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Illinois State University School of Theatre and Dance springs into the season with Machinal, inspired by a real-life crime story

Image from the production poster - the outline of a woman's face against a black background.

Machinal, meaning “automatic” or “mechanical” in French is inspired by a real-life criminal case.

The Illinois State University School of Theatre and Dance presents Machinal written by Sophie Treadwell and directed by M.F.A. director, Nic McMinn. The show runs at 7:30 p.m. February 15, 19-23, and at 2 p.m. February 16-17, in Westhoff Theatre on the Illinois State University campus.

Machinal, meaning “automatic” or “mechanical” in French, is inspired by a real-life criminal case and features a low-level stenographer who tries to follow societal expectations. Repulsed by her boss, whom she married out of practicality, the young woman finds refuge in another man. She then finds herself in front of a jury on trial for the death of her wealthy husband, and her fate yields an electrifying conclusion.

Machinal was written in the late 1920s as a reaction to the astonishing rate of mechanization in western society,” said Director Nic McMinn. “Today we are experiencing a similar quantum leap forward with the deepening integration of digital technology and the internet into our lives.”

McMinn noted Machinal resonates today. “The play was written as a cry against American patriarchy. Women had gained the right to vote by the time this play was written, but social changes were slow. It is tempting to look at all of the progress made in gender equality in the last 90 years and say we solved it. Then the #MeToo movement erupts and we see how much work is still to be done.”

The play is representative of the Expressionist theatre movement from the early 20th century. Known for its dreamlike, nightmarish atmosphere and visual set distortions, Expressionist theatre is defined by dramatizing the spiritual awakening and sufferings of the leading character.

“Expressionism translates into Machinal because the story, while taking place in the 1920s, is incredibly timeless and everybody can relate to different parts of it,” says set designer Jordan Gerow. “It’s about giving the audience the feeling of the world, rather than what the location really looks like.”

Tickets are available by calling (309) 438-2535, online at Ticketmaster.com, or by visiting the Box Office, located in the Illinois State University Center for the Performing Arts, Monday–Friday from 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Tickets are only $10 for students and seniors and $12 for adults. Free performance parking is available in the School Street Parking Deck in spots 250 and above, at 400 W. Beaufort Street in Normal.

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Suggest that for current performances you should put a playbill online, one that lists the current students involved in the cast and crew.