On June 1, 2016, Marilyn Monroe would have turned 90.
To commemorate this event, a play by Rosary O’Neill titled Marilyn/God took Kansas City by storm. The piece focuses on the final moments of the beautiful actress’ life and her last thoughts before losing consciousness. Heidi Van does a stellar job with the daunting task of portraying one of the most famous women in recent history. The setting of the solo-show is sometime before 3:30 a.m. on August 5, 1962—the day that Marilyn died. Melding fact with fiction, Marilyn/God lets the audience feel as if they are in the presence of the blonde bombshell herself.
The sexpot persona that was Marilyn Monroe is still a global phenomenon, which made her an interesting subject. In fact, there were numerous things that drew Rosary O’Neill to her and led her to compare the starlet’s life to her own. According to Rosary:
“That she could hide being an intellectual and love Proust and Whitman and Dickinson. That she could dream that Clark Gable was her real father (she never knew who he was but the picture her mom kept looked like Gable) and star opposite him in his last picture. That she could live alone in Santa Monica (where I lived to get my PhD) at UCLA and have a poodle Maf given her by Frank Sinatra and named after the Mafia. My white poodle is named Tattoo.”
Marilyn Monroe was an actress and model who achieved such an extreme level of fame that she remains an American icon 54 years after her death. The woman whose real name was Norma Jeane Mortenson lived a turbulent life. She never knew her father, her mother was mentally unstable, and she experienced poverty, failed marriages, and miscarriages. It has also been suggested that she struggled with drug addiction, anxiety, depression, and that her untimely death—at age 36—was possibly a suicide.
Yet, for all that darkness there was also joy and light. After being discovered, Marilyn lived a glamorous lifestyle. She mixed with powerful people—including the Kennedy family, Joe DiMaggio, and Arthur Miller—wore the finest clothes and jewels, and starred in films that topped the box office. Photographs taken of her are lauded as classic icons of Americana, and even pop artist Andy Warhol used her image in some of his most widely recognized artwork.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Marilyn was her intelligence. Although she was regularly typecast as a “dumb blonde,” she was actually very smart and well-read. She was the top of her class in English during high school and took extension courses in the arts at UCLA. Although she often wore tight sweaters, she also sported reading glasses. The desire to be taken seriously was an endearing aspect of Marilyn’s personality and the feature that playwright Rosary O’Neill focused on most while writing her play.
Both Marilyn/God and Marilyn’s real-life biography raise the question: What could have been if Marilyn had lived longer? Would she have secured the more serious roles that she desired? Would she have earned recognition for her sharp mind as well as her beautiful figure? Would she have revealed more scandalous juicy details of her life?
Alas, the world will never know…but we can always speculate.