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I'm Molly. I'm a stylist, storyteller and tinker. 

"Eurydice" by Sarah Ruhl

"Eurydice" by Sarah Ruhl

At Carnegie Mellon University, my Junior year dramaturgy project was a production of "Eurydice" by Sarah Ruhl directed by Kate Pines and starring Erika Strasburg. 

‘Now, from a troop of shades that last arriv’d,
Eurydice was call’d, and stood reviv’d:
Slow she advanc’d, and halting seem to feel
The fatal wound, yet painful in her heel.
Thus he obtains the suit so much desir’d,
On strict observance of the terms requir’d:
For if, before he reach the realms of air,
He backward cast his eyes to view the fair,
The forfeit grant, that instant, void is made,
And she for ever left a lifeless shade.’
- Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Over many centuries, the heartbreaking story of  Orpheus and Eurydice has enchanted the world.  The original tale of the lost lovers comes from Grecian verbal folklore dating roughly to the 8th century BCE.  In the original tale, Orpheus and Eurydice fall blissfully in love, but on their wedding day Eurydice dies from the bite of a snake.  In vain, Orpheus longs for his wife and plays the saddest music in her memory.  He decides to travel to the underworld to beg Hades and Persephone for his young wife back. Seduced by his mournful melodies, the rulers of the underworld grant him his wish under one condition: Orpheus may lead Eurydice out of the underworld, but he may notebook back to confirm her presence.  If he fails to keep his eyes forward, Eurydice will die a second death.  He agrees. However, in a moment of panic, he peers over his shoulder, and Eurydice vanishes for eternity.

The most popular account of the myth can be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a narrative poem in 15 books that describes the history and creation of mankind.  Though Ovid recounts the story in a brief two pages, countless writers, musicians, and artists have been reinterpreting and embellishing the tale ever since. Notable examples include Rainer Maria Rilke, a 20th-century German poet, who proposed an alternative interpretation in which Eurydice is liberated by death in his poem Orpheus, Eurydice, Hermes. Jacopo Peri and Giulio Caccini wrote the first opera based on the myth in 1600.  In the dramatic world, Tennessee Williams set the tale in 1950s  America in Orpheus Descending and Mary Zimmerman adapted selections from Metamorphoses into a stage play in 2002.

The Greeks conceived of a highly imaginative and complex life after death, believing that while the body dies instantaneously, the soul must embark on an arduous expedition into the depths of Hades.  The entrance to Hades, the underworld, was located at Avernus, a crater and underground river near Cumae, an ancient Greek settlement lying to the northwest of modern Naples, Italy.  The deceased entered the underworld through this cave and crossed lake Acheron in Charon’s boat. It was Greek custom to place an obolus (coin) under the tongue of the deceased to pay Charon for the ride. Once the deceased reached the other shore, they would encounter the Gate of the Adamant and Cerberus, the three-headed hound who eats raw flesh. Continuing on the journey, the dead pass through two pools, the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness, and the pool of Mnemosyne or “memory” where souls either lose their identity or are rewarded with memories.

Synopsis
In Ruhl’s play, Eurydice finds herself stranded on the bank of the Lethe without any recollection of her past.  In the underworld, she meets three stones who function like a Greek Chorus. They may also represent the three judges of the underworld: Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Aeacus. These judges usually preside in the palace of Hades and Persephone.  They spend their day judging each deceased soul: some are sent to the heavenly Elysian fields, some are tortured by the furies, and others turn into phantom-like, smoky figments forever lost in the abyss below. Eurydice’s fate has yet to be determined and she wades through purgatory with an unreconciled  existence. With the aid of the stones, her father, and Orpheus, Eurydice embarks on a retrospective journey to identify herself as a grown woman, wife, and daughter.
— Notes from the Dramaturg, Eurydice Program Notes
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