The weekend of February 19-21 is the cumulative product of over a year of planning, working, and dreaming. When I first saw Eurydice, written by Sarah Ruhl back in 2017, it was the first time I ever saw a show and did not think about which character I would want to play. Instead I thought to myself, “I want to direct this”. I think the reason I fell in love with this show was because it does not shy away from the messiness of grief. I think not just theatre, but society avoids talking about grief, even though it is something each and every one of us face. And more importantly, this show and life has taught me that we do not only experience grief in relation to death. We also grieve the loss of relationships, of dreams and future plans, and of losing the life you thought was yours.

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News

Therapeutic Theatre: Directing “Eurydice” with Ella Spoelstra ’21

  • Ella Spoelstra ’21

By Ella Spoelstra ’21

February 19, 2021

The weekend of February 19-21 is the cumulative product of over a year of planning, working, and dreaming. When I first saw Eurydice, written by Sarah Ruhl back in 2017, it was the first time I ever saw a show and did not think about which character I would want to play. Instead I thought to myself, “I want to direct this”. I think the reason I fell in love with this show was because it does not shy away from the messiness of grief. I think not just theatre, but society avoids talking about grief, even though it is something each and every one of us face. And more importantly, this show and life has taught me that we do not only experience grief in relation to death. We also grieve the loss of relationships, of dreams and future plans, and of losing the life you thought was yours.

I submitted my proposal to the theatre department to direct Eurydice back in March of last year, in the early stages of the pandemic. I still remember thinking at that time that we would possibly be back to in-person classes in April. And now here we are, still in the thick of it all, although hope is on the horizon. Even then, I had no idea how much this show would come to mean, especially as it pertains to grief and healing from loss.

And undoubtedly, we’ve all experienced loss and grief over the past year. Whether it’s the loss of graduation, family celebrations, and jobs, or of mental or physical health declines, or even the death of loved ones. Most certainly, we’ve all lost normalcy. In a way, I’ve even lost pieces of myself. But now I’m learning to let go of who I used to be, and to instead get to know who I’ve become. As cheesy as it may sound, directing Eurydice has helped me heal within that. And I truly think that’s what this show all boils down to: learning to let go. There’s a strong connection in the show between healing from grief and the process of remembering. The only way to stay connected to ourselves and to get through pain, is to go through it. It is necessary to remember the painful memories as much as the joyful ones, to remember what and who we’ve lost, and to confront how these have shaped us into who we are, whether we like it or not. When Eurydice gets to the Underworld, she no longer remembers who she is, who her husband is, that she loves to read, or who her father is. And although the process of remembering these things, with the help of her father, is gut wrenchingly painful, it’s the only way she can find herself in the show. Existence is messy like that. 

I knew that in order to direct this show, I would need to confront my own fears and losses in order to create a rehearsal space where the actors could do the same. This show requires a lot of vulnerability. Through the process, we all shared letters, items, photographs, and art that we connect to and why these particular pieces of our lives and the people and stories they are connected to have shaped or changed us. But when I first chose this show, I did not know how timely this process would truly be and how therapeutic it would become.

I’ve come out the other side of this show a different person. The best way I can describe it is to compare it to the character of Eurydice’s journey in the show. Eurydice begins the show as a naive, love-struck young woman, still learning what it means to love and to be loved. And by the end of the show (without giving too much away), she’s experienced what it is to be lonely, and what it means to lose people and to be left. She learns that sacrifice and being selfless is what true love entails. And the tragedy of it all is that she had to lose so much to learn this. I also think it’s beautiful that Sarah Ruhl wrote the show not as a pure drama, but with moments of hilarity and utter fun. I think it’s a reflection of life itself. We often exist in dualities: of sorrow and joy, of bitterness and contentment, of fear and hope. Grief is melancholic, and it does not make you weak to admit or embrace that.

Even though the play ends with tragedy, I love that there is still room for possibility. The final scene does not conclude with truly finite answers. And that has helped me in my own darkest moments. I am not finished yet either. Directing Eurydice has helped me personally get to a place where I am at peace with knowing I am not who I was a year ago. And in five years I will be a different woman too. And again in ten, twenty, even forty years (God willing), I’ll look back and see how I’ve grown, and learned, and changed from who I am today. Eurydice, as the incomparable Ruhl says, has “imprinted on my heart like wax”, and I am humbled to have had this healing experience creating theatre with such a creative and dedicated cast, production team, and crew.

 

Eurydice, by Sarah Ruhl and directed by Ella Spoelstra ’21 runs February 19-20 at 7:30 p.m., and February 21 at 3 p.m. in the Wartburg Theatre. Attending this production in-person is open to Carthage Faculty, Staff, and Students only. Tickets are required and must be obtained in advance. The Friday and Saturday shows (7:30 pm Central Time) will be live streamed for free, and available to the public.

Live stream link: www.carthage.edu/multimedia/webcast-1

For more information, please contact the Fine Arts Box Office at 262-551-6661 Tuesday to Friday, noon to 5 p.m. Stay connected by joining us on social media at www.facebook.com/carthagefinearts and www.instagram.com/carthagefinearts, join our monthly E-Newsletter, or visit us online at www.carthage.edu/fine-arts.