By Shannon Hoyt —
Have you ever been curious to know what is happening in the next room?
Just a short drive away, the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire Department of Music and Theatre Arts is preparing for their production of “In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play.”
A production for mature audiences, the UW–Eau Claire cast brings to life the history of a device known by many names, but often referred to as the vibrator.
“[In the Next Room] is set in the 1890s in a resort town in the state of New York. It is about the introduction of electricity into private residences for the first time. And it is about racism in America in this moment in history,” said director and UW–Eau Claire Associate Professor, Jennifer Chapman. “Finally, I would say it is quite a lot about the diagnosis and treatment of hysteria in women in the latter half of the 19th century. Hysteria was, for a long time, sought to be an illness that women would develop when their womb would wander throughout the body.”
A comedic production, the storyline follows the intimacy struggles of a doctor and his wife. As the story unfolds, the focus of the play shifts from sexual experience to conflict to stimulation.
‘The first time I read it, I thought ‘Oh my gosh, I never want to be in that play.’ I mean, I was just embarrassed by it,” said Chapman. “But then I thought, this is a really important story… for college students to engage with.”
The production’s interpretation of the vibrator is historically accurate, and Chapman believes that the story can get college students thinking: Who am I? Who am I supposed to be with? How can I live in this body?
“I believe there are two parts to this play: the surface and the interior,” said UW–Eau Claire junior, Philipa Asiemo, who is playing the role of Elizabeth, the black wet nurse. “The surface is referring to the comedy from the awkwardness and the relationship between the characters. The interior refers to the deeper messages of the play which you usually feel comfortable for and have to be critical to find.”
Infusing comedy, sexual health, racism, relationships and individuality, “In the Next room, or the Vibrator Play” is a beautiful and awkward love story.
“I think performing this production for the community is going to be thrilling and most definitely worth a good time,” said Asiemo. “I think the community should look forward to a good dose of comedy with a side of truth and reality.”