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‘Eurydice’ retells Greek myth with female perspective, video-based set

March 4, 2017

In a modern retelling of the classical Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, Bowdoin’s Department of Theater and Dance will merge fantasy and innovative visuals this weekend in its production of “Eurydice.”

Written by playwright Sarah Ruhl, the play tells the traditional myth from the female perspective of Orpheus’ bride, Eurydice, and explores dimensions of the story that are not present in the original myth. Ruhl’s play builds upon the original story, following Eurydice in her journey through the underworld as she reunites with her father and, ultimately, with her husband, Orpheus.

Dedicated by Ruhl to her father after his death, “Eurydice” is steeped in themes of love, loss and reminiscence. According to Associate Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen, the show hopes to evoke subtle yet meaningful responses in both actors and audience members.

“This play invites audiences to think about what we spend a lot of our lives not wanting to think about: the reality of death of the people we love and how that affects us,” said Killeen. “It’s a really beautiful meditation on grief without being indulgent or histrionic at all. It faces what part of the human condition wants to ignore.”

Sally Rose Zuckert ’19, who plays Eurydice, cited the play’s exploration of these themes as what first drew her to the show.

“The first time I read it I cried like a little baby. [Ruhl’s] writing is really brilliant—it’s lyrical, it flows so well and it says so many things that, as people, we probably struggle with,” said Zuckert “I think that’s what contributes to the play’s beauty and to the theme of loss and to the theme of sadness and to the theme of love—it plays into all those things.”

“Eurydice” deviates from more traditional plays in the way its plot is constructed. While the narrative is clear, the story does not develop in a linear fashion, nor does it conclude in a neat wrap-up.

“I think because of that it can also affect an audience in a different way. Rather than, ‘Oh that was a cool story,’ or, ‘I could follow that narrative,’ this play requires—well, I think all theater requires—something of the audience,” said Killeen.

The unorthodox development of the story provided Killeen and her colleagues with the opportunity to experiment with a non-traditional set as well. The set of “Eurydice” is an all-white room onto which a series of videos are projected.

This digital set was designed by Adjunct Lecturer in Theater Ryan MacDonald. He collaborated with Bowdoin’s Information  Technology Department, working with a technical director, a lighting designer and a sound engineer. For MacDonald, the process was a meticulous but rewarding one. He compiled images and videos and utilized a full range of editing software to create dramatic effects. One such effect is a projection of ocean waves onto the white floor of the stage.

The video-based set was particularly fitting for “Eurydice,” which is chock-full of open-ended stage directions and evocative descriptions. Both MacDonald and Killeen underscored the play’s possibilities for experimentation in shadow, costume and light.

“This particular play is written in a way that certainly lends itself to the digital format. For instance, many scenes jump sharply from an ‘Alice in Wonderland’-like underworld to, say, a starry night, and these transitions are quickly accomplished on stage using projection,” said MacDonald.

Both Killeen and her cast hope that the show offers its audience with a moment of reflection.

“The play is an invitation and we welcome you,” she said.

“Eurydice” will be performed tonight and tomorrow night in Wish Theater at at 7:30 p.m. Advanced tickets are sold out but some may be available at the door.

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