In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) – Performing Arts Q&A

In The Next Room - Ryan West Photography
Nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony award for best play, In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play) is a comedy about marriage, intimacy, and electricity. Set in the 1880s at the dawn of the age of electricity and based on the bizarre historical fact that doctors used vibrators to treat ‘hysterical’ women (and some men), the play centers on a doctor and his wife and how his new therapy affects their entire household.

Director Tonia Sina, of Reduxion Theare’s In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) talks about the show, why she chosen to direct it, the show’s relevance, and why you should see it in this Performing Arts Q&A session.

What five words would you use to describe In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play)?
Clever, poignant, vulnerable, fun, “hysterical”

Why have you chosen to direct this show?
I chose In the Next Room (or the Vibrator play) because it’s one of my favorite plays, it’s a really challenging piece, and I wanted to bring it to the Reduxion Theatre Company and Oklahoma City Theatre scene. As an Intimacy Choreographer, I’m drawn to plays that have characters with chemistry and passion. Every one of the seven characters in this play have romantic feelings for at least one other character. There’s also a lot of sexual content controlled tightly by the buttoned up Victorian point of view. It’s about sexuality in a time of incredible conservative restraint. That gives me the opportunity to really push the boundaries while having a safety net of an era that we don’t regularly associate with a lot of sexuality.

Is there something about the current climate that makes this play especially relevant right now?
[pullquote-right]”In the ten years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen even the most “liberal” artists shy away from engaging their audiences with cursing, sexuality, or violence because they were afraid of the consequences.”[/pullquote-right]Absolutely. Oklahoma is one of the most conservative areas in the nation. It’s the Bible Belt! In the ten years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen even the most “liberal” artists shy away from engaging their audiences with cursing, sexuality, or violence because they were afraid of the consequences. But despite the era, this play was written in 2010. This is where theatre is going. The audience doesn’t get to sit back and passively observe new works any more. When you look at the new plays winning Tony’s (like this play) and other theatre awards, it’s stories that make you sit at the edge of your seat and think about a differing point of view that are taking off. We are pointing at stereotypes and using them to move forward instead of ignoring them. We are growing into an art form that requires the audience to engage emotionally, and I really want Oklahoma City to catch up. Sometimes I feel like we are missing out on the fun when I work in other cities and see what they are doing.

What are some unique aspects for your version?
The unique aspect of our production is the fact that we are producing it professionally in Oklahoma City, and as an Intimacy for the Stage Choreographer I’ve really made a directorial effort to guide and support each moment of intimacy with storytelling and meaning without being gratuitous. For the past ten years I have been attempting to establish new protocols for choreographing moments of intimacy for theatres to keep the work professional, and this production is the beginning of setting a new standard for this important topic. It’s essential that my ensemble feels safe and confident in all their choreography so the audience can just enjoy the message of the play and celebrate the discoveries of the characters.

What was the biggest challenge with this production?
The most difficult challenge has been explaining to people that the play isn’t merely shock material. The fact that the word “vibrator” is in the name of the play causes some to instantly be repelled, and that is the very issue the playwright addresses. The story is one of a curious new Victorian mother experiencing self-discovery in all manners of ways (physically, emotionally, sexually, and romantically). There are a lot of comedic takes and winks to the misunderstanding of women by men in the 1800’s, but audiences might just leave finding some relevance to the topic in modern society.

Behind the Scenes of In The Next Room - Ryan West Photography
How does your experience as an intimacy coach inform how you approach this play? Your direction?
[pullquote-right]”I use the lens of romance and chemistry to inform each of my actors how to engage with each other. We will be doing Intimacy exercises in the cast to really amp up the physicality of having to be so vulnerable with each other.”[/pullquote-right]Being an intimacy coach and choreographer informs everything I do when it comes to directing. The majority of my Intimacy work in Oklahoma City has been with Reduxion Theatre, so the chance to direct with them is exciting for me. Their audiences want to see new things and enjoy being pushed a little, and they have responded well to my work in the past (such as Les Liaisons Dangereuses). I use the lens of romance and chemistry to inform each of my actors how to engage with each other. We will be doing Intimacy exercises in the cast to really amp up the physicality of having to be so vulnerable with each other. There are so many different kinds of intimacy, some don’t even include touching, and I love the specificity of choreographing it safely. Every moment of physical contact is planned, explored, and orchestrated like a dance, and it is never improvised. My mission is always to keep my actors safe and comfortable when it comes to intimacy because when they are uncomfortable, the audience is too. If the audience is uncomfortable, that’s when you get complaints that shows were “too graphic” or “inappropriate.” I’m responsible for keeping my team and the audience safe, and I take that very seriously.

I’m really excited about the cast. I have some very seasoned performers, half of which have never appeared on Reduxion’s stage. They are excited about the play and ready to sink their teeth into these characters. I love bringing new people into the Oklahoma City Theatre scene. We have a lot of untapped talent in this city, and bringing fresh energy is always exciting.

Who should see this play?
Anyone (adult) who is a woman or loves one! The audience should be ready to see something new and trust that the actors are always safe. Sex can be funny and awkward at times, and there is comedy in awkward moments. This play celebrates the female body, mind, and spirit with honesty and truth in a time where women didn’t know about their own bodies. That being said, there is nudity and simulated sex in the show, so don’t bring your kids or anyone you wouldn’t bring to watch a rated R movie. I picked this play specifically with Reduxion’s audience in mind, and I think they will really enjoy it.


Dates:
Friday, June 3 @ 8 pm – OPENING NIGHT
Saturday, June 4 @ 8 pm
Sunday, June 5 @ 2 pm

Thursday, June 9 @ 8 pm
Friday, June 10 @ 8 pm
Saturday June 11 @ 8 pm
Sunday, June 12 @ 2 pm
Thursday, June 16 @ 8 pm
Friday, June 17 @ 8 pm
Saturday, June 18 @ 8 pm
Sunday, June 19 @ 2 pm

Thursday, June 23 @ 8 pm
Friday, June 24 @ 8 pm
Saturday, June 25 @ 2 pm
Saturday, June 25 @ 8 pm – CLOSING NIGHT

Where: The Civic Center Music Hall, 201 N. Walker Avenue, Oklahoma City, OK 73102
Venue: The CitySpace Theatre

Tickets:
$35 General Admission
$32 Seniors (62 & older)*
$32 Military (military ID + one)*
$32 RTC Patron (cardholder + one)*
$32 City Card (cardholder + one)*
$30 Matinees (All Matinees, All Tickets)
$20 TBT (ALL Thursdays, All Tickets)
$20 Students (student ID holder only)* (All Dates/Times)
$15 Student Rush (student ID holder only, available 60 min. before show time)*
*available at the box office only, must present ID
For tickets visit okcciviccenter.com or call 405-297-2264.

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Dennis Spielman

I'm Dennis Spielman, the Producer of Uncovering Oklahoma, which I started in 2009 as a way to show that Oklahoma isn't boring. As for about myself, I’m a creative person that writes imaginative stories. I also run The Show Starts Now Studios, which is my umbrella organization for all of my shows I create. Come join me on Patreon as I create content that adds adventure and wonder to peoples' lives. More about my stories and projects are at DennisSpielman.com

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