I’d like to think it’s a mark of success for The San Antonio Stage Script Study Group that so many of our meetings leave me thinking of things I wish I’d thought to say in the moment.
And it’s safe to say that the ideas inspired by our most recent meeting are very me.
When we met in September to discuss August: Osage County, Nikki ended our dinner with the announcement that Sherry Wehner, of the Woodlawn Theatre, had invited us to attend its black-box production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice, a retelling of the myth of Orpheus from the point of view of his doomed wife. It was an honor and an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.
And so, after working out a date that would allow the most of us to attend, we met at Deco Pizzeria (within walking distance of the theatre) to share our impressions and insights with Sherry and the play’s director, Matthew Byron Cassi (making a return appearance after joining us for Dirty Blonde back in May). This was one of our most engaging conversations yet, and I have to think the play itself had something to do with it.
If you know the myth, you know the plot, but you may not know the story. Orpheus (played by no less than Michael Burger) is the greatest musician in the world. His compositions have the power to tap into and evoke emotions we didn’t know we had. Eurydice (Chelsea Taylor) is the focus of his own emotions. They fall in love. They wed.
But as I’d used the word “doomed” earlier, you’ve likely figured out that Eurydice dies soon after marrying Orpheus. And from there, Ruhl takes the play into the underworld, where (confronted by a cast of characters including Roger Alvarez, DeAnna Brown, Bill Martin, Holly Nanes, and Joshua Torres) she struggles with her memories as Orpheus, mourning above, resolves to find the melody that will bring her back.
There are so many melodies running through the play (metaphorically speaking, though given Darrin Newhardt’s approach to scoring it, perhaps “leitmotifs” might be a better metaphor). As Matthew pointed out, both in our discussion and the play’s notes, Ruhl uses the myth of Orpheus (as well as her own personal inspiration) as a means to explore themes of “love, death, memory, and grief.” And the Woodlawn’s production played those themes to powerful effect. You didn’t simply hear the music in Orpheus’s head, you felt it, just as you felt Eurydice’s slow loss of self (a metaphor for truths I won’t spoil here).
It was a powerful production, and I’m glad we had the chance to experience it, even though it was rather hard to shake…
No, not even though. Especially because it was so hard to shake.
And as usually happens, our discussion inspired the kind of ideas I wish I’d thought to say when I was there to say them.
There was something in Ruhl’s approach to memory, in the way she depicted her characters’ struggles to hold onto their past lives and loves, that (me being me) recalled a short story by Neil Gaiman. As its title suggests, “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury” was written in tribute to one of the writers who inspired him in his youth. And it touches on many of the themes at the heart of Ruhl’s play, in a way that suggest that through very different means, they both tapped into the same spirit, found the same meaning. It’s that phenomenon of finding the universal in the specific that I don’t entirely understand, but still aspire to.
Those really are the best stories, aren’t they?
And so, the curtain fallen on Eurydice, our group now moves on to our next play. There are some very exciting productions coming up in the first quarter of 2013, and we’ve set up a poll on our Facebook page with a few of the stronger candidates. If you’d like to join us, please visit the page and vote on the play you’d most like to see.
Until that next meeting, thank you as always for your support. And, of course, “be seeing you…”