Creating the sounds in the next room, part 2.

amyCurrent Projects, Productions, Season 15-16


Recently, we’ve been in conversation with sound designer Lucy Peckham about her work on In the Next Room, or the vibrator play. You can read our first post where she discusses her original compositions.

Today, Lucy tells us about the research she did for In the Next Room.

As soon as I knew I’d been given the opportunity to design for the show, before I’d even read the script, I put “antique vibrator” in a search engine, and low and behold! There’s a museum dedicated to the history of this niche instrument.
The Antique Vibrator Museum is located in San Francisco, CA. I emailed to ask if they would allow me to visit after hours to record the sounds of the vibrators for use in the play. My email was forwarded to Dr. Carol Queen, an educator with the Center for Sex and Culture, and a docent at the museum. She said she’d be glad to help, but they have never tried to plug in or turn on any of their museum pieces, so she couldn’t guarantee that they worked, especially not the older ones. I decided it was worth the risk, and in October, I flew to San Francisco to visit the museum with my recording gear. There I met Carolyn Howarth, our director, and before the museum opened for the day, we met Dr. Queen, and started recording vibrators.
The first vibrator was designed for direct current but not labeled that way, and blew the outlet when we tried it. Ooooops! Fortunately, the rest of the Vibrators were clearly labeled for alternating current, and we were able to record them with little difficulty. There was one small problem–The Eskimo Vibrator, circa 1920, gave our brave guide, Dr. Queen a couple clearly audible shocks as it ran, so she quickly shut it down… Fortunately, she was not harmed, and her sacrifice is put to good use in the sound design. In the scene where the vibrator on stage malfunctions, I was able to use the sounds of the shocks she received as part of the cue.
Carolyn and I had a wonderful visit with Dr. Queen, hearing, seeing, and learning about the real vibrators of the time. What you will hear in the theatre is REAL, which is always my goal as a sound designer.

Here’s a clip of one of Lucy’s recordings that made it into the play.

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