When the myth about Eurydice is told it’s really the story of Orpheus: how he falls in love with her, how devasted he is when she gets bitten by a snake and dies, and how he goes to the underworld and pleads with Hades and Persephone to be allowed to bring her back to earth. He is told he can as long as he doesn’t look back, but since people can never follow directions in myths, he does, and Eurydice must remain in the land of the dead.
The story has been the subject of artists including a painting by Titian and a sculpture by Auguste Rodin. It’s also been made into operas and ballets and films. Most were focused on Orpheus, but in Sarah Ruhl’s play, Eurydice, coming to the UC Santa Cruz on November 10, the story is about the title character.
“Poor Eurydice is this beautiful thing that is the impetus for Orpheus’ story,” says Noah Lucé, a lecturer at the UC Santa Cruz Performance, Play, and Design Department, “I love that Sarah Ruhl took this and reimagined it with all the things going on in her life.”
What was going on in Ruhl’s life at the time was her father dying of cancer, and in the play, she explores the horror we have of losing people we love. Lucé, who went through a similar experience with his own father, was moved by the play and wanted to direct it. He says it’s perfect for a college campus.
“The characters are roughly the age as most of our student population,” he said. “I also just love the fact that it's not a play that's built in realism. It's a play you can really pull apart and from Sarah Ruhl’s writing about the play she is so open to interpretation. As a director, how exciting is that?”
Lucé has chosen to do some interesting things in staging the play. He was thinking about the idea that we think our souls don’t match our bodies — so he decided to have two Eurydices — one playing her when she’s alive in the first third of the play and the other playing her as sort of a shadow. Then when she goes to the underworld, the roles are reversed. Just to make it a little more exciting, the actors playing the two Eurydices will change each night.
The students have gone along with this idea, he says.
“I was so scared introducing that concept to the students and I was like, ‘Will you understand where my brain is?’” he said. “And of course, my students being the generous, amazing humans they are, were like, ‘Yes, let's do it.’”
Lucé says his love for theater came from watching old movies with his grandmother, who liked films starring women like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Debbie Reynolds. Some of the feeling of those movies and powerhouse women in them will come through in Eurydice, he says.
In an essay, Ruhl wrote about how the play is about memory, so she wanted it to be set in the 50s and removed from our era. Lucé liked that idea.
“Setting it in that time period, I'm really hoping that it feels like a postcard, especially because the play has a lot of movement and a lot of poetry to it,” he said. “The way Sarah Ruhl has written it, I think it really lends itself to this idea that it's like an old film, like the two lovers crashing into each other at the beach.”
Lucé adores anything to do with theater, and is an actor, a fight choreographer, and an intimacy choreographer, along with a director.
Lucé grew up in Santa Cruz and got his master’s at UC Santa Cruz, and now he loves teaching there.
“I can’t sing our department’s praises enough. The amount of collaboration that our department allows for is so beautiful and we’re have a dynamic group of professors, lecturers, staff, and students who are all so excited about our mission,” he said. “When I step on campus, I feel electrified with energy.”
Eurydice - original drawing by Saul Villegas of Moderno
Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl
Directed by Noah Lucé
Nov. 10–12 & 16–19, 2023 -- Thu, Fri, and Sat at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday matinees at 3:00 p.m.
Theater Arts Mainstage at UC Santa Cruz
Presented by: UCSC’s Department of Performance, Play & Design
Free and open to the public.
- Ticket required for entry and available online only at UCSCtickets.com.