Machinal is about a woman trapped under the male gaze, whose life is exploited in order to sell her story. At its heart, the play is about the appropriation of femininity, the female body, and the female life. During the design process I thought about Ruth Snyder, a woman who Sophie Treadwell wrote about as a journalist and who the play is loosely inspired by. Ruth Snyder was found guilty and executed for the murder of her husband in the 1920's. At the same time, a play about sexy murderess, Chicago, was thriving on broadway. During her trial, journalists picked away at her under a microscope and appropriated her story to sell newspapers. On the day of her her execution, a journalist managed to sneak a camera in and snap a photograph of Snyder at the moment of her electrocution. The following day her photograph was selling everywhere.
The execution is the biggest moment of exploitation in the play and I wanted that to be the basis of my design. I thought about Ruth Snyder being photographed and the process of that exploitation which, in this case, is camera obscura. My design is inspired by the optical phenomenon of camera obscura. The set consists of a large enclosed space with a camera like interior and highly textured walls where upside-down images are to be projected in some scenes.
Preliminary Artistic Responses:
Main character, Helen Jones
The world of the play
Episode Seven: Domestic