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Director's Cuts: Natalie Liccardello On 'Eurydice'

Julie Denesha

  The Greek myth about the short-lived marriage of Orpheus and Eurydice is traditionally relayed from his point of view. Playwright Sarah Ruhl's version turns that around in her play Eurydice, opening next week at The Living Room.

Directing the show is Natalie Liccardello, who talked about the production as part of our monthly series, Director's Cuts

What is it about the myth of Orpheus andEurydice that made you want to direct it?

"It’s a beautiful story. It’s a really sad story. I think what drew me to the myth was actually this version of the myth. Sarah Ruhl is one of my favorite playwrights. I mean, I had heard the myth before but reading her version, that's what drew me to do the show."

Did her version speak to you in a different way than just knowing the myth?

"Yes, definitely, definitely. Sometimes when you read Greek tragedy in its early forms, it’s really inaccessible and therefore, I don't know if it's as relevant to modern audiences. I enjoy seeing it but not many people, I would say, do if you're outside of the theater world." 

For listeners who may not know the story, what are we going to see?

"Sure, Orpheus and Eurydice are very young and very in love. And on their wedding day, Eurydice is tempted away from Orpheus by the Lord of the Underworld or Hades, and she dies. So the original myth, it goes on with her going to the Underworld and it's all about Orpheus’s quest to get her back, to make a deal with Hades to bring her back to life. 

In Sarah Ruhl’s play, there's different elements that are layered into that story, the most significant of which is that her father is in the Underworld. She’s lost two things in life – she’s lost her father and in death, she's lost her husband. So there’s a choice to be made." 

Credit courtesy of the artist
courtesy of the artist
Director Natalie Liccardello

So, picking the Ruhl adaption leads me to this question, and you kind of alluded to the relevance for today’s audiences. What else can a director do to maximize this old story’s relevance?

"She was a poet before she was a playwright so there’s something very special about her plays. Her dialogue – it’s very musical. So she does pay homage to the original Greek telling in that way but it is also very modern." 

Is there a scene that you’re thinking the best taste of what this play is about? 

"Oh, that’s so hard. One of the choices we’ve made in our production is to have a child play the Lord of the Underworld. They normally have an adult man dressed up as a child. And we've cast Cam Burns. They might recognize him from A Christmas Carol, he's been doing it for years and years, as our Lord of the Underworld. And his scenes are just the creepiest. They’re so creepy because he’s so good and so young. So you've got this little voice that hasn’t changed yet speaking as a grown man. It’s something else."

You are also known as an actor and a playwright. Can you talk about how the director’s chair you’re sitting in now fits with your theatrical loves and aspirations and goals and objectives? How does that all work itself out? 

"It’s a different tool to put in your wheelhouse and it’s so much fun. I never thought I would enjoy it as much as I do. I think I even avoided it as a class in college, thinking, 'Oh no, well, I’m an actor. I wouldn’t have any use for such things.' But I think I’m a kinder, gentler director than I would be if I weren’t an actor because I know what it’s like to be on the other side of the table so, you know, if I’m not getting something out of an actor that I want to see, I think I know how to communicate with them much better than if I hadn’t had any experience on that side."

"Eurydice' by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Natalie Liccardello, is in previews January 28 and 29 (sold out), opens January 30, and runs through February 16 at The Living Room, 1818 McGee, Kansas City, Mo. General admission, $25. 816-533-5857. 

The “In This Scene...” series is supported by the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency.

Since 1998, Steve Walker has contributed stories and interviews about theater, visual arts, and music as an arts reporter at KCUR. He's also one of Up to Date's regular trio of critics who discuss the latest in art, independent and documentary films playing on area screens.
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