More photos from Jim Bush Photography
Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal was first produced in 1928. The play features a plot ripped from the headlines of the time—a distraught marriage, a brutal crime, legal spectacle, and decisive punishment. However, Treadwell’s play avoids the possibly lurid and sentimental aspects of such a narrative by embracing an expressionistic aesthetic. Expressionism in theatre traces its roots to the early 1900s when it found a foothold on European and then US stages as a stark and often furious reaction to industrialization, the first World War, and life that was increasingly hurried, automated, and alienated.
In some instances, Treadwell pokes fun at the social games and constructs that shape day to day life. On the whole, however, Treadwell’s play highlights the effects of oppressive social mechanisms and gender roles through the struggles of her protagonist. Indeed, at once a specific person and perhaps standing in for many others, the lead character is simply named Young Woman. Like the other characters who are named for their social functions (Nurse, Filing Clerk, Jailor, etc.), Young Woman finds herself trapped by her job, her relationships, and society itself.
The play consists of nine distinct episodes. In each of the episodes, Young Woman is played by a different actor. Likewise, all recurring and other characters are played by different actors, at times regardless of gender. These roles are indicated by simple costume accessories: a headband for Young Woman, a tie for Jones, a bandana for the Lover, a shawl for Mother, etc. The actors sit onstage for the duration of the play, ready to step into these dramatic and social personas, sometimes voicing the inner life of Young Woman through sound and song. The world of the play expresses the suffocating and often jarring experience of Young Woman as she desperately tries to break free.
In addition to their performance work, all of the ensemble members participated in a design team that imagined, crafted, and built the various technical elements for the production. Members of design teams worked in consultation with the director and assistant director to use the resources and materials at hand to create the world of the play.
Program & Poster Design