KEARNEY — Director Noelle Bohaty sees some kind of poetic justice in the location of the University Theatre at Kearney’s production of “Eurydice.”
The production of the play continues today through Sunday at the Studio Theatre in the basement of the Fine Arts Building.
“I thought there would be something fun about an audience having to actually go downstairs to watch a show about the Underworld,” the University of Nebraska at Kearney dance lecturer said.
Written in 2003 by American playwright Sarah Ruhl, the play retells the myth of Orpheus from the perspective of his wife, Eurydice.
“She has taken the classic Greek myth where Eurydice dies and goes to the Underworld and Orpheus goes down to save her,” Bohaty said. “She has spun the story on its head a little bit and tells the tale with a contemporary bent, through the eyes of Eurydice. She’s also added the character of Eurydice’s father into the plot.”
The play looks at love, family and relationships.
The production features a nine-member student cast along with a student stage crew.
“I was asked to direct because of its movement possibilities,” Bohaty said. “It’s a lovely performance art/visual representation of a fully embodied theatrical piece.”
The director, who teaches dance at the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s Fine Arts Department, originally studied theater.
“I started my performance career as an actor, not in dance,” she said. “I did just enough dance to get by in musical theater. It wasn’t until graduate school that I found a deep love for movement and dance. So that has certainly shifted the way that I direct and teach acting.”
Bohaty looked for a shared vocabulary between theater and dance.
“I use a lot of acting techniques when I teach dance, as well,” she said.
“Eurydice” features a Greek chorus of stones that inhabit the Underworld.
“They operate the way a Greek chorus would in a typical show,” the director said. “Sometimes they are one unit and sometimes they are more individual.”
In terms of watching a play based on ancient Greek theater, Bohaty urges her audience to go beyond their expectations.
“I think that people think of tragedy when they think of Greek theater and don’t want to spend two hours watching everyone die,” she said. “I absolutely understand that.”
The script for “Eurydice” contains some of the classic elements for a Greek tragedy but it also features humor.
“There are lots of moments of humor,” Bohaty said. “The fun thing about the stones of the Greek chorus is that they give us permission to laugh. It’s not all gloom and doom. There’s a lot of fun stuff in there as well.”
With a running time of about 80 minutes, Bohaty felt like she had time to explore the material.
“The play isn’t super long,” she said. “It felt like we had time to dig at the physical material and at the scene work. I felt like I got to play a lot more with the actors and the scene work. The show has given me permission to play and you don’t always have that luxury.”
Performed with the audience on three sides, the Bohaty approached that aspect of the show differently.
“In some ways I felt like I was directing film,” she said.
In other ways, with audience members on three sides, each person gets to see the show from a unique perspective.
In terms of creating an Underworld in the basement of the Fine Arts Building, Bohaty acknowledged the mixture of Greek theater, contemporary life and an afterworld filled with special rules and conditions.
“Basically everybody is just going to Hell, but it’s a fun Hell,” she joked.