Pen, Paint, and Pretzels to showcase innovative retelling of Greek myth in ‘Eurydice’

A promotional poster for 'Eurydice,' presented by Pen, Paint, and Pretzels, is pictured. via Facebook

Pen, Paint, and Pretzels (3Ps), Tufts’ student theatre organization, will perform its fall show, “Eurydice,” this weekend in Balch Arena Theater. The production, co-directed by senior Chopper Carter-Schelp and sophomore Rosa Stern Pait and stage managed by sophomore Laura Wolfe, moves the myth of Orpheus and his wife, Eurydice, out of its original ancient Greek setting and into a more contemporary context.

“Eurydice” is a one-act play written by Sarah Ruhl in 2003 that follows Eurydice’s death and descent into the Underworld, where she is reunited with her deceased father, a figure not in the original Greek myth.

“[Her father]’s been dead for a few years, and she’s able to reunite with him in the Underworld, which creates … tension for her between going back to Orpheus,” Stern Pait explained. “So the focus is on her and her relationships with Orpheus, with her father and with this character called the Lord of the Underworld — in the myth, he would be the god Hades — and he’s sort of another player in her life and in her death.”

3Ps’ production of “Eurydice” features a small cast of seven actors, but Stern Pait and Wolfe have been working hard to make the show a thoughtful reproduction of Ruhl’s work. The show is the first one that Stern Pait has directed in her time at Tufts — she was originally credited as assistant director but has since taken on the full directorial role.

“The original director and the creator of this [adapted] concept is my close friend, and this was a show … and a playwright she had interest in for a long time,” Stern Pait said. “She chose the show because she saw a lot of potential for using it to tell a queer narrative … and also saw a lot of aesthetic potential in the imagery that we could use to tell the story that we wanted to tell.”

Since stepping into the role of director, Stern Pait has jumped at the chance to synthesize the show’s original format with her own ideas for the production.

“The challenge has been taking a concept that wasn’t mine — a vision that I didn’t come up with — and meshing that with my vision for the show and with my directing style, which I would say is pretty different,” Stern Pait said. “The vision and the concept itself, we’re going with, but I would also say that we dropped some of the more heavy-handed and graphic imagery in favor of a more subtle and a more emotive storytelling.”

Stern Pait has risen to the occasion, embracing her directorial role with aplomb.

“It’s been a really cool experience seeing … all of the different people who are involved and also what each of them do, [as well as] the resources we have available and all the limitations we have and how to figure out how to make the most of [them],” she said.

This production is not the first time Stern Pait and Wolfe have worked together. The duo was involved in the Bare Bodkin Theatre Company’s production of “Fefu and Her Friends” last semester, which was performed at the Women’s Center. After such an intimate venue, Wolfe noted that Balch represents a significant step up as it relates to her role as stage manager.

“Stage managing in Balch is a lot different from the Women’s Center … there is just a lot more to coordinate because this show is more technically heavy than Fefu,” Wolfe said. “But I’ve had a lot of resources and people to rely on, which has been really helpful, and also when the director is your very good friend, it makes it a lot more fun.”

Stern Pait and Wolfe have been forced to contend with the show’s limited budget and learning to maximize the return on their resources has been central to their development of the production.

“We have a real theater and we have all this space and we’re doing it ‘[theatre] in the round,’ and so how do we make the best use of all the resources we have there? And then we have certain limitations,” Stern Pait said. “So we couldn’t go into costume stock — how do we get around that and also use that to our benefit?”

As stage manager, Wolfe has had to deal with the show’s budget constraints more than anyone else.

Because we have budgetary limitations, we’ve been going through furniture stock and the actors’ closets to design the show,” she said. “There’s a lot of stuff there, but it’s a lot more difficult than being able to just buy stuff.”

Despite these challenges, Stern Pait and Wolfe have greatly enjoyed working with the talented cast, noting its exceptional camaraderie.

We actually ended up having an almost full audition docket, which was cool,” Stern Pait said. “We have some really wonderful actors, and a lot of them are new, which is really fun because you can kind of mold them a little bit … and they’re really, really committed, they’re really dedicated and they care a lot about the show. It’s just a pleasure to work with actors who care so much.”

Wolfe concurred, noting that her relationship with assistant stage manager Joanna Kleszczewski, a first-year, has represented the social nature of the cast and crew.

“Over the course of the rehearsal process, [Kleszczewski has] been opening up as a person and making lots of friends,” Wolfe said. “That’s not really strictly related to the play, but it’s really nice to see, and I feel like I’ve helped with that.”

Stern Pait also highlighted the relationship between Wolfe and Kleszczewski.

“They’re really close with each other and with us, and that’s been the saving grace in every difficult moment,” she said. “Like okay, sure, maybe we don’t have any lights and we can’t get the costume stock, but we’re just here to make friends.”

In terms of the production itself, Stern Pait advises audience members to bring tissues.

It’s a really fascinating play … and we’ve been able to really delve into the text,” she said. “I love our actors so much. I feel like they bring so much experience and thoughtfulness and wisdom to the table … I would say my biggest piece of advice for anyone coming to the show is to watch them, really look at them. Everybody who’s onstage — they’re each doing something. And every character is a whole world.”

“Eurydice” will be performed in Balch Arena Theater on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are available for free.