A tale of Love Letters, a Beautiful Girl named Eurydice, and Daddy’s Little Girl

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Once upon a time…. There was a little girl and there was her Father.

You know those memories that are locked away, you think maybe forever, somewhere deep in the back of your mind? Every so often you will be doing something mundane…. tying your shoe, picking up a sweater, running in a field…. and one of those memories will surface from their fuzzy dreamlike state with a clarity that is most shocking. But sadly, that intense clarity usually only lasts for a short while. These tiny accidental moments of clarity are something I have come to cherish because since my father passed away, because those are all I have left of him.

This post has been a week and a half in the making. I have turned it over 100 times in my mind and wondered if written words could even give my thoughts justice. But written words have prevailed because of how tricky memories can be. I do not want to forget Eurydice or the things that came with her to me with her tale.

Last week I was given a very special gift in the form of memory in the most unlikeliest of ways. Sitting in a dark theater, I was handed a love letter from my father.

The Play.

David’s brother Barry got us tickets to the Alley Theatre’s performance of Sarah Ruhl’s Eurydice. Prior to sitting down in the theatre, I flipped through the playbill. When the lights went down I understood that this was to be a retelling of the classical tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. I also understood that Sarah Ruhl’s father had passed away and that facet of her life play a huge role in the writing of this play. This play was to be an intensely personal look into Sarah’s soul. Even knowing that, and knowing how much I do relate to this woman, I was not expecting to be rocked like I was.

Like in every classic Orpheus tale, he is the musician who plays the world’s most beautiful music and Eurydice is his starry eyed and beautiful beloved who dies on their wedding day. Orpheus then fights his way to the Underworld to bring Eurydice back. He does succeed in gaining entrance, but the God of the Underworld gives him a strict challenge to regain possession of Eurydice. Orpheus must walk out of the Underworld and allow Eurydice to follow him, without once looking back at her. If he looks back at all, Eurydice will die all over again and he will lose her forever. In all of the classic tales, Orpheus succumbs to his desire to see Eurydice and turns around before they make it out of the Underworld and the tale ends in her second death and in his grief.

But what of Eurydice? Where was she while Orpheus was beating his proverbial chest and conquering death? Just chillin’ in Hades, sitting on a rock, waiting for Orpheus? Or does she have any idea that he is even coming? Does she even care? In Sarah’s version, things are much more complicated and Eurydice is given much more control over her story. And a new character is introduced…. Eurydice’s father.

The play opens with Eurydice and Orpheus on a beach. Orpheus gives Eurydice the gifts of the birds and the sky…. their banter is easy and sweet and it is quite that obvious that Orpheus is hopelessly in love with the doe eyed Eurydice (as was I). The scene ends with his confession of love and a simple piece of string looped around a very “particular” finger. At this point I teared up only because I’m a sucker for love; especially when it is offered in such a pure and easy manner.

The moment at which I knew this play was going to have a profound effect on me was when Eurydice’s father first appears on stage and begins composing a love letter to his daughter, a love letter he cannot hope to ever hand her himself because he is a resident of the Underworld. I think this is something that every little girl craves when they say goodbye to their Daddy…. just one more word. In this other world of myth and legend, it seems there is some line of communication open (even if the service is a little faulty) because Eurydice’s Father leaves the letter on the ground for her to find.

Moments later Eurydice herself arrives and begins a poignant monologue on weddings. “Weddings are for Father’s and their Daughters” she says…. this line managed to completely undo me…. because it is something I have often thought about. After all…. it is your father who is supposed to give you away. Isn’t it? It is Daddies who pick their little girls up when they scrape their knees and who tolerate playing Barbie because a smile from their daughter is a treasure. Who else has the authority to give a little girl away to another but the man who will always love her most?

Like mine, Eurydice’s father cannot be there on her wedding day. But a mysterious man shows up while Eurydice is taking a break from the wedding party and tempts Eurydice away with the promise of a letter from her Father (wonder where he found it? Damn that faulty mail service). Eurydice ends up realizing that following the man was a mistake and in her flight from him, she ends up falling to her death. Here Eurydice reunites with her father, who has conquered the swim through the “River of Forgetfulness” and has been faithfully waiting for her at the other side.

Of course, when Eurydice arrives she has no memory of her life on earth because of that fateful river swim. She mistakes her Father for a mere porter. Thus begins Eurydice’s journey with her father through the tangled webs of thoughts and memories and words from “porter” back to “Father” again…. and Eurydice remembers what it is to love. There is laughter and a house made of string and much song. There are stones and a petulant child and grief.

All the while Orpheus is searching for a way to get Eurydice back, and the stage is raining.

The Emotions.

I am loathe to give away the end of the play and there is much I haven’t written about here. But know that it is a fantastic tale. The director, Gregory Boyd, brings Sarah’s tale of Eurydice to the stage in a way that rivals the stories mythical origins. The lines between loss and laughter, fantasy and reality, and love and regret are seamlessly crossed in the Alley’s telling of Eurydice.

So much so that after the play, memories crashed through the barriers in my mind like the greatest of floods. My heart was broken open and thoughts of my Father surfaced quite unexpectedly. For the first time in almost ten years, his laughter rang through my head like the clearest of bells and his face loomed more beautifully than any painting in the world. Eurydice was the most beautiful of love letters I have ever received. I will be forever in debt to Sarah Ruhl, and for the cast of crew of Houston’s much Alley Theatre, for giving me this amazing gift.

If you are in Houston between now and March 1, I highly recommend catching Eurydice. Whether or not the play affects you as it did me, it truly is a good cleaver spin on a classic tale.

Oh…. and Daddy? Kisses your way.

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18 Responses

  1. eschipul says:

    Beautiful and gutsy blog post Maggie. The power of the theater is truly amazing.

  2. Thanks for sharing Maggie. After I read this post I sat and stared at the picture of you and your dad for quite a while. It made me stopped and think about both of my parents, their lives and struggles…and how much they sacrificed for me. Love and emotion. Honesty. Showing your soul-face. Passion. Those are the ingredients of a great communication. If this is what your "cheese" is made of…well…give me a slice on my next bacon burger. Peace, sister. 😉

  3. Fayza says:

    You already know how much I love this post. To tears, in fact. Running-off-to-the-bathroom-under-the-guise-of-anything-but-crying. You're a gem, honey bunny.

  4. John Feltch says:

    Hey Maggie. I'm the guy who played the father in Eurydice and just needed to say how moved I am that our show moved you so….it is always our greatest dream to have a profound impact on someone out there and I guess it's safe to say you were one of the someones! Thanks for the time and care you gave to us.

  5. Kathleen says:

    I waited to read this post until after I had seen the play myself. It was definitely emotional! The parts with the father and daughter were the best.

  6. Valerie says:

    Margaret (can't get used to Mags), this was wonderful! You are so complex; just like your dad. I am so proud of you!!! Love you to pieces.

  7. magsmac says:

    John…. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! And thank you for commenting; it is wonderful to know the people who were actually a part of the play know how much Eurydice meant to me…. And I am sure I am the voice of many.

    I cannot tell you how much I appreciated you performance. I know you aren't a regular Alley player anymore, but I hope to get to see you on stage again some time!

  8. […] all at once. I believe the last time I sat still for any length of time was when I went to see Eurydice…. and wasn’t New Year’s Eve like ten minutes ago?! I don’t want forget a […]

  9. Patti says:

    I need to find the monologue Eurydice says at the end of the play, the letter to Orpheus' future wife for an audition. Anyone care to help? It isn't on the internet as far as I could find it.

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