Megan Cavanagh: From Marla to Menopause
By: Iris Wiener
The name Megan Cavanagh is synonymous with Marla Hooch, the wide-eyed, scene-stealing second base-woman in A League of Their Own. However, Cavanagh also has an excellent pitch- as a singer, that is, and she has been sharing it with the world for the past thirteen years as Earth Mother in Menopause the Musical, which comes to The Gateway at Patchogue Theatre on Sunday, October 8th at 2pm and 7pm. Menopause is a celebration of women who are on the brink of, in the middle of, or have survived “the change,” featuring a story told through musical parody of hits from the 60s, 70s and 80s. In between raising funds for the International Women’s Baseball Center (IWBC) and speaking on League Q&A panels celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film, Cavanagh spoke with Theaterlife.com about what she has been up to since Penny Marshall’s iconic 1992 hit, her Broadway ambitions, and returning to the Long Island theatrical mainstay.
Theaterlife: After touring with Menopause the Musical for the past thirteen years, how does it continue to surprise you?
Megan Cavanagh: I don’t know that it surprises me anymore, but I still feel like the message that is brought to the audiences and the laughter that we provide is really healing for women who are going through the change.
TL: You have toured all around the world with Menopause, including places such as Singapore and Malaysia. Why do you think the show resonates so well with all audiences?
MC: Women are going through the change everywhere. We do parodies of 26 songs that we all grew up with, know and love, and the laughter that we help create lightens what we’re all going through. So many women have felt isolated in this, so it helps women know that they’re a part of a community. To be able to talk and laugh about it is extremely healing. It’s such a release for so many women, so I feel like I’m doing some real work in the world by being a part of it. The women that are in the audience feel like they’re a part of the sisterhood on the stage, so much so that they feel like they’re your friends, and they tell me personal stuff [after the show] that astounds me. It’s hilarious. It’s great to let women know that the best years of their life are not necessarily behind them, and that they have so much more to give to this earth. The show is a celebration, because these horrible sort of words come into your life at this time, like, “you’re a hag, you’re a crone, you’re old.” If I’m a crone, I’m an awesome crone. I don’t feel like any of those titles, but I’m a vibrant woman with a lot to contribute, even though I’m 56. We get lots of gals in the audience who are having their 50th birthday wearing boas and crowns, and they come in a limo with their girlfriends. They have a great time, and that’s what it should be. You’re still here. I had breast cancer in 2014, and I’m still here. Every birthday should be a joyous occasion.
TL: How do men respond to the show?
MC: They come in so reluctantly, they’re like, “Oh god, I’ve been dragged here.” You can see it in their faces. But they always leave smiling! Plus, they always leave educated. I’ve had many men come up to me and say, “I didn’t expect to have a good time, and I really did.”
TL: You have done a lot of theatre, in addition to all of your television, film and voiceover work. Which theatrical pieces stand out in your mind as being special experiences?
MC: I actually started in theatre. I played Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit at the Pasadena Playhouse. Then I ended up doing the musical version, High Spirits, in San Francisco. I’ve also done a lot of farces at Peninsula Players in Fish Creek, Wisconsin, which is the oldest resident theatre company in the United States. I’ve worked in Chicago theatre, in Laguna Beach, in San Francisco, Maine, and a lot more. I would love to do Broadway, that’s on my bucket list!
TL: What are the biggest challenges in finding good roles after having been so hugely successful in one as famous as Marla Hooch? One might think creative teams would pigeonhole your talent, especially after your success as Broomhilde in Mel Brooks’ 1993 parody, Robin Hood: Men in Tights.
MC: I do get pigeonholed in comedy. I don’t do a lot of drama. However, I don’t get pigeonholed necessarily in the characters of Marla and Broomhilde. I went undercover in Cole Porter’s Out of This World. When I worked with Tim Allen on For Richer or Poorer I played an Amish mom who he and Kirstie Alley came to live with, and then on Home Improvement I played a rich woman who married Al in the last episode. I get pigeonholed into comedy, but I’m really okay with that. It is my forte. I would love to do more dramatic work (and I did do it in my youth), but I’m okay with the way it is.
TL: If there was going to be an A League of Their Own sequel, what would we find Marla doing now?
MC: In the original film version that didn’t make the cut, Marla got traded to Racine to be near her husband Nelson, and she was a part of that last game. I would say that Marla coached and she probably had a child, as did I. I had a boy. I think she would really be helping girls with sports. Maybe she would have been a P.E. teacher. In the film, they had Marla leave the league in order to get married. She never would have left the league. I believe that she would be involved in baseball for the rest of her life. That was such an enormous passion for her.
TL: Marla set the tone and trajectory for your career. If she hadn’t come into your life and/or acting hadn’t panned out, what would we have found you doing now?
MC: If I hadn’t been an actor I would have been a midwife. I love babies and women, and I think that guiding new lives into the world is one of the greatest jobs anybody could have. I might have been helping the hearing impaired. I’ve always loved helping people, but acting has sort of been in front of all of that. I’ve been trying to help people through acting.
Tickets for Menopause the Musical are currently on sale, and can be purchased at http://bit.ly/Menopause_Musical or by calling the Box Office at (631) 207-1313. Visit TheGateway.org for more information.
Follow Iris Wiener on Twitter @Iris_Wiener or visit her at www.IrisWiener.com. Photo:Courtesy of Gateway Playhouse.