On Connectivity Assistant Max Freedman’s first day, he sat down with me and Claque member Kathy English Holt to plan for a Radio Woolly podcast. For his first few hours on the job, Max talked with two women he barely knew (and who didn’t know each other that personally either) about self-stimulation, orgasms, and female sexual health. The experience quite appropriately teed up Connectivity’s goals around In the Next Room or the vibrator play:
- to engage people in public conversations about intimate topics
- to explore the relationship between audience’s personal experiences, popular culture and society, and the experience, culture and society of other people and time periods
It wasn’t long before talking with groups about these and a myriad of other publically squeamish topics became old hat for most of the theatre’s staff – and as a result quite quickly for our audience as well.
However, interestingly enough, the place these two goals coincided most perfectly was in the Woolly lower lobby.
The lobby is a ripe environment for connectivity: it is the first point at which audience members can begin exploring as a community the production they are about to see. It is almost the “ground zero” for connectivity – a place where the community can linger, mingle, and, well, connect to the world and ideas of the play… and one another. We allowed for educational exposure to the technological reality of the play through an exhibit of antique vibrators (on loan from our friends at New York’s Museum of Sex). We also provided room to connect with longing, an emotion central to many of the play’s characters, through the Secret Desires project. In addition, Woolly Matter was stocked with a variety historical and literary of resources – from Rachel Maines’ The Technology of Orgasm to Collected Works of In the Next Room playwright Sarah Ruhl.
Observing activity in the lobby was fascinating. Patrons lingered at the vibrator exhibit, often taking pictures of themselves and their friends next to it. They would circle around the display case and make their way over to Secret Desires, just reading at first and often not taking or filling out their own card until intermission or post-performance. Then there was a trip through the pages of some of the books, thumbing through the script for In the Next Room and comparing it to Dead Man’s Cell Phone or The Clean House.
While traffic patterns varied, audiences engaged in some serious self-stimulation (pun intended!) before settling down in the seats for the first act, and then came back for more at intermission and sometimes even following the performance.
As the Woolly staff continues to refine “connectivity” and determines how to harness it for every show, I will hold up the lobby experience for In the Next Room or the vibrator play as a bright-spot of how we can connect our audiences with the work in more new, deep, and meaningful ways.
~Rachel Grossman, Connectivity Director