SNOWFLAKE/TAYLOR – What drove Ruth Snyder, a seemingly innocuous Long Island housewife, to conspire with her lover, Judd Gray, to murder her husband?
The murder trial created a media frenzy that did not abate until the electric chair executions of the two defendants in January 1928. Snyder was the first woman executed in New York State in the 20th century.
The trial became a springboard for playwright Sophie Treadwell’s own speculations about what circumstances might have driven Snyder to commit such a violent crime. The result is an expressionist drama titled Machinal, which has become Treadwell’s greatest critical success.
Northland Pioneer College Performing Arts Director Dr. Mike Solomonson selected Machinal as the spring play, enlisting the assistance of St. Johns Welding students in constructing a portion of the set and Film & Digital Video students to pre-record some scenes which will be projected as part of the play.
Performances of Treadwell’s play will be at 7 p.m. on April 27, 28 and 29, with an additional Saturday matinee at 2 p.m., at the NPC Performing Arts Center on the Snowflake/Taylor – Silver Creek Campus, 1611 S. Main St. Tickets are $6 in advance, or $8 on the day of the performance. A $1 discount is available for senior citizens (60+), and NPC students and staff. For advanced tickets, call the PAC Box Office, 536-6250, or reserve online. The play does contain a small amount of mild adult language.
Treadwell divided Machinal into nine scenes, each of which depicts, according to the play's stage directions, “the different phases of life that a woman comes in contact with, and in none of which she finds any place, any peace.”
The social institutions or environments that define expectations for women's behavior are reflected in the titles of the scenes: “To Business,” “At Home,” “Honeymoon,” “Maternal,” “Prohibited,” “Intimate,” “Domestic,” “The Law,” and “The Machine.” The play uses lengthy monologues by the central character of the Young Woman, portrayed by Cassie Spaulding, snippets of overheard dialogue and an extensive network of sound effects.
Other cast members include: Chandon Fish as Husband; David Messer as Lover; Judy Pearson as Mother/Court Reporter; Holly Whitmire as Prosecuting Lawyer/Ensemble; Ashley Nudson as Stenographer/Ensemble; Mariah Moore as Telephone Clerk/Priest; Miracle Bumgarner as Filing Clerk/Ensemble; Sam Whitmire as Nurse/Ensemble; Jim Hilton as Adding Clerk/Judge/Ensemble; and Lisa Jayne as Defense Lawyer and Assistant Director.
Other Ensemble members include: Mitchell Armer, Kae Baber, Andre McEntire, Samantha Neff and Morgan Teigh.
Kim Baber is the production's stage manager, with Teresa Wise as sound technician. NPC Film & Digital Audio professor Mark Ford is directing the pre-recorded film portion of the play. PAC Facilities Technician Patrick Day is the lighting designer.
Students assisting with the video recording include: Anthony Marietta, Stuart Holmes, Brigitte Byrom, Dustin Burson, Mark Strango and Kathalena Strango.
Welding students who donated time to work on a portion of the set designed by NPC St. Johns Welding instructor Frank Pinnell include: Theron Wood, Bradley Brown, Christina Caballero, Cresencio Jaramillo, Colter Leslie, Sydney Miller and Grant Winters.
Also, Brandt Newby, Rio Raycovitz, Nick Rodriquez, David Kirk, Jakob Palmer, Danielle Grimsley and A. J. Sherril.
And, Mason Turney, Markas Adams, Elijah Ballard, Maqulia Begaye, Dalton Delor, Colby Hyer, Damien Myers and Jarrod Padilla.
Treadwell's innovative style drew praise from critics when the play first premiered on Broadway in September 1928. Noted drama critic Oliver M. Sayler, writing in Footlights and Lamplights, described Machinal as “one of the first [plays] by an American dramatist successfully to merge expressionist form and expressionist content,” and in doing so “frequently touches more startling heights and lucid vision than Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones and Strange Interlude.”
Machinal was also produced internationally, including productions in Russia. Treadwell actually traveled to Russia for the production and was the first American dramatist to receive production royalties from the Soviet Union. The play aired on American television in 1954 and 1960, and was produced off-Broadway in 1960. The work was revived by the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1990 and has received numerous productions since.
Treadwell spent the later years of her life in Tucson, donating her papers to the University of Arizona and her copyrights to Tucson's Roman Catholic Diocese. All production royalties are used for the education of Native American children.
Questions about Machinal performances can be directed to Performing Arts Department Chair Dr. Mike Solomonson at 536-6217.
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