This fall I had the oportunity to design properties for the Production Workshop's show "In The Next Room" by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Karin Nilo. It concerns the early history of the vibrator, when doctors used it as a clinical device to bring women to orgasm as treatment for "hysteria." Other themes include Victorian ignorance of female sexual desire, motherhood and breastfeeding, and jealousy. Featured here, are several of the props that I designed and manufactured.
The vibrators are, of course, the main props in the show. These desgins are based off real victorian period vibrators, but are abstracted and exaggerated from those original forms. The palette is limited to gold, brass and black. The main forms are carved out of insulation foam, covered in fiberglass and plaster, and painted with acrylic. The other assembled matrials include: electrical wire, copper piping, brass knobs and coat hangers, garden hose, faucet nozzles, and a disconnected doorbell button. The actions of the actors were synchroized with a sound effect cue to imitate the electrical humming of the apparatus.
Here are some "action shots" from the play
This lamp serves as the main symbol for the electrical revolution (next to the vibrator of course), which is often mentioned during the dialogue and which presents one of the main themes of the play. It is made out of vaccum formed plastic, and is painted from the inside with a stain glass pattern to allude to early Tiffany lamp designs. Allowing myself a little joke, one of the stain glass motifs vaguely resembles the female genitalia.
The baby, daughter of the doctor and his wife, is one of the main props which is often onstage, and is essential to character and plot development. Because it is such an important part of the play, I wanted to avoid simply using a plain, lifeless baby doll. Instead I designed a puppet, that could fit onto the fingers of the actors concealed hand while holding the baby, allowing them to puppeteer it. The result was that the baby could move its hand and shift it's head, bringing the baby to life as a character in the play.
The Painting of Elizabeth
The portrait which Leo paints of the baby's wetnurse, Elizabeth, causes scandal and conflict between Elizabeth and her husband, as well as between the doctor and his wife, while adding fuel to the flame of Leo's love for Elizabeth. It is painted to look like a work-in-progress, in acrylic on a self stretched, raw canvas.
Work-In-Progress Design Sketches on my Studio Wall: