Machinal: The Story of How A Girl Is Eaten By a Machine

by Chris DeFilipp '15

This weekend, Bennington Dramaʼs production of Machinal, a play by Sophie Treadwell and directed by student Eva Bond ʼ14, will have two performances that are open to the public. First premiering in 1928 with Clark Gable as “The Lover”, or Mr. Jones, Machinal  was ahead of its times as a piece of expressionist theater dealing with feminist issues.

Described by Bond as “The story of how a girl is eaten by a machine,” or, “An opera without music,” Machinal is a play that she discovered while working as the assistant director on a production of August Wilsonʼs Two Trains Running. The director suggested the play to her, having directed it in college, and from then Bond knew it was a play she had to direct. One of the many reasons she is drawn to this play was that it is a “Very Bennington journey,” but she had much more personal connections to the play as a whole.

“This is a play about me. This is a play about my mother. This is a play about my teachers. This is a play about every minority that Iʼve ever had a deep conversation with, ever. This play uses Helen as a conduit to talk about what that feels like to go through life as a minority, and it does it in a way that is organized, and calculated, and is totally within the theme of the issue,” Bond says. 

When discussing the design elements of the play, Bond says that she started the process asking the designers, “What do you want to do in a set design, or a lighting design, or a costume design?” This means that the design elements are personal to the designers, and from a few quick glances into Margot Tenney, it seems that not only are we awaiting a play that will take us on a journey, but weʼll see something that visually will be unique and personal. Bond and her crew have invented a machine out of the capitalist system that Helen struggles against.

The performances are equally personal to the actors. The actors have taken their roles, some of which are written very static, and have brought humanity to the roles. The personal connections with the characters, and with the project, have become more and more personal through rehearsals. This show is, as Bond says, a journey from humanity to mechanization, and yet, amidst this mechanization, we see Helen and other characters willing to fight for their humanity.

Bond says she has casted in concordance with the idea that Bennington is a place of learning. Each person has their strengths and their challenges that have helped them grow throughout the project.

“I am constantly amazed by the discoveries the actors are making,” she says. Everyone contributes to the show in their own way, and Bond acts not as a director, but as an editor. She shapes the performances and design elements, more than she dictates, to create one cohesive story, filled with the personality of each person involved.

Machinal isnʼt the first project Bond has worked on at Bennington. In addition to her work in Directing I on their showcase of Be a Good Little Widow (Spring 2012) and her scene from The Misunderstanding for Directing II (Fall 2012), she has also worked on two individual projects. In the Spring of 2012, she co-curated and co-directed a series of monologues, Experiments in Otherness, (or more simply, Otherness) with Bennington alum Ashley Connell ʼ13. This was a one night exploration of Otherness, taking monologues written for specific actor types, genders, races, and ages (to name a few), and having actors who defy these stereotypes and perform them.

Also in Spring 2012, Bond worked on a small production of Sam Shepardʼs Cowboy Mouth with Bennington alum Ezra Lowery ʼ13, and Omeed Goodarzi 14ʼ. This project, which Bond described as both an acting and directing exercise, was performed for two nights only: starting at 8pm, with an additional third show added at 11pm on one of the two nights.

“I think that itʼs important that things donʼt have long standing runs,” Bond says.

Her previous two projects, both limited runs, are examples of this philosophy. Theater is an experiential art form, and itʼs because this that she thinks the audience should have an experience unaffected by reviews or outside criticism; or as she says, “Unified, pure experience of art.”

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The performances are this Friday and Saturday, October 11th and 12th, at 8:00pm in Margot Tenney. There are no more available tickets; admission is now waitlist only. Pick up tickets at the Box Office in Newman Court (outside Margot Tenney) no later than 15 minutes before the performance or they will be forfeited to the wait list.

Machinal features the acting talents of: Maia Villa ʼ15 as Helen; Patrick Harnett-Marshall ʻ16 as Mr. Jones; Dado Cabo ʼ17 as Harry; Sean-Patrick OʼBrien ʻ14, as Adding Clerk; Fann Xu ʼ16 as Telephone Girl; Oona Kilcommons ʼ16, as Mother; Lily Houghton ʼ17, as Stenographer; and Julius Fuentes ʼ17, as Filing Clerk. 

Artistic and Technical Crew for Machinal includes: Eva Bond '14, Director; Emily Grayson ʼ15, Stage Manager; Emma Villavecchia ʼ14, Set Designer, with Andrew Emard ʼ14, as Set Design Assistant; Brady Williams ʼ16, Lighting Designer; Yael Rose ʼ15, Costume Designer/Construction with Taya Jae ʼ16 as Assistant Costumer; and Luca Nioi ʼ16, Sound Designer.