Play by Sarah Ruhl Challenges Victorian Era Conceptions of Science, Gender, and Relationships
Middlebury, VT—The Middlebury College Department of Theatre and Dance will present Sarah Ruhl’s Tony Award-nominated 2009 play “In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)” April 30–May 3 at the Mahaney Center for the Arts. An elegant comedy lit by unexpected sparks from the Victorian era of electricity, psychoanalysis, and suffragettes, “In the Next Room” confirms Ruhl’s status as one of the most imaginative contemporary American playwrights.
Set in the 19th century in a town much like Saratoga Springs, the play follows the work of Dr. Givings, who specializes in treating women for “hysteria” with the help of the latest technology: the electric vibrator. When a new patient piques Mrs. Givings’ curiosity about the groundbreaking treatment being administered by her husband in the next room, she is forced to confront the limits of her marriage and to listen to the music of her own body.
Associate Professor of Theatre Cláudio Medeiros ’90 will direct the production, featuring a cast and crew of nearly a dozen Middlebury College students. “Working on this play has been a great deal of fun because it’s a comedy, a romance, and it has very moving moments as well. It balances historical accuracy with flights of imagination. What we have learned about ‘hysteria’ and how doctors treated it in the 19th century is absolutely fascinating! ‘Hysteria’ was a common diagnosis in the Victorian era, with symptoms ranging from nervousness and insomnia, to shortness of breath and emotional instability. It took quite a bit of research for us to wrap our heads around just how little men (and women) understood female sexuality in that time. To the doctors treating ‘hysteria’, a paroxysm—their word for an orgasm—was not very different from, say, a sneeze. You can imagine how many laughs we have had along the way… Why do this play now? In the age we live in, where social media and virtual sex compete with embodied meaningful interactions, this play challenges us to rediscover a radical kind of intimacy—one that goes way beyond the physical—one that is deep, poetic, and transcendent.”
The cast of “In the Next Room” will include Matt Ball ’14, Mari Vial-Golden ’14, Katie Weatherseed ’16, Zachary Lounsbury ’16, Angeline Rodriguez ’16, Lana Meyer ’17, and Alexander Burnett ’16. Anne MacPherson ’16 is the stage manager, and Divesh Rizal ’17 and Gabrielle Owens ’17 are the assistant stage managers. The design team includes theatre faculty and staff members Hallie Zieselman (scenery); Mark Evancho (lighting); and Jule Emerson and Marcia Provoncha (costumes).
Due to adult language and content, this production is for mature audiences only.
“In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)” will be performed on Wednesday, April 30; Thursday May 1; Friday, May 2; and Saturday, May 3; at 7:30 P.M. each evening in the Seeler Studio Theatre of the Kevin P. Mahaney ’84 Center for the Arts. Tickets are $12 for the general public; $10 for Middlebury College faculty, staff, alumni, emeriti, and other ID card holders; and $6 for Middlebury College students. There will be a post-show discussion with the cast, director, and designers immediately following the Friday night performance. Rehearsals Cafe will offer beverages and light refreshments starting an hour before curtain, through intermission, and after the show each night. The Mahaney Center for the Arts is located at 72 Porter Field Road in Middlebury, just off Route 30 south. Free parking is available. For tickets or information, call (802) 443-MIDD (6433) or go to http://go.middlebury.edu/arts.
Required poster design credit: Poster design by Cheshire Isaacs for the world premiere production at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, January 2009
Photo credit: Middlebury students Mari Vial-Golden ’14, Matt Ball ’14, and Katie Weatherseed ’16; photo by Annie Ulrich ’13