The UTEP theater department will end its semester with Sara Ruhl’s play “In the Next Room”.
Tony Award nominee for Best New Piece and Pulitzer Prize finalist, “In the Next Room” or The Vibrator Game “tells the story of the invention of the vibrator and its use as a medical treatment to cure women of “hysteria”. “
“We used to have this concept that women suffered from hysteria. This is not true, but it was a medical idea, and to treat the hysteria, they thought the proper thing to do was create paroxysms in women and they used wand vibrator alternatives to do it, and so Sarah Ruhl had a lot of fun playing with this story. Said Jay Stratton, assistant theater professor and director.
Set in the late 1800s during the Victorian era, this play is a strong appeal to feminism, as it deals heavily with female agency, according to Stratton.
“The main character is in an unsatisfying marriage and part of the reason the marriage is unsatisfactory is because of the sex life she has,” Stratton said. “One of the fundamental questions this play poses is that women like to have sex and they ask to have sex on her terms with her partner, as she likes it in a very repressive society.”
Joseph Fernandez, a major junior in the theater and lead actor, said the strong message of female empowerment in this play is widespread in society today.
“If you look back throughout history, women were submissive to men and recently with things with the ‘Me Too’ movement, I think this show is a big punch in that direction,” did he declare.
Stratton, who comes from a professional theater background with over 17 years of experience in the performing arts, has directed several shows at UTEP, including “Medea” “Bloody Shakespeare”, “Sister Act” and “Dead Man’s Cell Phone,” which was also written by Ruhl.
Finding the right cast and preparing the actors to build their characters is crucial to the development of a play, as well as the many other technical elements that build the play. In February, Stratton began putting the show together to give production and cast time to end the final show of the season on a positive note.
“I’ve been rehearsing every evening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. for several months. In a professional environment the rehearsal period is three and a half weeks maximum and he rehearses six or seven hours a day, and in an academic environment we rehearse much longer but for shorter times, Monday to Friday every evenings. These people don’t have a weekend, ”Stratton said.
How long the rehearsal process could be, according to Mariana Baidon, a second-year theater major with a concentration in musical theater, and the actress who plays Ms. Givings, said the process was what she enjoyed the most.
“There isn’t a day that I haven’t had at least one laugh (during rehearsals). How you start to bond with these people whether you share the whole piece with them or not, the performances are pretty fun too, but I think forming those connections and discovering these stories is what I enjoyed the most ” , she said.
A strong supporter of the audition process, Stratton says that when it’s time to choose actors for the play, he looks for students whose core of their personality aligns with the core of the character, in addition to their skills of actor.
“I get to know students through classwork and other shows, and we also have an audition process and you have to trust that audition process. There were people who I thought would be really good on the show and when they came to the audition they had the material, they had time to prepare the material, they came in, made the material and have not worked. he said. “It doesn’t mean they are bad actors, but they weren’t connecting with the material. For some reason it doesn’t work, and you have to trust this process. “
Before moving to Texas, Stratton spent 17 years in New York City as a professional actor, which gave him the experience and knowledge to be successful in the area to later become a theater teacher and share his experience with his students.
Lead stage actor and actor Nick Thomas said he really enjoys working with Stratton because it’s always interesting to see how he helps actors discover things about the character themselves.
Fernandez, who plays Dr Givings, added that Stratton has always had an interesting way to make rehearsals fun and productive.
“It helps you as an actor and your rehearsal process to grow and discover so many great things,” Fernandez said.
“In the Next Room” will take place April 27 through May 6 at the Wise Family Theater, located on the second floor of the Fox Fine Arts Center.
“This play is intriguing, is funny, is obviously mature content, so you can’t bring your kids to the play, but it’s awfully romantic,” Stratton said. “It’s a beautiful play because I promise you that you will laugh, laugh and laugh, but also be very moved. If you want to see vibrators in action in a comedic but tasteful way, this is a good show for it. “
Tickets can be purchased at the Fox Fine Arts Center box office.