Category: Sarah Ruhl

An Interview with Sarah Ruhl

Posted January 20, 2011 - 2:14pm

Dramaturg Walter Bilderback discusses In the Next Room, or the vibrator play with playwright Sarah Ruhl.

Walter Bilderback: The first time we spoke, when the Wilma produced The Clean House, you mentioned you were working on “a play about the history of the vibrator.” Here it is now: In the Next Room; or, The Vibrator Play. 

Let’s start with the obvious question: how did you decide to write a play about the history of the vibrator?

Sarah Ruhl: I was given a book by a friend called The Technology of Orgasm and was fascinated to learn that doctors used to treat hysterical women with vibrators, and before the invention, manually. I thought there might be a play in it.

WB: When did you decide to set the play in a single room? And why in “a prosperous spa town outside of New York City, perhaps Saratoga Springs”?

SR: I like to set myself formal challenges when I’m writing and wanted to write this particular one with the challenge of having simultaneous and continuous action in two rooms. Saratoga Springs—I learned that vibrators were part of the healing treatment there, particularly hydraulic vibrators—the salubrious effects of “the waters” sometimes meant vibrators. I also learned that it had a thriving African American community after the war. I was teaching for the SITI company up in Saratoga and loved the history of the place.

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