In the Next Room - Theoretical Set Design

Theoretical design for In the Next Room: or The Vibrator Play

In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play by Sarah Ruhl 
 
"Set in the 1880s at the dawn of the age of electricity and based on the bizarre historical fact that doctors used vibrators to treat 'hysterical' women (and some men), the play centers on a doctor and his wife and how his new therapy affects their entire household.
In a seemingly perfect, well-to-do Victorian home, proper gentleman and scientist Dr. Givings has innocently invented an extraordinary new device for treating "hysteria" in women (and occasionally men): the vibrator. Adjacent to the doctor's laboratory, his young and energetic wife tries to tend to their newborn daughter—and wonders exactly what is going on in the next room. When a new "hysterical" patient and her husband bring a wet nurse and their own complicated relationship into the doctor's home, Dr. and Mrs. Givings must examine the nature of their own marriage, and what it truly means to love someone."  
                 -Synopsis courtesy of Samuel French 
For my design, I wanted to emphasis viewpoints in a more expressive and symbolic matter. I wanted the interior of the house to feel beautiful and feminine. I felt that a major way of communicating this was with a large drape. I felt it had a beautiful feminine quality with the soft lines and curves. Also, I felt it could serve as a symbol for feminine sexuality, which is an important issue of the play. 
 
The curtain also addressed the motif of barriers. In the play, social and emotional barriers are the major source of conflict, especially "the next room".  Dr. Givings’ office, where he performs his therapies, is off limits from Mrs. Givings. It is important that she remained cut off from this world. However, I felt instead of having a split room set, a sheer curtain would help the audience feel the isolation Mrs. Giving Felt and still let the action be seen. 
 
Another important element of my design was the crown of male portraits above the stage and looming over the audience. Part of communicating the female perspective of this world was the overbearing presence of men in almost every aspect of a woman’s life. 
 
Preliminary sketch
1/4 full color model
 
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