“Eurydice is interesting,” says Martha Johnson, director of Augsburg’s first mainstage play of the year, but she doesn’t mean that in the way most Minnesotans use the word. “It’s quirky and funny…interesting in a good way.”
Written by Sarah Ruhl, Eurydice is a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus told from the point of view of Eurydice, his wife. “It’s almost like a dream,” Johnson said. “The play uses images you would only see in a dream but is also very human. There’s a little bit of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ in it.” Johnson believes patrons will appreciate the contemporary humor, Ruhl’s ability to play with language, and the unusual set designed by Joe Stanley.
Johnson calls Eurydice a poignant and humorous exploration of death, loss, and memory. Written when Ruhl was grieving the loss of her father to cancer, the play focuses both on the relationship between husband and wife as well as on Eurydice’s relationship with her father. Ruhl used the play to imagine what would happen if Eurydice met her father in the underworld, since he had been dead at the time of her wedding, in the underworld.
The role of Eurydice is played by Shannon O’Brien, a sophomore theatre major whose father, Paul O’Brien, is also an actor and a student in the Augsburg MBA program.
“I wanted to become an actress because of my father,” Shannon said. “I saw him in Amadeus at the Guthrie when I was in middle school, and I fell in love with the theatre.” Paul offers advice when his daughter asks for it and helps her memorize lines but says he tries to stay out of her way. “She is doing things that are very tough, being a student and playing the lead in the play,” he says. “I just try to be there and be a supportive dad.”
Paul learned about Augsburg’s MBA program when he brought his daughter to campus to begin her first year. After he was accepted into the program, she told him not to expect to see her every time he was on campus. “In my first year, this was kind of my territory,” she said, but soon she came to enjoy seeing her father at Augsburg. The pair has dinner together every Monday before Paul goes to class and Shannon goes to rehearsal. “All my friends love him.”
Shannon builds on the close relationship with her father in her role as Eurydice. “Toward the end of the play when my father and I are in the underworld, he is bringing me to Orpheus and we are walking down an imaginary aisle as though at my wedding. At that time, I think about what it would be like to lose my dad,” she said. Her father, who lives with multiple sclerosis, said “Every father dreams of walking his daughter down the aisle. Because I have MS, that is uncertain.”
Performances of Eurydice are Oct. 31, Nov. 1, 6, and 8 at 7 p.m., and Nov. 2, 8, and 9 at 2 p.m. in Tjornhom-Nelson Theater in Foss Center. Tickets are $10 general public; $8 ACTC, faculty, staff, and students; $2 Augsburg students and children under age 12. For reservations or other information, call 612-330-1257.