Design Statement:

      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


Selected Storyboards:

Episode One: Business


Episode Three: Honeymoon

Episode Four: Maternity

Episode Six: Intimate

The set cracks open for light to spill through. While the fabric in this scene evokes a feeling of intimacy, it is a motif that is repeated at the end of the play.


Episode Seven: Domestic

Episode Eight: The Law

Episode Nine: A Machine

The box motif is carried throughout the play and is ultimately where Young Woman is executed.

Episode Nine: A Machine

Before the Young Woman's execution, a cloth falls over her, black out, and the flash of a camera is her electrocution.