The Power of Memory to Triumph Over Death

10580246_758261897545304_5802861599917322131_nI have loved Sarah Ruhl’s play Eurydice ever since I read it in under-grad.  It has been a dream of mine to direct it, but since I am a High School Theatre teacher and the cast size is 7, it has always just sat on my shelf waiting.  Whenever any student asks about plays to do, I toss Eurydice at them and hope they bite.  They don’t.  That is until this spring, when I shoved it into Joe Schwalb and Max Ginkel’s arms.  I had charged them with the task of mounting a show this summer in the newly renovated Black Box Theatre.

We had received a wonderful donation from the Bergquist family through the MTEF in memory of their son Marty Bergquist, a beloved Actor in our department.  This is how the Black Box was getting it’s make-over.  This spring I spoke with contractors and planned everything.  It was hard.  I was planning this wonderful theatre because of the death of a former student of mine.  I know I shouldn’t look at it that way, but it always came back to it.  I am honored to have Marty’s memory live on in our little theatre now, but I think it will always form a small lump in my throat.

It wasn’t until someone else in passing said, “Oh Eurydice is a great choice for this project, it’s all about bringing a loved one back from the underworld…” that I too made the connection.  I sit here now and wonder if I should have shoved that script into Marty’s friends hands.  But they all fell in love, and they are creating a beautiful piece of art.  If anything, come see this play to see these seven actors do justice to the play in a space filled with love, loss and memories.  It is the perfect piece to do, to open the 2014-2015 Theatre Season.  We venture into the underworld where by the sheer will of love, one Man breaks in and demands to get his wife back.  There is someone we would all go charging into the underworld for.  I suspect that Eurydice will get under your skin either in all the right ways or all the wrong ones. I first saw the play, in this production, at the Milwaukee REP a few years back, and its hallucinatory imagery and emotional allure have remained with me. Encountering it again through rehearsals, I staggered out of the theater in the same state of sad-happy disorientation that I recall from my initial viewing.

10356693_10100668426120694_7273266729962642929_nSo, as the theatre was being revamped, the talented actors were rehearsing in parks, basements, and backyards preparing to “christen” the new Black Box Theatre and use the space in the way it should be, for student produced projects.   They started in July and have been working ever since.  Sometimes they were crazy and got up at 6am to do Anne Bogart’s Viewpoints in the Park, other times… they were still crazy, creating the playing space out of pipes and figuring out sound and lighting.

10590676_758265704211590_4386553930472610634_nI’ve seen a couple of their rehearsals and heard stories of others.  These dedicated students are amazing.  They are finding their own costumes, sound designing, lighting designing and directing all by themselves.  They have worked so hard and want to honor Marty’s memory in a beautiful way that all they are asking for is an audience.  If you could take time out of your weekend to see this short play about love and death, you won’t regret it.  Bring your family, friends, the stranger in the supermarket.

“What happiness it would be to cry,” Eurydice says when she enters the underworld and discovers that she’s lost her grasp on emotional response, along with her memory. Perhaps more than anything else, the eerie wonderland of Eurydice evokes the discombobulating experience of grief and loss, the desperate need to move on and the overwhelming desire never to let go — to turn and look back just one more time.


By Sarah Ruhl; directed by Joseph Schwalb; sets by Max Ginkel and Joe Schwalb; costumes by the Cast; lighting by Nathan Hunt; sound by Jonathan Bartlett; run crew by Sydneye Olkowski; producer- Amelia Figg-Franzoi

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.

WITH: Alex Gieske (Eurydice), Emma Zander (Loud Stone), Katie Bandurski (Little Stone), Mark Usatinsky (Big Stone), Jonathan Bartlett (Orpheus), Max Ginkel (Father) and Joseph Schwalb (The Nasty and Interesting Man/Lord of the Underworld).

2 thoughts on “The Power of Memory to Triumph Over Death

  1. Thank you for encouraging Joe and Max to do this show. As I read your description of Eurydice I realize that one of my favorite movies with Robin Williams, What Dreams May Come, is also based on the story of Eurydice and Orpheus. In it, Williams’ character brings his wife out of the underworld to join him in heaven through sheer will of love. Not sure if Joe remembers, but I played that movie for him when he was still fairly young. I am very much looking forward to seeing Eurydice this weekend!

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