Return with us to the days of horses, buggies, corsets and bustles. In this age of electricity a handy new instrument to treat “hysteria” has Dr. Givings’ patients all aglow and his young wife very curious. Whatever is it? Contains adult themes. A 2010 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award nominee for best play.
“A SEX COMEDY WITH A HEAD ON ITS SHOULDERS AND A HEART ON ITS SLEEVE.” – Washington City Paper
Dr. Givings, a man in his forties, a specialist in gynecological and hysterical disorders.
Mrs. Catherine Givings, his wife, a woman in her late twenties.
Mrs. Daldry, his patient, a woman in her early thirties.
Annie, a woman in her late thirties, Dr. Givings’ midwife assistant.
Leo Irving, Dr. Givings’ other patient, an Englishman in his twenties or thirties. A painter.
Elizabeth, an African-American woman in her early thirties. A wet-nurse by default.
Mr. Daldry, Sabrina Daldry’s husband, a man in his forties or fifties.
* Denotes a member of Actors Equity, the union for professional stage actors and stage managers.
Assistant Stage Manager/Intern
Kristin Von Heinzemeyer
Maclare “MC” Park
* Denotes a member of Actors Equity, the union for professional stage actors and stage managers.
SARAH RUHL's plays include In The Next Room (or the vibrator play); The Clean House (Pulitzer Prize finalist, 2005; Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, 2004); Passion Play, a cycle (Pen American Award, Fourth Freedom Forum Playwriting Award from the Kennedy Center); Dead Man's Cell Phone (Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play); Melancholy Play; Demeter in the City (nine NAACP Image Award nominations); Eurydice; Orlando; and Late: a cowboy song. Her plays have premiered at Lincoln Center Theater, the Goodman Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage, Arena Stage, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Yale Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Cornerstone Theater, Madison Repertory Theatre and the Piven Theatre Workshop, and have been produced across the country. Her plays have also been produced internationally and translated into Polish, Russian, Spanish, Norwegian, Korean, German and Arabic. Originally from Chicago, Ms. Ruhl received her MFA from Brown University, where she studied with PaulaVogel. In 2003, she was the recipient of the Helen Merrill Emerging Playwrights Award and the Whiting Writers' Award. She is a member of 13P and New Dramatists and won the MacArthur Fellowship in 2006. She is a recent recipient of the PEN CenterAward for a mid-career playwright .
Sarah Ruhl on her playwriting:
I'm interested in human stories, and in telling stories from a woman's point of view. I think male writers are capable of writing with androgyny. And I think male audiences are fully capable of seeing things from a woman's point of view, just as women can identify with or empathize with Hamlet and King Lear. But the more women we have writing more plays, the more multifaceted our stories will be.
Sarah Ruhl on IN THE NEXT ROOM OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY:
I have always wanted to write a costume drama. With corsets, bustles and gloves. I’ve also always been fascinated by what the nineteenth century novel did not dare show, what it pointedly left out. In the 19th-century novel, no one has sex, no one goes to the bathroom, and certainly, no one uses a vibrator. But I was amazed to find, after reading Rachel Maines’ revelatory book, The Technology of Orgasm, that many women (and a few men) were treated with electric vibratory massage to ameliorate the symptoms of hysteria. What perhaps stunned me even more was that gynecologists and psychiatrists had used the “manual treatment” before this remarkable new invention came out, at the dawn of electricity
Though the vibrator may have been the play’s starting point, ultimately I’m more interested in the relationships that expand around the device, and the whole notion of compartmentalization, of what goes on “in the next room”—literally, in the room next to the living room where the vibrations take place, but also in the next room of other people’s minds, and bodies. To what extent does marriage imply a “next room”?
Ultimately it is the silence between people, and how they manage to shatter it, that draws me to these characters. And I think as sophisticated as we moderns are, we certainly understand silence between people—and the comedy (or tragedy) that results when two people in adjacent rooms are unable or unwilling to speak.
All info below courtesy of Dawn Moore, Dramaturg, San Diego Repertory Theatre
A Women’s place at the end of the 19th century
• 1870 – The 15th Amendment is approved, stating that the right to vote cannot be denied due to race or color. Denying the vote to women is still deemed acceptable (and it will be another 50 years before the 19th Amendment is ratified).
