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“Machinal” Explores Forces that Drive a Woman to Murder

Caitlyn Conlin (Helen Jones) and Katie Harroff (Mother) in the ASU Herberger MainStage Theatre production of "Machinal" Oct. 19 - Oct. 28, 2007.

Photo by Tim Trumble.

October 03, 2007

ASU Herberger College MainStage Theatre premieres “Machinal” by Sophie Treadwell. In this fast-paced play, the author uses a sensational 1927 murder trial about a wife who killed her husband and became the first woman to die in the electric chair.

The trial is a springboard for Treadwell’s speculations about what circumstances might drive a seemingly harmless stenographer to commit murder. She places an ordinary young woman in a whirlwind of social forces beyond her control.

The audience experiences a woman’s numbing existence at work, the deafening rants of her scolding mother, and the quiet terror in marrying a man she detests. After finding a lover who awakens something long-forgotten in her, the woman bludgeons her husband. She becomes the center of a media circus trial and is sent to her death.

The play is directed by Rachel Bowditch, assistant professor in the ASU Herberger School College of Theatre and Film. Audience members sit on stage with the actors while three levels of live cameras and video screens project both audience members and performers.

“The play is about a woman who is always being watched,” Bowditch says, a noted director of avant-garde and experimental theatre. “In this performance, the audience is being watched, too. The play invites us to think about where we fit into a world that is increasingly dominated by machines and technology.”

“Machinal” contains mature themes and may not be suitable for all ages.


Paul V. Galvin Playhouse, 51 E. 10th St., ASU Tempe campus

Oct. 19 & 24-27 at 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 21 & 28 at 2 p.m.


Public Contact
Herberger College box office, 480.965.6447
School of Theatre and Film, 480.965.5337

The School of Theatre and Film in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University provides a comprehensive range of courses in performance and directing; design and production; new work development; theatre and performance studies; film; and theatre for youth. Its Theatre for Youth program is nationally ranked in the top three and the dramatic writing/playwriting program is ranked 15th among public institutions by U.S.News & World Report. To learn more about the School of Theatre and Film, visit

Media Contact:
Laurie A. Trotta Valenti
School of Theatre and Film