Maddy Wolfenbarger ‘22 as Young Woman and Raul Galvan ‘21 as Man 1 in Machinal. Image courtesy of Landin Eldridge ‘21

Sophie Danish ‘22 (she/her)

Sophie: So you are directing Machinal, a play written by Sophie Treadwell in 1928. How did you become involved with this project?

Caroline: We’re in a class called “Collaboration in Theatre” with six people: three designers and three directors for our final project. We had the choice to decide if we wanted to do individual shows, or if we wanted to try something different. And this year, we decided to do something different, which is direct one show between six directors. We took this show, Machinal, and we divided it into three sections. The first three episodes of the show (they’re called episodes, not scenes) I’ll be directing. James is tasked with the middle three. And Lily McCalla [‘23] is tasked with the last three. We are designing these three sections of the show with our own designers. My designer is Zoe Harrison [’21]. James’s designer is Landin Eldridge [‘21], and Lily’s is Clare Harbin [‘23]. We ended up picking this project because we were having a lot of trouble deciding on a play. We ended up with three choices that we were looking at. This ended up being the one that everyone wanted to do. This was the one that everyone agreed had potential for all the members of our Collaboration class.

James: It’s actually kind of funny. Caroline and I hated one of the plays, and the rest of the class hated the play that we loved. This play is the one that everybody was just okay with, and that we all settled for. We thought that the conventional one act play structure for this class had been tired out. So, we decided to do something new, which was direct one full-length show.

Sophie: For readers, could you provide a brief synopsis of the plot?

James: A woman is fed up with modern society. So, she kills her husband.

Caroline: I would say a woman is looped into how society works, and she feels obliged to marry a man that she doesn’t love and ends up killing him as a last resort. It’s based on a true story from a woman and her lover who murdered her husband together. On the second page of the script, Sophie Treadwell writes, “the plot is the story of a woman who murdered her husband, an ordinary young woman, any woman.”

Sophie: So, Caroline explained that you ended up choosing the play as kind of a compromise. But was there something about this play that initially interested you?

James: I didn’t actually love it on my first read of the play. On the first read of the play, you see the machine; You see, you know, everything that is wrong. But on the second read of the play, you see the hope inside of it. It’s hidden deep down inside. But there are just crazy moments of beauty. So it starts out really pessimistic, but if you look at it more closely, it’s quite optimistic.

Caroline: One of the things I always look for in a play is: where’s the love? That’s a big theater thing. I’ve read it before prior to this class, and I always liked it. I never disliked it. I always was very amicable towards it. But on my second, third, and subsequent reads, and now that I’m directing it, I began to find these moments of love and joy within the show. And as James said, I found hope, which I think is beautiful.

Sophie: How has the experience of having three directors influenced some of the directorial choices you’ve made?

James: I’ve got no clue what Caroline and Lily are doing. I’m very excited to see what they’re doing. But I haven’t let it affect me very much.

Caroline: Yes, part of the idea and the thesis for this project, I think, is that we all direct it our own way. And how it comes together in the end is going to show all these different perspectives of the same story. And it shows how in one story, you can interpret it so many different ways.

Sophie: And how did you go about the casting process?

James: Actors are not entirely in abundant supply during COVID. People are not entirely sure what they’re going to get when they audition for a theater show these days. So, we struggled with finding enough people for this show. That being said, we found plenty of really talented actors. 

Sophie: Is it the same actor for each episode?

Caroline: No, they’re all different. Even though there are the same characters in the three sections, they’re played by different actors in our version. So, each director has their own unique cast for their section of the play, kind of further contributing to this idea of a different interpretation of the same story.

James: Different casting choices for the same roles are going to come out with entirely different performances. For our lead, the young woman, we have one sophomore, one junior, and one senior, and they’re all just going to give us totally different performances.

Sophie: And lastly, when and how will we be able to watch the play?

James: The in-person audience is only going to be about 26 people. There will be two shows: Tuesday and Wednesday, on the 27th and 28th of April in the Barber Theatre in Cunningham. And due to copyright reasons, it’s not going to be live streamed. It might be recorded, but only for archival purposes.

Sophie: Thank you so much.

Sophie Danish ‘22 (She/Her) is a History Major and Art Minor from Bethesda, Maryland. She can be reached for comment at sodanish@davidson.edu.