• 1890 - Wyoming is admitted to the Union as the first state that allows women to vote. 3 more states grant the vote to women by the end of the century.
• Women obtain about 19% of all college undergraduate degrees, and about 5% of doctors are women. “Acceptable” jobs were teaching, writing, domestic work, and factory work.
• Women lost custody of her children upon divorce.
• Women could not obtain credit.
Learning to Be A Victorian Lady
• Victorian-era women of "class and breeding" – trying to achieve the domestic “ideal” – turned to a wide variety of publications, such as “Good Housekeeping” and “Ladies’ Home Journal” -- to learn the womanly arts of:
• Proper Housekeeping
• Meal preparation
• Family Upkeep
You’ve come a Long way Baby… Yet…
• Right to Sexuality
• Employment Opportunities
• Reproductive Rights / Birth Control
• Access to Credit
• Educational Opportunities
• Participation in Sports
• Obstacles and Challenges
• Juggling of Career and Motherhood
• Expectations around role of motherhood
• Not yet full participation by men in domestic chores
• The myth of “you can have it all”
• Feminism grants “individual choice” but no easy answers
• Hyper-feminism for younger generation (around body image & fashion & sexual standards)
The history of vibrators: 1860-1906
From the Antique Vibrator Museum website
Vibrators were used exclusively by doctors up until around 1900. The first of such devices was made in 1869, when American physician George Taylor patented the first steam-powered massage and vibratory apparatus. Unfortunately, their use was exclusive -- the units were costly to manufacture, difficult to move and marketed for use by spas and physicians only.
In 1880 the first battery-operated vibrator was designed by British physician Joseph Mortimer Granville and manufactured by the Weiss Co. Like their present-day counterparts, these battery-operated vibes were less expensive and easier to move and manipulate than their predecessors.
By 1900 more than a dozen manufacturers began producing both battery-powered vibrators and models that operated from line electricity. In the newly electrified home, women were avid consumers of electrical appliances. First electrified was the sewing machine, then the fan, the tea kettle, the toaster, and the vibrator.
During the turn of the century, vibrators began to be marketed as home appliances and were widely advertised in household publications such as Modern Woman and Woman's Home Companion. Their ads were legendary, promoting such claims as "Relieves All Suffering. Cures Disease." Another great ad boasted, "Invented by a woman who knows a woman's needs."
By 1906 the American Vibrator Co. of St. Louis was one of several advertising regulars with similarly memorable copy, suggesting to women that the "American Vibrator ... can be used by yourself in the privacy of dressing room or boudoir, and furnish every woman with the essence of perpetual youth."
“Sarah Ruhl challenges us to understand the past and how it resonates with our lives today; she asks us profound questions about the way we live and how the course of history has brought us to our current moment.” – Alexis Gargagliano, Editor, “Lincoln Center Theater Review”
A Victorian Lady’s Proper Demeanor
Excerpted from “Keeping Hearth and Home in Old Massachusetts: A Practical Primer for Daily Living,” copyright 2001 by Carol Padgett.
1. Carry Yourself With Grace. The beauties of the charming picture framed by one's dress are enhanced by moving with grace. To walk with style is rare enough, but when it comes to being able to sit down in a dress properly -- well, there are not many equal to that, I can tell you.
2. Keep Your Arms From Going Astray. A question often comes up, not so easily answered: What shall I do with my hands and arms? Some ladies carry a fan. But you cannot always have one in your hands, so it is better to keep the arms pressed lightly against the sides in walking or sitting. This position for the hands, although a little stiff at first, will soon become easy and graceful. Ladies should never adopt the ungraceful habit of folding their arms or of placing them akimbo.
3. Be Graceful in Your Manners. A lady should be quiet in her manners, natural and unassuming in her language, careful to wound no one's feelings, but giving generously and freely from the treasures of her pure mind to her friends. She should scorn no one openly but have a gentle pity for the unfortunate, the inferior, and the ignorant, at the same time carrying herself with an innocence and singleheartedness that disarm ill nature and win respect and love from all. Such a lady is a model for her sex, the "bright particular star" on which men look with reverence. The influence of such a woman is a power for good that cannot be overestimated.
