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Ami Okazaki – Machinal

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    The last two years in the pandemic made me realize that one of the most significant differences between the live experience and online experience is the presence of another human being in space. The perception of human presence influences the emotional relationship between you and the environment surrounding you, and it certainly affects how people experience stories.

    One characteristic of Sophie Treadwell’s Machinal is that there is always a presence of other human beings, and the protagonist, Young Woman, is never alone. Whether that is the Young Woman’s colleague or a total stranger, the pressure of constantly being observed by someone makes the audience feel the oppression from the society that Young Woman is experiencing. To emphasize that effect, I located the audience’s seating banks like islands. The actors walked in the alleyway between and behind the risers during the show. In the court scene, they brought a stool right in front of the audience so that it feels like the audience is in the court, watching Young Woman’s trial together with the characters. The space immersed the audience into the mechanical, expressionist world of Machinal . It forced them to experience and “feel” the Young Woman’s story.

    In addition, I transformed the welding screens we had in classes for social distancing and made three transparent screens on casters. I was inspired by “Byobu,” a space dividing screens that Japanese people used in their houses hundreds of years ago. They weren’t just space dividers but also canvases where people drew pictures that showed a story. The screens we created for Machinal depicted the Young Woman’s story in the 1920s and similar stories of gender oppression in 2022. Also, the screens became a tool for the actors to use their actions and movement to show vulnerability, emotional/physical distance between characters, and protective instincts such as hiding and escaping.

    Designing this immersive production mid-pandemic was challenging, but it was a two-sided story that induced the audience’s emotional participation in the storytelling. I believe scene design can help create RARE emotions and memories in people’s lives, which is a powerful tool for social change.

    Production Credits

    Boston University “Jewels 2” Miller Studio Theatre

    Playwright – Sophie Treadwell
    Director – Shamus

    Scene Design – Ami Okazaki
    Lighting Design
    – Max Wallace
    Lighting Design – Isaak Olson
    Sound Design – Will Tinsley
    Costume Design – Ami Okazaki

    Tech Director – Jackson Hamman
    Props Artisan – Ami Okazaki
    Stage Manager
    – E Ellene Bernard

    Actors featured in Photos

    Michael Cameron
    Dominic Colangelo
    Charley Danger Rusk
    Travis Doughty
    Jenna Giordano
    Emma Laird
    Nicolette Rose Mango
    Maurie Moore
    Charlotte Peatree Moon
    Talia Sulla
    Tori Van Loon

    Photographer – Sarah Coleman