianne: Hey ya, hey ya, hey ya&ellip; Lavin: So, I picked theatre. I went to Webster College in St. Louis, Missouri because, even though we were living in Ohio at the time, I grew up in St. Louis. I thought it would be nice to go back. My mom knew they had a great program there; they still have a great program. I think it is Webster University now. I was putting myself through school so between not really liking to go to school and not being able to afford to go to school I went spottily. Then I felt was done with the whole theatre thing for a while. At that time my folks moved down to Greenville from Ohio. I helped them move down here and got in a production at the Warehouse theatre back in 1977, I think. I did two shows down there and then I left. I went to the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. I studied there for a couple years and then did some plays. Everything from little tiny roles to somewhat big roles, p.a. work, film work, directing; I totally immersed in it and found out I was not making any money at any of it. So my wife said, we weren&squo;t married at the time, &dquo;We&squo;re going to California.&dquo; I said, &dquo;I&squo;m not going to California, I want to stay here in New York.&dquo; &dquo;Well, I&squo;m going to California,&dquo; she said, &dquo;if you want to get married you have to go to California.&dquo; We got married and went to California. I did a few shows there and then started getting into some film because that started actually paying. I did photo double work. I started getting into the stunt thing quite a bit actually. Drifting back at the same time and doing experimental theatre. Then all of the sud
den one day I was done with it, I needed to move on. I went back to school for the automobile thing and that&squo;s what I&squo;ve been doing since then basically, industrial design. I&squo;ve been working for myself since 1994. When did you find Tryon? Lavin: A couple years ago we were out here visiting my parents and getting reacquainted with the area since Greenville and Greer and all the area had changed tremendously. I found myself coming through Tryon one day by mistake. I thought, &dquo;Wow, what a great little town.&dquo; We were thinking about relocating and here it is. A couple people asked me if I wanted to do shows. Marianne: I&squo;ve asked you. I was thrilled when you auditioned. Lavin: It just had to be the right show. So, here you are. Lavin: I&squo;ve wanted to something with Marianne for some time now. We&squo;ve only lived here for three years in June. I can&squo;t believe how many people I&squo;ve met since we&squo;ve been here. It&squo;s a nice social venue. Marianne: He&squo;s doing a great job. Lavin: As are you. Marianne: It&squo;s inspiring. Is it hard jumping back into the role of actor after being a director for so long working with the kids? Marianne: Only because I just have to keep my mouth shut. Chris is doing a great job. I trust myself in his hands. I don&squo;t know the line any more, but then I realize I like it when actors give me ideas, so I&squo;m not stepping on toes. It&squo;s not been hard. It&squo;s unfortunately too easy of a role for me to step back into. There was one night Lavin you came on like gangbusters and it was easy to come back, it was inspiring. You could do Nurse Ratched as melodrama, but she&squo;s actually quite professional. I find myself thinking, &dquo;Why is he doing this, and how can I help him?&dquo; Lavin: McMurphy sees her as someone who wishes she was a doctor and is only a nurse. Marianne: Bingo. What about Ken Kesey&squo;s social commentary plays to today&squo;s audience now that mental health care has changed in this country? Marianne: The power struggle. Lavin: I hadn&squo;t thought much about it when I first signed on, but I think it plays to a modern audience. Marianne: It&squo;s dated in a lot of ways. Lavin: I think that some of the underlying things that are going on are still there. Actually, just because the way we&squo;ve socially evolved, a new twist is being added to it. Once upon a time there was, &dquo;the man is the man, and the woman is there to look after the man.&dquo; McMurphy, as far as women go, he&squo;s a big kid in a candy store. All women are candy to him, he&squo;s got the biggest sweet tooth, and he thinks he deserves it. That&squo;s who he is. There are still a lot of people like that. However, things have changed to a point where a woman&squo;s role in society has evolved. But they&squo;re still trying to be more than they&squo;ve been. Marianne: Also the relationship with all of the patients. All those guys depend on each other. That&squo;s certainly topical. They create their own little world where McMurphy becomes their leader. Lavin: They even talk about it, there&squo;s the scene when the doctor&squo;s talking about how they&squo;ve got this microcosm of society. Marianne: A society in miniature. McMurphy (Cuddihee) faces off with aide Williams (Mike Carruth) soon after he arrives at the mental ward. (photo by Connie Clark) Lavin: McMurphy&squo;s so far outside of society, the longer he stays in this environment he starts to depend on ‐ not necessarily their friendship, he doesn&squo;t really have a friendship with them, but there&squo;s definitely a connection. Seemingly he is so independent prior to coming here, now he&squo;s finding out he&squo;s the big fish in the little pond. But now, all of the sudden he&squo;s thinking these guys have got something he doesn&squo;t have, and what is that? We&squo;ll find out what that is. He&squo;s almost starting to be confronted with who his is. If you look past the lobotomies and the verbiage, the things that date the play, I am sure some people will go, &dquo;I&squo;m a lot like that guy,&dquo; or &dquo;I know what she&squo;s going through.&dquo; Marianne: They&squo;re strong characters and they&squo;re symbols at the same time. Lavin: There&squo;s still a lot in this play for me to figure out and that&squo;s the fun thing about doing shows. The better the cast is and the longer the show runs you usually start seeing some really neat things happen. This is a comedy, but a black comedy, a disturbing comedy. Have you done anything to alter the graphic language, or are you doing it true to the script? Marianne: No he has not. Initially he was going to. He was going to smooth things out but that&squo;s just not how McMurphy is. Lavin: In 1963 when this came out it probably raised a few eyebrows. Marianne: It was in your face then. Lavin: Here now, even in this town, everybody&squo;s pretty much up to speed, and they want to hear something and feel comfortable about hearing it. It&squo;s different than hearing it in a restaurant or hearing it in a bar or someone else&squo;s home. It&squo;s not like you haven&squo;t been warned there&squo;s graphic language. Marianne: It is graphic, and I think parts of it are very difficult to watch, but it&squo;s very real. It&squo;s very raw. It&squo;s not going to be boring. What do you hope people will take away from this show? Lavin: First of all, I&squo;d like them to feel that they&squo;ve spent some quality time at the theatre. There&squo;s so much work that goes into it. I had forgotten. I hope they come away, at the very least, with a quality theatre experience. Marianne: I just want them to be moved. I want them to come away having laughed and cried and maybe surprised. I want them to remember it and think about it. Lavin: It&squo;s a play you could see twice because there is so much really going on. There&squo;s so much to see. One Flew Over the Cuckoo&squo;s Nest opens tonight at Tryon Little Theatre Workshop, 516 S. Trade Street and runs through April 5. Performances are Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Call the box office at 828-859-2466 or visit for more information.

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