4. Limit Your Observations. A boisterous, loud-talking man is disagreeable enough, but a woman who falls into the habit is almost unendurable. Many times have we seen an inoffensive husband tucked completely out of sight by the superabundant flow of volubility proceeding from a wife, who, we like to believe, is by nature intended to be the gentler and restraining element.
5. Be Not Excessively Frank. Do not take pride in offensively expressing yourself on every occasion under the impression that you will be admired for your frankness. Speaking one's mind is an extravagance, which has ruined many a person.
6. Always Accept Apologies. Only ungenerous minds will not do so. If one is due from you, make it unhesitatingly.
7. Listen. When a "tale of woe" is poured into your ears, even though you cannot sympathize, do not wound by appearing indifferent. True politeness decrees that you shall listen patiently and respond kindly.
8. Laugh at the Appropriate Time. Don't laugh when a funny thing is being said until the climax is reached. Do not laugh at your own wit; allow others to do that.
9. Kiss Sparingly. Many times a contagious disease has been conveyed in a kiss. The kiss is a seal of pure and earnest love and should never be exchanged save between nearest and dearest friends and relatives. Indeed, public sentiment and good taste decree that even among lovers it should not be so often indulged in as to cause any regret on the part of the lady should an engagement chance to be broken off. Let promiscuous kissing, then, be consigned to the tomb of oblivion.
10. Use Tact When Admonishment Is Necessary. Tact is needed in a friend to show us our weaknesses; also with employers and parents. How many do harm instead of good in their manner of rebuking, sounding instead of rousing the self-respect of those they reprimand!
11. Refrain From Eyeing Over Other Women. Few observant persons can have failed to notice the manner in which one woman, who is not perfectly well-bred or perfectly kind-hearted, will eye over another woman, whom she thinks is not in such good society and, above all, not at the time being in so costly a dress as she herself is in. Who cannot recall hundreds of instances of that sweep of the eye, which takes in a glance the whole woman and what she has on from to-knot to shoe-tie. It is done in an instant. No other evidence than this eyeing is needed that a woman, whatever be her birth or breeding, has a small and vulgar soul.
12. Treat Enemies Kindly. If you have an enemy and an opportunity occurs to benefit the person in matters great or small, do good service without hesitation. If you would know what it is to feel noble and strong within yourself, do this secretly and keep it secret. A person who can act thus, will soon feel at ease anywhere. If enemies meet at a friend's house, lay aside all appearance of animosity while there and meet on courteous terms.
13. Greet Friends With Discretion. A lady does not call out to friends or inquire after their health in a boisterous fashion. Ladies do not rush up to each other and kiss effusively. It is a foolish practice for ladies to kiss each other every time they meet, particularly on the street. It is positively vulgar; a refined woman shrinks from any act that makes her conspicuous. Such practice belongs rather to the period of "gush" natural to very young girls and should be discouraged on physiological grounds, if no other.
“The ideas underpinning the play, about the fundamental lack of sympathy between men and women of the period, and the dubious scientific theories that sometimes reinforced women’s subjugation, are serious. In the Next Room illuminates with a light touch — a soft, flickering light rather than a moralizing glare — how much control men had over women’s lives, bodies and thoughts, even their most intimate sensations.” – The New York Times (November 2009)
“In the Next Room is a true novelty: a sex comedy designed not for sniggering teenage boys — or grown men who wish they were still sniggering teenage boys — but for adults with open hearts and minds.” – The New York Times (November 2009)
“Ruhl tells a ripping fine story.” – Chicago Theatre Beat (September 2011)
“Ruhl, who explored religion and power in Passion Play and mortality in Dead Man’s Cell Phone, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award for In the Next Room, and rightly so—her meditations on sexual mores and societal oppression have a light enough touch to be thoughtful and raucously funny. But her forte within this play seems to be making us wonder how human beings managed to survive so long while being so unbelievably clueless.” – Washingtonian magazine (September 2011)
Sunday, November 13
This season's dates:
October 28, 2011