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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Art that speaks to the moment

Grinnell College’s production of Eurydice is premiering this weekend despite all odds. Photo contributed by Ahon Gooptu ’21.

Current conditions make it seem impossible to produce a play, but Grinnell students have done it again.

The Grinnell College theatre and dance department’s production of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice will be broadcasted Friday, Saturday and Sunday as a recorded show for everyone who is registered to watch.

The play is a 2006 adaption to the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Assistant Professor of Theatre, Irma Mayorga, is directing and said that she chose this play because the focus on grief and loss reminds her of the moment that we are all living through.

The play follows Eurydice, newly married to Orpheus, as her grief over her dead father brings her to the underworld. Within the play, Eurydice spends time with her father in the underworld, trying to understand her own painful memories and her father’s mortality.

Mayorga said that this play is about waiting in a place that you should not be, and the loneliness that comes from isolation from loved ones. “Sarah Ruhl is writing this story from the perspective of transition,” Mayorga said. “Trying to navigate death … trying to navigate loss of her husband. Things that we’re all grappling with in different ways. I wanted a play that spoke to today, I wanted art that spoke to our moment, separation, grief, death.”

Besides being timely, Eurydice was written by a woman, and could be done with a medium-sized cast. “Eurydice kept standing out to me because it kept hitting all the boxes that I needed,” said Mayorga.

I wanted a play that spoke to today, I wanted art that spoke to our moment, separation, grief, death. – Assistant Professor of Theatre, Irma Mayorga

Eurydice is a surreal piece, given that most of it takes place in the underworld. If the play was performed in person, Mayorga said that there would be many illusions within the set and performance. Due to their current format, all of these effects are taking place digitally.

Erik Sanning, Kate Baumgartner ’15 and guest artist Nick O’Leary have been working to make the sets and effects as magical as possible. One scene will have a river flowing through it, with the actors in the scene soaking wet to bring the setting to life. The challenge with that, though, is how to make it rain everywhere in the world at once.

Letícia Monteiro ’23 plays one of the stones and storytellers in the chorus of the play. She is living back home in Brazil with her family while working on this play. Being in Brazil means her costume and set pieces could not be shipped, and she stays up until 2 am to finish practices in a different time zone despite early morning classes. According to Monteiro, Brazil’s heat is overwhelming in her costume of a turtleneck and gloves.

Letícia Monteiro ’23 is living in Brazil with her family and, because of the time change, is up until 2 am at rehearsals. Photo contributed by Letícia Monteiro

Nevertheless, she said that she loves the collaborative and interactive aspect of theater and that she had her doubts about acting in an online production. “Theater, it requires physical context, to touch and look into your partner’s eyes and this exchange of energy. When I heard that Grinnell was going to do online theater production I was like, ‘Nope’.”

Monteiro decided to join anyway and said that she was surprised by the amount of connection she felt with the other actors even though everyone was separated. “We’re building such a crazy collaborative place when you’re not even in the same country as some of the people.”

The final product is a mix of film and theater, with the actors performing pre-recorded scenes and digital animations, such as the virtual rain. Mayorga said, “This is still theater being made in domestic spaces. We’re trying to capture these live performances.”

All of the actors have created sets in their personal spaces called micro-sets. Monteiro hung a green screen that she bought on the wall using tape and uses an ironing board to replace her broken tripod. Ahon Gooptu ’21, who is playing the Lord of the Underworld, has yielded his bedroom in order to make a set.

Audrey Boyle and Connor Stanfield both ’21 are the only actors that appear physically in the same scene. Photo contributed by Ahon Gooptu ’21.

Gooptu managed to fit a tricycle, a coffee table and a handful of wires into his small space. “There’s a huge extension cord that goes over my bed at night,” he said, “I’m looking forward to having no wires when I step out of bed in the morning. They have taken over our lives.”

Gooptu is living in a building with two other actors in the play. Audrey Boyle and Connor Stanfield, both ’21, are Eurydice and her father respectively. They set up in the living room and are the only actors who appear in the same scenes physically. The furniture is mostly cleared from their living room, they have lights and tiles hanging and they left room for the imaginary river.

In addition to acting as set designers, the actors are learning costume repair and lighting. Boyle’s jacket tore during practice one night, and Stanfield tried to repair it. “This is not something you as an actor normally do unless you work in the scene shop,” Gooptu said.

Nearly everything about how plays are done is changing. There’s new technology, new break-up of lines, new ways of setting up scenes and dealing with problems. As Mayorga said, “We’re working in a new paradigm. We’re forging the way for a new theater.”

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