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Contact: David W. Booth/Stephanie Wise, NIU School of Theatre and Dance
(815) 753-1337

October 28, 2009

School of Theatre and Dance presents ‘Machinal’

DeKalb, Ill. — A woman’s role in the 1920s was mostly limited to wife and mother.

The NIU School of Theatre and Dance will present the story of one young woman who chose to escape from these limits by instead taking on the role of murderer. The next Studio Series production, “Machinal,” runs Thursday, Nov. 5, through Sunday, Nov. 8, in the Stevens Building Corner Theatre.

Based on the true story of a young woman’s attempt to free herself, “Machinal” is Sophie Treadwell’s recreation of the events leading up to the 1927 trial and conviction of Ruth Snyder and her lover for the murder of Ruth’s husband.

“Machinal is about one young woman (Helen) who struggles to fit into society,” said Erin Edwards, a B.A. theater student appearing in the production. “The pressures of everyday life cause her to become unstable, until she finally breaks and does what she believes will give her the freedom she has always looked for.

“The action of each episode takes place within a small box taped out on the stage,” Edwards said. “It symbolizes a couple different things: Helen’s lack of freedom and the pressures life is placing on her. Once the box is removed, it is because Helen believes she is finally free.”

Helen is not unique in comparison with other women, Edwards said.

“Helen is every woman,” Edwards said. “She wants freedom, happiness, and a fairytale ending just like everyone else. But she is prevented from experiencing love and happiness because she feels obligated to care for her mother.”

About her role as Helen’s mother in the play, Edwards said “she’s an older woman who has been surviving through extreme poverty, relying on her daughter to support her. The troubles from her past have affected her physically, but not as much mentally or emotionally. For her daughter, it seems to be the opposite.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. The Stevens Building is located on the NIU DeKalb campus, behind the Pizza Hut and McDonald’s restaurants on W. Lincoln Highway.

General admission tickets are $5 and only available at the door on performance nights. For more information, contact the SoTD box office at (815) 753-1600 or online at

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