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Wirtz Center Stages Electrifying and Tender Sarah Ruhl Play

Vibrator exhibit in lobby invites audience to view the past and present of female sexuality

EVANSTON, Ill. --- “In The Next Room, or the Vibrator Play” -- Sarah Ruhl’s charming and hilarious stage work -- is a smart commentary on the intersection of love and medicine. It takes place at a time when doctors utilized vibrator therapies on their female patients in the name of medical treatment.

Presented by Northwestern University’s Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, the May 15 to May 24 production will conclude the University’s spring Mainstage season. All performances will take place at the Josephine Louis Theater, 30 Arts Circle Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus.

The production will be directed by Lauren Shouse, a School of Communication M.F.A. directing candidate. Shouse is a former artistic associate of the Tennessee Repertory Theatre, where she directed mainstage, repertory and New Works Festival plays.

A special exhibit of antique and unique vibrators will be on display in the lobby of the Josephine Louis Theater during the run of the production. The items and imagery, curated by Northwestern University Interdisciplinary Ph.D. candidate Lauren Beck, provide historical context to the language and subject of the play and invites the audience to make connections between the past and the present of female sexuality.

“In The Next Room” is set in a seemingly perfect, well-to-do Victorian home of proper gentleman and scientist Dr. Givings, who has innocently discovered an extraordinary new device for treating "hysteria" in women: the vibrator. Adjacent to the doctor’s laboratory, his young and energetic wife tries to tend to their newborn daughter and wonders exactly what is going on in the next room. When a new "hysterical" patient and her husband bring their own complicated relationship into the doctor's home, Dr. and Mrs. Givings are compelled to examine the nature of their own marriage and how the doctor’s radical new therapy affects the entire household. This electrifying comedy questions the nature of relationships and intimacy, and what it really means to seek a connection.

“Up until 1952, women’s sexuality was treated as a disease and even hysteria,” Shouse said. “Women just weren’t thought to receive pleasure in sex. And they were not seen as equal partners in their marriage. What I love about this play is that Sarah Ruhl invites a new perspective to change this patriarchal narrative.”

“In The Next Room” will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 15; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 16; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 17; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 21; 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 22; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 23; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 24, at the Louis Theater.

Tickets are $25 for general public; $22 for seniors over 62 and Northwestern faculty and staff and educators; and $10 for full-time students with valid IDs (at the door) or $5 tickets exclusively for full-time Northwestern students on advance purchase. Discounts are available for groups of eight or more.

For more information, phone 847-491-4819, visit the Wirtz Center website at or email

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