How familiar are you with the myth of Orpheus…?
Need a refresher? Orpheus, the son of a muse and the most famous musician in the world, marries the love of his life, Eurydice, with much joy and happiness. On the day of their wedding, however, Eurydice is bitten by a snake and pulled into hell before the two can truly be together. Orpheus, completely destroyed by the death of his wife and driven by his love, plays the most beautiful music at the gates of hell, causing Hades to offer him a deal: If he can walk out of the underworld without looking behind him on his way, then his wife just might be behind him on his walk out and they can be together again. Orpheus makes it all the way out of the underworld and looks around hoping to see his wife behind him, only to discover that although she was behind him, she had not made it out of the underworld quite yet and is therefore pulled back into the depths, without him. The power of his love causes him to play the most beautiful music and almost save his wife, but it wasn’t quite enough.
Eurydice, by Sarah Ruhl, is a modern retelling of this classic myth told from Orpheus’s wife’s perspective, Eurydice, detailing her time in the underworld without him. Where the original myth portrays Eurydice as the beautiful damsel in distress in need of a man to save her from hell (classic ingénue, am I right?), Ruhl presents a strong willed and smart young woman who is torn between her husband and her father and makes a selfish decision in the end that defies the audiences expectation and proves her full of more than just ingénue characteristics. By introducing Eurydice’s father to hell, Ruhl allows the audience to see that that moment at the edge of the underworld is a moment of choice for Eurydice as she must choose to stay with her father or go with her husband. It is a beautiful moment between to worlds, as Eurydice is able to shake off the “damsel in distress” definition and decide to choose herself.
This semester, I was lucky enough to play Eurydice and out of all the roles I’ve been fortunate enough to portray on stage so far, she wins hands down. The production itself was gorgeous (as you can see in the stellar photos below, courtesy of the talented Nick Pfosi) and every member of the production staff (all students, by the way) went above and beyond to make the show look incredible. From a working water pump and aqueduct, to a raining elevator that welcomed the mortals to hell; from three sassy stones all dressed to the never-wet paper that was magically pulled out of the well, the technical design elements of the show were beautiful. Cole Von Glahn (A14), director, brought together an exceptionally “stacked” cast (as I overheard someone call it) and created a rehearsal environment in which every voice was heard and every choice was questioned and justified. He brought seven very distinct individuals into the room and made them feel loved and respected, creating an insanely close-knit ensemble that moved in sync with one another (sometimes literally, in the case of the stones).
As for Eurydice, well, she was a dream. It’s not an easy play, for anyone involved, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the emotional roller coaster ahead of me. Eurydice leaves stage three times—and only once for more than 3 minutes—and is torn in so many different directions that by the end of the play I found it difficult to pick myself up off of the floor (literally…), wipe the tears from my eyes (every single night) and present for bows. It’s incredibly jarring, going from loosing your husband and your father, and saying goodbye to yourself, to standing in front of a wild audience, being reminded that the hour and a half you’ve spent on the stage were only real within that space. One of our drama professors mentioned that he thinks it was one of the best shows 3p’s (Pen, Paint, and Pretzels—student theatre troupe) has done in years, and as flattering as that is, for once in my theatre career I wouldn’t have minded if he’d said it was the worst, as playing Eurydice and being a member of this beautiful ensemble, was enough in itself: success is just the icing on what was already a pretty fantastic cake! The show closed a week and a bit ago and I am having problems adjusting to real life but, to be honest, I’m alright with that because I think it exemplifies just how incredible this process was… it’s hard to say goodbye when you’ve fallen so deeply in love (even with a character that broke your heart on a nightly basis).
Photos by Nick Pfosi