On Nov. 16, the Keene State College theatre and dance department presented the four-show installment of Eurydice, directed by KSC theatre and dance professor Jeannie-Marie Brown. Originally written by award-winning playwright Sarah Ruhl, the greek myth Eurydice is the story of a girl whose father dies.
She misses him, then dies and enters the underworld to meet her father. While in the underworld, she is faced with the conflict of returning to the real world to reunite with her love, or remain in the underworld with her father.
KSC student Mariah Palmer played the lead role of Eurydice. Fellow cast member and KSC student Andrew Bennington, who played Eurydice’s lover, Orpheus, described the story as a story of self-empowerment.
Bennington said, “When the playwright originally wrote it, it was about how her (Eurydice’s)father had died and she missed her father, and what we (the cast) were talking about today was how Eurydice is going through her life and how other guys are just tell[ing] her what to do, how to act and how to feel. It’s a story of trying to remain self-empowered in a society that’s constantly shutting you down and telling you no. For me, that was a really powerful story to tell, but each time it can be a different story.”
Bennington mentioned that he was surprised after auditions to have heard the news he earned the role of Orpheus, a major role in the story.
“I went into the auditions just being open-minded,” Bennington said. “I wasn’t expecting much, I was just going to be happy to be casted at all, and then I got a call back for the part of Orpheus, which was really exciting. Even then, I was still kind of just humoring it, but never actually considered it. Then when I actually found out I had it, it was just…more shock and disbelief than actual happiness. It was just like, ‘Oh my god, this is actually going to happen.’”
A Redfern Arts Center crowd experienced the performance that was filled with a variety of lighting, a large-scale set and effects such as a prop elevator with water pouring down to represent a character’s descent into the underworld. After the performance, KSC student and supporting performer Chris Hamilton said he was pleased with how the show was received, and described the hard work put into the show’s production.
Hamilton said, “We put a lot of hard work into it for the last week or so with having six hours of rehearsal. The lighting and sounds are perfect, and I think it all paid off in the end.”
Hamilton played one third of “the stones,” a trio he described as “the welcoming committee of the underworld.” When entering the underworld, characters were greeted by the stones, who enforce the rules of the underworld and how one should feel and behave as a part of it.
While “the stones” played a serious role in the story of Eurydice, they did implement a comedic performance, as well as scurried around the stage in a manner that caused some laughter among the crowd. They also, as the lord of the underworld’s henchman, worked in tandem with KSC student Isaiah Lapierre, who played the role, to perform comedic bits throughout the performance. Hamilton further explained the role of “the stones” and how they balanced comedy and drama.
Hamilton said, “It’s always about finding the balance and knowing what’s appropriate and what’s not, and obviously we like to have some fun with it until it comes to the serious points.”
Hamilton mentioned that his favorite part of the performance was during a scene where the stones were less comical and more forceful.
“I think my favorite part was at the end of movement two where we were shouting in Eurydice’s face and she’s ducking down, and that is a very serious moment,” Hamilton said. “That’s when we exude this presence of influence and dominance and we have to balance between…comic relief [and seriousness] because the show is a dramatic comedy by definition, so we need to be able to keep that definition without doing one or the other too much. We need [to] find that correct balance.”
The cast and crew would try to maintain that correct balance for the remainder of the performances as their final performance of Eurydice took place on Nov. 19. Palmer said each rendition of Eurydice is different in a way and that no night in the theatre provides the same experience twice.
As the main character, Palmer said, “I’m a title character, but I’m definitely not the only character, as it was an ensemble show. There is such an amazing cast and crew behind it that I can’t even say that any of it was on my own.”
Palmer added, “This show is so emotional and deeply connected that there’s so many ways you can take it every night. No night is ever the same; every interaction and conversation is different. It’s very genuine, and even though it’s a show, everything feels very candid.”
With the opening night of performing having gone as smoothly as planned for the cast and crew, Palmer said the quality of the show could be heavily attributed to the hard work of the faculty and staff involved. Palmer shared the stage with theatre and dance Lecturer Doug Wilcox, who played the role of Eurydice’s father.
With Eurydice being a large-scale and more complex performance in comparison to most college theatre productions, the execution of the story showed the importance of the arts at KSC.
“I think it shows how much this school cares about the arts and how important they are, and I think it shows the absolute amazingness of all the faculty here,” Palmer said. “The theatre and dance department has the most amazing faculty imaginable and so much gets done because of them, and I think every show that we do is completely accredited to them and all their hard work.”
Nick Tocco can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org