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MailTribune.com
  • ANPF presents 'In the Next Room'

  • The Ashland New Plays Festival opens its 23rd season with a dramatic reading of Sarah Ruhl's "In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)," a biting examination of how a shocking new medical "device" changes a Victorian era couple's view of sex, love and the relationship between husbands and wives.
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    • If you go
      What: "In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)
      When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 28
      Where: Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland
      Tickets: $15
      See: www.ashlandnewsplays.org
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      If you go
      What: "In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)

      When: 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 28

      Where: Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland

      Tickets: $15

      See: www.ashlandnewsplays.org
  • The Ashland New Plays Festival opens its 23rd season with a dramatic reading of Sarah Ruhl's "In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)," a biting examination of how a shocking new medical "device" changes a Victorian era couple's view of sex, love and the relationship between husbands and wives.
    Ruhl's funny and provocative play will have a one-time reading at 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 28, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Tickets cost $15 and are available at Paddington Station and at www.ashlandnewplays.org.
    "In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)," recounts the story of a young doctor using a new and radical electrical medical instrument to treat the symptoms of what was commonly referred to as "female hysteria." His wife's curiosity about the sounds she hears coming from "in the next room"— and her secret experiments with the instrument — lead her and other characters in the play to unexpected discoveries about desire, sexual pleasure, marriage and intimacy.
    The ANPF production came about when Artistic Director Doug Rowe asked Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Kate Hurster if she would consider performing a reading for the group and what play she thought ANPF might do. Hurster suggested "In the Next Room." She had heard good things about a recent production of the play at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa, Calif. Rowe read the play and agreed.
    "In the Next Room" has been successfully produced on Broadway, was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and was nominated for three Tony Awards.
    The dramatic reading is directed by OSF actor Emily Sophia Knapp. The cast includes OSF performers Hurster, Mark Bedard, Al Espinosa, Barret O'Brien, Britney Simpson, Erica Sullivan, Rachael Warren and Kjerstine Rose Anderson.
    Ruhl said she found her inspiration for "In the Next Room" in accounts of late 19th-century doctors using vibrators for what was thought to be a peculiarly female ailment and what their patients thought of the sensations they were experiencing.
    "In terms of the sexuality, I was aiming less for self-consciousness than for a kind of innocence," Ruhl said in a 2009 interview, shortly before the play opened on Broadway. "In some ways, people then were innocent of sexuality compared to the biological knowledge we've acquired about the subject since. I didn't want the play to be too knowing."
    Ruhl said in that interview that she used "The Vibrator Play" as a working title for a long time but was never satisfied with it. She found it misleading because "the play is not a sex farce about vibrators."
    "So I changed the title to 'In the Next Room,' with 'or the vibrator play' as the subtitle," Ruhl said. "I know that some people will still refer to the play by its subtitle. Subtitles are very 19th century, and a lot of great novels from that period have them."
    "In the Next Room (the vibrator play)" premiered at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre in February 2009 and moved to Broadway later that year. The play has since been produced in London, Australia and regional theaters across the United States.
    Ruhl's play "Dead Man's Cellphone" was produced at OSF in 2009.
    Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.
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