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Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

Informing the  Berea and Baldwin Wallace University Communities Since 1913

The Exponent

‘In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play)’ explores female sexuality of late 1800s

BW Theatre and Dance to put on staged reading of Sarah Ruhl’s Tony Award-winning comedy.
Simon Skoutas
The Kleist Lobby Center for Art and Drama setup for the staged reading.

Baldwin Wallace University Theatre and Dance will explore female sexuality in their staged reading of “In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play),” premiering Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Kleist Lobby Center for Art and Drama. 

“In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)” is a comedy by Sarah Ruhl, first performed in 2009. The BW performers are bringing this comedy to Kleist on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Taking place during the nineteenth century amid the era’s burgeoning electricity innovation, the narrative delves into inquiries surrounding female sexuality. It follows the journey of a Victorian doctor who adopts the revolutionary electric vibrator as a remedy for “female hysteria.” Alongside his exploration, his young wife undergoes significant self-discovery, culminating in a tale where love emerges as the ultimate savior. 

Gioianna Digiorgio, a sophomore BFA acting student, plays the role of Catherine Givings in the staged reading. She describes her character as a “frustrated housewife.” 

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“She had just given birth to a daughter, but she doesn’t have enough milk to feed her, and she’s struggling with her sense of identity and womanhood,” DiGiorgio said. 

Digiorgio also said that the staged reading also involves the relationship between her and Dr. Givings. 

“The plot is about her trying to understand what love and connection mean to her and trying to reconnect with her husband because their relationship is cold,” Digiorgio said. “But, by the end of the play, they get to find each other again.” 

Andrew Timmins, a junior acting student, is playing the role of Dr. Givings in the staged reading who is working “in the next room.” 

“‘In the Next Room’ is a complicated story, in my opinion…The story is about a couple, many years ago, finding equal power and equal balance for them in their own house,” Timmins said. 

Timmins has also studied Ruhl’s roles in her plays before working on “In the Next Room” and noticed the symbolism in her plays. 

“Much of her symbolism goes towards modernizing things but not losing the story that she is telling. In the Next Room is a modern play that wouldn’t have happened long ago,” Timmins said. “But the story happened for hundreds of years; I would say 1000s of years.”  

Timmins said his favorite part about playing Dr. Givings is that while he is the antagonist for part of the show, he is not out of his own will to do wrong and that he likes that he has to be oblivious and ignorant but not malicious. 

“He is a loving and caring person and utterly oblivious to what is happening in his wife’s mind for most of the show,” Timmins said. “He doesn’t understand how to be in a successful, cooperative relationship.” 

Digiorgio said her favorite part of playing Givings is her willingness to connect to other people.  

“I am more of a shy person who has a hard time making the first move in conversation, but Catherine is right there,” Digiorgia said. “She’s excited to learn about other people while also loving to talk…I feel that’s something I can learn from her.” 

Digiorgio finds this role a unique experience from other roles she’s been in before because she can relate to her character’s journey. 

“I’m a little nervous because I feel, Like Mrs. Givings, I’m also on this journey of figuring out what sex means to me,” Digiorgio said. “I’ve always been somewhat uneasy with the subject, but I’m playing the part who’s also going through a similar state of questioning identity as I am… It’s very freeing in a way, but also pretty nerve-wracking.”

Production Stage Manager Cat Hughes, a senior stage manager student, said this is her second stage reading that they have the opportunity to stage manage this semester, with the staged reading prior being “Beyond Therapy.” 

“It’s my first time working with the director, Jessie Cope Miller, which has been a great pleasure. It’s always interesting to see how directors handle different shows. With a staged reading, we examine the text and its meaning. It’s been a lot of fun, and working with different periods is also a unique experience,” Hughes said. 

Hughes said how audience seating is designed can undoubtedly impact the setting of the staged reading. 

“We usually have it set up like any typical proscenium arch stage, with the actors positioned here and the audience there, unlike the various themes where people were intermingling, which is feasible for a staged reading,” Hughes said. “However, we maintain a clear line between audience and performer rather than having them wander around with binders. I believe it beautifully conveys the stories for the stage readings.” 

Lauren Berger, a sophomore BFA acting student, who reads the stage directions in “In the Next Room,” said her experience was unique because of the first rehearsal where they they worked with an intimacy coordinator.  

“Many of our actors have to perform sexual acts on stage, so having an intimacy coordinator is essential for ensuring that we all feel comfortable with what we’re doing. It’s been a unique experience thus far as this play navigates some sensitive territory,” Berger said. 

Berger said something that inspired her while reading the stage directions in this staged reading is recognizing that the process is fun.

“Keeping it very much on the light and sunny side, this play is a comedy. Of course, darker subjects and heavier moments occur throughout, but the overall tone is meant to be funny,” Berger said. 

A challenge that Berger has had with the staged reading is the uncomfortable nature of the text. 

“I’m overcoming this challenge with the idea that everyone in this cast is going through it together,” Berger said. “The fact that we have the professionals here to help us and guide us has been very helpful in overcoming the awkwardness.”

Digiorgio said she hopes the audience takes away the idea that nobody has all the answers. 

“I hope for anybody who can see themselves and their struggles with their idea of motherhood and what it means to be a mother in Catherine as well can know that they’re not alone in feeling this way and that these are answers that we never may find, but the search is all the more wonderful and what it means to be human,” Digiorgio said. 

Berger hopes that the audience will understand what people used to do back in the day, how they treated women and hysteria, and how nowadays that is seen differently. 

Hughes thinks one of the biggest lessons and themes within “In the Next Room” is trusting people you love and ensuring an open and transparent line of communication with them. 

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