Clouds hung on white and blue drapes, as a pale turquoise hue illuminated the darkened stage from afar. Before them, a sea of folded chairs, yearning for their purpose. Palpitating hearts fluttered behind the veiled greyed walls of the Underworld, whose chittering teeth would transform into bold movements and beautiful moments on the deck in moments. As the mortal swarm began to close in, these phrenetics’ focus soared, and the prepared dictations became so much more than words on a page. In this heightened world, the immortals burst from their vessels into powerful beings and emotive characters, and the horde gazed in contented bliss as the show unfolded before them.
The New England College Theatre Department production of Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl had its three-show run this past weekend. It marked the department’s first mask-less performance since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A contemporary and eclectic retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, the tale follows the young and naïve Eurydice, who marries the greatest musician in the world, Orpheus. It follows her death, existence in the Underworld, and Orpheus’ journey to rescue her from mortality’s clutches, but incorporates many creative liberties to give the legend a new, notably female-focused, lens. These include Eurydice’s father, one of the only dead to remember how to read and write, who takes Eurydice under his wing until she finds herself again, as well as the personification of the Underworld itself, in the form of talking, chorally apt stones who ‘teach’ Eurydice rules about her new home.
As an incredibly technical show left hanging in mid-air, this unfinished business took on a new form, and in most aspects shared no likeness to its original production. This included roles, sets, and designs among much more, and for many who experienced the production of the show on it’s first run, the departure served as an interesting challenge to see through. Many actors were switched and added into different roles, the set design showed nearly no resemblance to its previous iteraction, and new designers brought unique ideas to each technical department at hand to the massive operation.
In addition to the usual three-show schedule (this time running Thurs-Sat, as opposed to Fri to Sun), a student matinee was performed on October 27th, for theatre students from Henniker’s own John Stark Regional High School, as well as from Coe-Brown Northwood Academy and Bonny Eagle High School. After the show, the students from both the performing and viewing parties participated in a Q&A, and a tour of the relatively new Putnam Center for the Performing Arts.
After four successful performances, each filling at least sixty seats within the house (the student matinee yielding over 100 students), the department is now working adeptly towards their next show, which will have to wait until spring of 2022 before they raise their curtain once more.