The Gustavian Weekly

Machinal—through the eyes on the stage

By Eric Larson Staff Writer | May 3, 2013 | Arts & Entertainment

The spring production Machinal will be the cherry on the sundae for this years Theatre and Dance Department. <em>Heidi Ide</em>

The spring production Machinal will be the cherry on the sundae for this years Theatre and Dance Department. Heidi Ide

On May 9-11 in Anderson Theater, the Gustavus Theater and Dance Department will close out the 2012-2013 theater season with a performance of Machinal, a play written by playwright Sophie Treadwell, a pioneering feminist from the 1920s, and directed by Professor in Theater and Dance Amy Seham .

The play is the story of Ruth Snyder, the first woman executed in the electric chair for the murder of her husband. The part will be played by Sophomore Kaitlin Juni.

The play’s perspective is through the eyes of Snyder as she struggles to find herself within the machinized pressures of society.

Machinal is an expressionist play, meaning that audience members are shown a world strictly through the eyes of one character. As opposed to realism which strives to demonstrate action as if the performance were real life,” Juni said.

Seham utilizes innovative designs with the use of nine large set pieces on wheels and large machines formed from human bodies to create an on-stage manifestation of the machinzed world in which Snyder lives. The play promises to deliver a “a smooth union of theater and physical theater, while having strong undercurrents of socially relevant issues to today,” Senior Actor and Choreographer Rush Benson said.

Benson is excited for the possibilites opened by expressionism.

“The most intriguing thing about this show is the liberties that can be taken within the realm of expressionism. We are able to break down the rules of realism and show heightened, distorted, and overtly physical manifestations of the internal process,” Benson said.

“It’s been a lot of fun for the cast to push the limits of our bodies and more fully discover all that they can do through this process,” Senior Actress Karla Leitzman said. “We are all constantly testing limits and pushing ourselves to develop. This forces us to be adaptable and think on our feet, an invaluable skill that is applicable to everything we do in life.”

The play took the efforts of over 60 Gustavus students, including a cast of 14.

“Creating Machinal has been a collaborative effort. The expressionist world of Machinal has required everyone to jump into a very unique world, a world where nothing is as it seems. Being new to the world of expressionism, it has been challenging, although exciting, to bring the abstract moments of Machinal to life in a truly meaningful way,” Juni said.

Machinal is the story of a woman who dared to be different, who dared to fight against the mechanical world in which she lived. It also reveals the consequences of living in a world which does not adapt, which is unwilling and unable to accept difference.”

Performances of Machinal will take place in Anderson Theatre at 8:00 p.m. May 9-11 and May 12 at 2:00 p.m. Tickets for all four performances are available online at or by calling the Gustavus Ticket Center at (507) 933-7590.

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