June  2004

Machinal:  Portrait of a Murderess 

In January of 1928, a young woman named Ruth Snyder was electrocuted for the brutal slaying of her husband with a sash weight. Playwright Sophie Treadwell, the leading female playwright of her time, turned the story of Snyder into an exploration of the factors in American life that turn a young woman into a cold-blooded murderess, but from a unique perspective; the young woman's. The result, Machinal was a Broadway hit in 1928, and has disturbed audiences and social commentators ever since. As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle: When Machinal premiered on Broadway, New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson was so blown away he wrote two reviews. He called the play "a triumph of individual distinction, gleaming with intangible beauty." John Anderson in the Evening Journal said the play was "a tragedy of sullen splendor." The Daily News was chilled by its "cold perfection." The play manages to be satirical and gritty at the same time, and remains unlike any other play ever written; an expressionistic delight. Perhaps most disturbing of all is the fact that Treadwell has almost been forgotten, save on college campuses, and a few daring productions including London and New York over a decade ago.

The American Century Theater will produce Machinal, with Helen Hayes award-winning director and actress Lee Mikeska Gardner directing. "The young woman's journey towards murder and execution is so relentless; my job is to find the counterpoint, what she has missed; the escape route that she never finds. I think that Treadwell knew that there were opportunities available to someone with courage, or resources or luck. That makes the girl's fate that much more poignant. To see her have opportunities, but miss them somehow."

Footlights is especially fortunate to have Lee Mikeska Gardner as our return guest at our monthly dinner-discussion on Tuesday, June 22 to help us unravel the mysteries and themes of Machinal. Footlights member Scot Stone will moderate our discussion. We will meet again at Guapo's, 4515 Wisconsin Ave, NW, upstairs (202-686-3588). By Metro, Guapo's is right next to the Tenleytown station. Take the east side exit. Turn right on Wisconsin Ave to 4515. If you do come by car, try to park on the street, on Albemarle, 42nd or 40th Streets, behind the Metro station. Arrive for dinner at 6:30 p.m.; the meeting is from 7:30-9:30 p.m.

This month Guapo's is again providing an excellent buffet for us for a reduced price of $13. Coffee, tea or sodas, tax and gratuities are all included; a cash bar is available. Pay us as you arrive, by cash or check, no credit cards. To make reservations for the June 22 dinner-discussion meeting, call or e-mail Mark Gruenberg, 202-898-4825 or [email protected]. We will need a firm commitment; please do not make a dinner reservation if you are not sure you will be able to attend. If you must cancel for any reason, be sure to notify Mark by 2 p.m. on June 22, otherwise you are obligated to pay. We hope you will support the buffet. The space at Guapo's is far superior to any other location we have found to date. We can continue to meet there only with your support.

Machinal is available at our bookstores. Backstage Books (202-544-5744) 545 8th St, SE, Washington, D.C.; Olsson's two stores: Dupont Circle, 1307 19th St., NW (202-785-1133) & Bethesda 7647 Old Georgetown Rd. (301-652-3336); or Politics & Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW (202-364-1919). Ask for the Footlights discount at Olsson's and Politics & Prose. Discounts are only available as long as the bookstores buy and sell a large order of our plays. So, whenever possible, please patronize our bookstores.

Machinal at T.A.C.T.

Machinal will be performed by the American Century Theatre at Theater II, Gunston Arts Center, 2700 S. Lang Street in Arlington, Virginia, from June 17-July 24. Footlights will see Machinal on Saturday, July 24, 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $18, and include a post-show discussion.

See a Play with Footlights

See our calendar of opportunities for theater-going below.. Tickets are available for all performances. A note about discussion arrangements for Cyrano at the Shakespeare Theatre: the theater has changed the date of the free Classics in Context post-show discussion to July 10 instead of June 26, the date of our matinee performance. We still have reservations for the discussion, though it is now on a separate date.

About Footlights

To get Footlights updates on-line, send any message - even blank - to [email protected]. Subscribers can post to our on-line list by sending brief messages to [email protected]. Visit our website at Address all inquiries to Mark Gruenberg, 202-898-4825 or [email protected].

Please support Footlights, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization. Send your tax-deductible contributions to Footlights, c/o Robin Larkin, 5403 Nibud Ct., Rockville, MD 20852

Reservations, Tickets

For all reservations to dinner-discussions, contact Mark Gruenberg, 202-898-4825 & [email protected]. For theater tickets contact Robin Larkin, 240-669-6300 & [email protected]. Send your check payable to Footlights, to Robin Larkin, 5403 Nibud Ct, Rockville, MD 20852. Contact Robin for further information and to check ticket availability, or you may now check at for updates. To volunteer, contact Mark. We need people willing to help find speakers, lead/moderate discussions, publicize Footlights to potential members, help with site coordination, write and distribute newsletters, assist with tickets at theaters, attend to a few legal matters and anything else you can think of offering. Just ask Mark.


Saturday, June 12, 2 p.m. 
    *Performance: Martin McDonagh�s The Cripple of Inishmaan at Studio Theatre; 1333 P St., NW, D.C. Tickets $25; post-show discussion. Note: After June 8, call MJ Schmelzer for ticket information, 703-524-7621 & [email protected].
Tuesday, June 22, 6:30 p.m. 
    Dinner-discussion: Sophie Treadwell�s Machinal; Guest: Lee Mikeska Gardner. Moderator: Scot Stone. Location: Guapo's, 4515 Wisconsin Ave, NW, D.C.
Saturday, June 26, 2 p.m. 
    Performance: Edmond Rostand�s Cyrano de Bergerac at The Shakespeare Theatre; 450 7th St., NW, D.C. Tickets $32; includes reservation for the free Classics in Context discussion at Shakespeare Theatre: July 10, 5 p.m.
Sunday, July 11, 3 p.m.
  Performance: Oh, the Innocents at Theater J, DCJCC, 1529 16th St., NW, D.C. Tickets $28; pay by June 25. 
Saturday, July 24, 2:30 p.m.
  Performance:  Sophie Treadwell's Machinal at the American Century Theater, Gunston Arts Center II, 2700 S. Lang St., Arlington, VA. Tickets $18; pay by July 12.