Monday, March 19 , 2018, 5:24 pm | Overcast 62º


Gerald Carpenter: UCSB Brings ‘Eurydice’ Back to a Whole New Life

The UCSB Department of Theater and Dance will offer the last four performances of its new production of Eurydice, beginning Thursday and running through Saturday. Sarah Ruhl’s play is directed by Jeff Mills and stars Megan Caniglia, Michael Morgan and Julian Remulla.

In the most familiar form of the myth of Orpheus and his wife, Eurydice, the couple has not been married long when Eurydice, escaping the advances of a satyr encountered in the woods, stumbles into a pit of vipers, is bitten and dies. Orpheus, a famous musician, is wild with grief and vows to bring her back from the Underworld. He descends with his lyre into Hades, charms the Lords of the Underworld with his music, and is granted permission to take Eurydice back to life — under certain conditions. They must leave single file, she must walk behind, and he must not look back until they are both in the upper world. Orpheus emerges into the light, doesn’t hear Eurydice following, and looks back. Eurydice has to return to the land of the dead, this time forever.

Orpheus is not mentioned in Homer or Hesiod, and his descent is not dramatized in any extent Greek play — although Euripides’ Alcestis explores some of the same themes (dead wife restored to life, etc.) to an entirely different purpose. The story recapitulated in the previous paragraph is now considered a Roman addition, from the time of Virgil (Georgics and Ovid Metamorphoses). Therefore, it is not, strictly speaking, a myth; it is a classical romance, like Daphnis and Chloe.

Ruhl’s play is most frequently described as a “re-telling” or “re-imagining” of the Orpheus myth from the perspective of his wife. This would leave the original mythic narrative — and lesson — intact, but experienced from the point of view of a (formerly) peripheral character — like Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead, where Shakespeare’s Hamlet goes on as before, but somewhere else in Elsinore Castle, while the new protagonists sit around and try to make sense of the impossible situation in which they find themselves. When they are taking part in the Shakespeare play, they don’t do or say anything different.

By making Eurydice the protagonist, however, Ruhl has invented a new story, based on some of the major facts of the old one, and which dramatizes an entirely different set of problems. She has also invented an important and entirely new character, Eurydice’s father, who exists in no earlier versions. The bond between Eurydice and her father is a powerful one. When he dies, his loss is as painful to her as her death is soon to be to Orpheus. There is a hint that her father tacitly disapproved his daughter’s marriage to so frivolus a type as a musician. At any rate, the father refuses to accept their separation, and writes his daughter letter after letter from the underworld. When she dies — could it have been a suicide? — she and her father are reunited. Then the word filters down that Orpheus is on his way, to “rescue” her. There might be a problem.

Eurydice plays at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Saturday, in the Hatlen Theater, on the UC Santa Barbara campus. Tickets are $17 general admission, $13 for students, seniors, UCSB faculty, staff and alumni, and can be purchased at the door, or from the Ticket Office, at 805.893.7221 or 805.893.3022. Click here to purchase tickets online.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). The opinions expressed are his own.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >