Theatre closes 2023-24 with Eurydice

Adia Best and Dinvela Adam in Eurydice
Adia Best and Dinvela Adam in Eurydice (photo by Leo Gonzalez)

April 15, 2024 – DENTON – After the heavy preconceptions of this winter's production of Hamlet, the Texas Woman's University Theatre division this week will conclude the 2023-24 season with Eurydice, a play with few rules and ample room for interpretation.

"We've kind of been doing our own thing in terms of the production and the direction," said Noah Lelek, associate professor of Theatre and director of Eurydice (pronounced yu-RID-uh-see). "I have a chorus who's really willing to do the work. I have some older actors, some younger actors who haven't worked very much. So I think it's actually fun to do, instead of having so many parameters where you have to do this, this, and this, it gives us, the designers, the actors, everybody, the opportunity to see what we're going to make and what ends up."

Eurydice will be performed April 17-21 at Redbud Theater.

Tickets for Eurydice now on sale

The play's origin is the ancient Greek legend of Orpheus. A bard, poet and legendary musician, Orpheus falls in love with the beautiful Eurydice and they marry. However, Eurydice dies, and Orpheus journeys to the underworld to find her.

In 2003, playwright Sarah Ruhl reimagined the story, focusing on Eurydice's choice to return to Earth with her husband or remain in the underworld with her father.

"It is a classical piece, but she adapted it for a modern audience," Lelek said. "It's focused on Eurydice, her journey instead of the Orpheus journey in which Eurydice is more of a secondary character. Eurydice is on stage probably 95% of the time, and she's really running the show."

Lelek entrusted the role to one of the youngest cast members, first-year student Adia Best, who is completing her first semester at TWU.

"I've always wanted to be an actress, and I ended up going to school because I don't know acting techniques," Best said. "I don't know how to act other than just what I feel. To be doing my first play where I'm the lead, I still feel pretty underprepared. I get imposter syndrome. But Noah is really cool and fun and easy to work with. So I'm glad this was my first production time because it's definitely helped me be a lot more comfortable. I've never done a college production or anything professional, so it's cool to see how the set works and how the designers contribute to it."

Best is stepping into a surreal play described by reviewers and the playwright herself as Greek myth meets Alice in Wonderland. Which is a funny coincidence.

"In eighth grade, I was Alice and Alice in Wonderland, and I was also on stage the whole time," Best said. "I had a lot of lines, and it's just weird stuff. Similar to this, emotions change really quickly. The escalation of scenes, all of a sudden she's crying, and that happens in Alice in Wonderland, too. So I guess I do have a little bit of experience with it, but obviously in middle school, they're not too focused on your character interpretation, so I do feel a little more pressure to get this interpretation correctly."

Best is not alone in feeling comfortable with the material. Dinvela Adam, who plays Orpheus, was exposed to Eurydice in high school.

"I've seen the show performed at UIL one-act play," he said. "My high school actually did it, so I know the story quite well. It's refreshing because I get to throw in some of my ideas for things that I want to be portrayed to the audience, like how we do certain movements and what we want the movements to communicate to the audience and how to propel the story forward, because the story can get a bit confusing at times, and we want to simplify it as much as we can to get the full effect of what Sarah Ruhl was trying to say."

The openness to interpretation has made the play a favorite of high schools and colleges.

"If you look at previous productions, most of them are very different in terms of design and how the chorus works together," Lelek said. "Yes, she has some stage directions focused on what happened the first time it was done. But, you know, we don't need to follow the stage directions. We just have to follow the words and create the world from the words."

Ruhl even encouraged creativity in design and lighting.

"That's why I find this play so interesting," said Adalaya Goforth, the play's stage manager. "It's my favorite play I've ever read, and I usually lean more towards realism where this is your set and it looks very real. But I find this very interesting and unique."

"We have a lot more room in lighting to play with different areas we're using and different emphasis on the actors, like when Hades appears and when Eurydice comes down to hell," said Daniel Sandoval, the assistant lighting designer. "We're working with what we want, what our vision is, what the director's vision is. We try to see all sides of all of it, and then we work together to figure it out. It's really fun."

The play's surreal atmosphere extends to a trio of characters known as the Stones – Little Stone, Big Stone and Loud Stone, who are bureaucratic guardians of the underworld played by Shea Hook, Rey Benavides and Brenna Petersen.

"I feel like we give the vibes of the Three Stooges," Hook said. "It's fun to portray, pushing each other around. When I got the part, I watched a lot of videos of other schools and other performances of Eurydice, and each time, the stones were completely different to a point where I was like, I don't even know how I'm supposed to be playing this. So when I showed up to the first read through, I just did it however I wanted."

"It's a lot of movement and a lot of fast-paced actions that I think engage the audience," Benavides said. "It's kind of a thing where we do movement until it feels right for the scene. A lot of our movements are kind of pop-culture inspired, something you would be able to recognize, but a lot of it is just us running around like little children."

"It's one of the most vague roles I've ever had," Petersen said. "We are taking a lot of liberties compared to how it's normally done. From what I've heard, this is really known for the raining elevator (the doorway to the underworld). We are basically turning that on its head. We're using the river and contemporary dance. We've seen the costumes, and the costumes are just as weird as our characters. And I think having the weird, crazy costumes and the super intense makeup and this big, huge river that they're making, I think it's going blow people's minds."


Wednesday-Friday, April 17-19, 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 20, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday, April 21, 2 p.m.

$10 for adults, including TWU faculty and staff.
$5 for students, children and senior citizens.

Eurydice - Adia Best
Eurydice's Father - Ethyn Gutierrez
Orpheus - Dinvela Adam
A Nasty Interesting Man/The Lord of the Underworld - Felix Ferris
Chorus of Stones - Rey Benavides, Shea Hook and Brenna Petersen

Tickets for Eurydice now on sale

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Page last updated 8:20 AM, April 15, 2024