Kenyon students will present “Machinal,” a landmark of the expressionist theater movement, on Thursday, Jan. 31, Friday, Feb. 1, and Saturday, Feb. 2, at 8 p.m. in the Bolton Theater.
“Machinal,” which means automatic or mechanical in French, was written by Sophie Treadwell in 1928. It centers around a woman’s journey of finding her identity in a patriarchal world and explores the conditions of society that would drive a woman to commit murder. Treadwell was inspired by the real court case of Ruth Snyder, who was convicted for the murder of her husband and was executed in the electric chair. Snyder’s case became highly sensationalized after a reporter snuck a camera into the execution chamber and a photograph of her death appeared in the New York Daily News.
“Treadwell used an expressionist style to tell this story by examining how societal expectations of women create situations in which they could feel trapped and unhappy,” said Kit Fluharty ’19, a drama major and assistant director of the production. “Expressionist theater is typically based on the idea that society is a machine; for example, in ‘Machinal’ all characters are listed by their job or just as ‘Man’ or ‘Mother,’ instead of having names. The central character of the play is attempting to break out of the societal machine, and I’ll leave it up to the audience to decide whether she is successful in doing so.”
Associate Professor of Drama Anton Dudley, who directs the production, noted that the entire cast is excited to bring to life this project, which has been in the works since late October. “The play passionately questions social systems with creativity, intelligence, experience and a relentless pursuit of truth. It weds the contemporary to the historic, the metaphorical to the actual, and demands engagement and response,” Dudley said.
With the timing of the play and academic calendar, rehearsals have spanned Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
“We have broken our rehearsal process up to be: Foundation, Exploration, Refinement. I think it’s great to have these breaks in the middle, to step away from the work at different stages to reflect and take stock and rethink or re-conceive moments, as necessary,” Dudley said. “Additionally, it allows the performers time to do their work outside of rehearsal and internalize all the things we have played with in the room.”
Delilah Draper ’22, from Brooklyn, New York, plays the protagonist Helen Jones. “I instantly connected with this character,” Draper said. “The way that she goes about facing these really important questions of identity mixed with this abstract, very creative nature I think will appeal to the ways in which Kenyon students are encouraged to think.”
Tickets are $7.50 for general admission, and for groups of 10 or more, $5. Tickets are $4 for seniors, non-Kenyon students and children under 12, and $2 for Kenyon students. To reserve tickets, contact the box office at 740-427-5546.