This week, Ole Miss Theatre & Film students take the stage to bring the classic myth of Orpheus to life in “Eurydice.”
The play, written by Sarah Ruhl in 2003, reimagines the myth through the eyes of its heroine. Dying too young on her wedding day, Eurydice must journey to the underworld, where she reunites with her father and struggles to remember her lost love.
Dex Edwards, associate professor of scenic design, is serving as designer and director of “Eurydice.” Edwards has worked at Ole Miss for 22 years, and “Eurydice” will be his last show.
Lydia Myers, a junior theatre arts major, is serving as assistant stage manager for “Eurydice” and is excited for the community to see the production. Myers said that she is looking forward to audiences’ reactions to the show, especially its special effects.
“This (show) was created to be visually stunning,” Myers said. “We have running water onstage, an elevator, projections, incredible light and sound design, letters and books that drop from the sky and an amazing cast and crew that make all of it happen.”
The actors have been busy all semester with constant rehearsals. In the months leading up to opening night, the cast rehearsed for at least five hours a day every day of the week.
According to Matthew McMurtry, a freshman student who is pursuing a degree in acting for stage and screen and playing Orpheus in the play, the entire rehearsal process was “a wonderful headache.”
“(Edwards would) always say, ‘All I ask is that you let yourself be completely vulnerable eight times a week. It’s not that hard. Truly,’” McMurtry said.
Though the hours have been long and exhausting, the actors believe the time spent has allowed them to truly get to know their characters and bring them to life on stage.
McMurtry, in particular, struggled to grasp his character in the beginning. Described as a man of passion, Orpheus only cares about Eurydice and music — two things that McMurtry does not feel a connection to.
“I had to relate everything back to things I was passionate about, which are theatre and performance,” McMurtry said. “I attacked his mindset the same way I do my studies, and everything fell into place.”
Gabrielle Quintana, a sophomore studying acting for stage and screen, plays Eurydice.
Quintana is excited to bring Eurydice’s story to life since it has rarely been told from Eurydice’s point of view.
“For the first time in centuries, we finally hear her side,” Quintana said. “And I have thoroughly enjoyed playing Eurydice because of that.”
Though her character may be naive at times, Quintana describes Eurydice as a young woman who is full of love and who often makes decisions with her heart as opposed to her head, which often leaves her distraught.
“The most challenging part I’ve had to overcome (while playing) Eurydice is exploring the full range of emotions that she goes through,” Quintana said. “She feels love, loss, heartbreak, fear and so on within in a single hour. The emotions, despite how obscure the scenes can be at times, are universal, and it has certainly been a challenge going through them each night.”
Quintana credits her performance to her own hard work and to Edwards’s coaching, stating that he has done a fantastic job guiding her through the entire process. She has also enjoyed working with McMurtry, and her favorite scene is the first one they share.
“He is a great partner, and we have become great friends over this show,” Quintana said.
Quintana also formed a bond with A.J. Howell, a senior in the acting program, who portrays Eurydice’s father.
Throughout the rehearsal process, Howell took time to form a bond with Quintana to ensure that their onstage bond came naturally. In addition, he said he worked hard to ensure that he was able to accurately portray the way a parent views his child.
“I worked very closely with (Edwards) and even analyzed how my mother would talk to me when I called her,” Howell said. “During rehearsals, when (Edwards) was working with other actors, I would ask (Quintana) questions so I could get to know her.”
With contemporary characters, ingenious plot twists and breathtaking visual effects, the play is a fresh look at a timeless love story. Christian Carew, assistant director for “Eurydice,” hopes that everyone leaves the show with an appreciation for the arts.
“It is a wonderful, heart-wrenching story … that puts (the viewer) in a dream-like world,” Carew said. “It has a different meaning to everyone, and I want them to find what it is.”