machinal by sophie Treadwell

Galvin Playhouse, School of Film, Dance, and Theatre, Arizona State University, October 2007.

Machinal, premiering on Broadway in 1928, is loosely based on the sensational 1927 murder trial of Ruth Snyder. Treadwell uses this scenario as a springboard for her own speculations about what circumstances might drive a seemingly harmless stenographer to commit murder. Ruth Snyder was the first woman to die in Sing Sing’s electric chair since Martha Place in 1899.  My vision for Machinal was to blend German Expressionist and Russian Constructivist aesthetics from the 1920s and 1930s with a contemporary, post-modern, futuristic edge. Working with state of the art media technology and embedded surveillance cameras, we sought to capture the idea of surveillance within the panopticon, of Helen being trapped in a world in which she is perpetually being watched. Buckles, corsets, gloves, goggles, and binding attire physically confined the actors to create a world reminiscent of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis with a 1920s silhouette, yet retaining a contemporary look.  

Production Team

Directed by Rachel Bowditch

Media Design by Muriel Magenta

Live Video Projection by Michael Matthews

Lighting Design by Tamar Geist

Set Design by Siau Yee Ho

Sound Design by Travis Jauraqi

Costume Design by Connie Furr


Caitlyn Conlin, Kane Anderson, Katie Herhoff, Elizabeth Widmer, John Caswell, Nick Broderick, Brittany Schoenborn, Shae Daly, Philip Zisman, and Kerry Wieder.