The Orpheus myth, upon which Eurydice is based, is an exploration of grief. Playwright Sarah Ruhl centralizes Eurydice herself and her experience in the Underworld, bringing forth the connections between grief, water, and memory.
A truism about water: one can never step into the same river, experience, love, or loss the same way twice. Does this parallel memory? Certainly, there are plenty of sayings in our vernacular that speak to the relationship between water and memory: That is water under a bridge – “It is in the past now.” Or: A mill cannot grind with water that is past – “Do not waste the present wishing for what you had in the past.” Memory and water can also be tied together through the concepts of reflection and refraction. You reflect on your memories, just as you see reflections in water. Your memories are refractions of your last remembering. To recall a memory a second time is to alter, or refract, what you reviewed the first time you recalled it.
The relationship between grief and memory becomes complicated when the inability to remember is deliberate. The characters in Eurydice handle their grief in ways not unusual to individuals in the real world; people sometimes take the path of chosen amnesia when faced with loss. For example, if a violent act is committed within a close-knit community, people may not want to recall that particular aspect of their past. Consequently, the past becomes distorted, and in pursuit of both individual peace and group harmony, people let go of painful but also crucial pieces of their history. Can the same be said of those characters in Eurydice who choose to be dipped in the River of Forgetfulness?
Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice has been igniting imaginations and tugging at heartstrings since its first production in 2003. With her lyrical dialogue and deeply personal characterizations, Ruhl invites us into worlds where the irrational becomes rational, where rooms are made of string, stones can talk, and where memory – like water – is fluid and life-giving.
Tickets for Chapman University’s production of Eurydice are on sale now. The show runs November 12-15, 2015 in the Waltmar Theatre. Visit chapman.edu/tickets or call (714) 997-6624.
This article was written by Department of Theatre students and dramaturgs Rose Mackenzie (BA Theatre Studies ’17), and Katie Dumas (BA Theatre Studies ’17) with support from dramaturgy mentor Dr. Jocelyn L. Buckner.