BWW Interview: Sarah Ruhl Re-Creates Her EURYDICE Into A World Premiere Opera
The LA Opera and the Metropolitan Opera join forces to co-produce the world premiere of EURYDICE from the creative minds of composer/conductor Matthew Aucoin and librettist Sarah Ruhl; beginning February 1, 2020 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Based on Sarah's 2003 play EURYDICE, this Greek myth unfolds from the heroine's perspective. Mary Zimmerman directs a talented cast that includes: Danielle De Niese, Rod Gilfry, Joshua Hopkins, John Holiday, Barry Banks, Stacey Tappan, Raehann Bryce-Davis and Kevin Ray.
Sarah graciously took time out to answer a few of my inquisitive queries.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Sarah!
When you were writing EURYDICE in 2003, did you ever envision your words transformed into a libretto for an opera?
I never did! But I am thrilled and delighted.
What cosmic forces of creativity originally brought you and Matthew Aucoin together?
I see nineteen plays and adaptations listed on your author's page. Would audiences find a common theme in all your scripts?
Yes - love and death. Which my children tease me about. "Oh, Mom!" they say. "Another play about love and death?" The two great themes.
At what point of your works being produced do the words get set in stone? Before Samuel French agrees to licensing it? First rehearsals? Opening night?
Once it's published. Otherwise, I try to make myself useful by making little improvements here and there.
Do you like to participate in the premieres of your work? Or do you let the creatives do their thing?
I absolutely love to participate. It's been a joy to be in the room at LA Opera this week. If I didn't participate, I'd be missing out on one of the great joys of making theater, which are presence and collaboration.
What would your three-line pitch of EURYDICE be?
For the first time, we follow the point of view of the woman who dies twice. We see her forget her life, and then we see her remember life, through conversations with her father. Leaving the underworld becomes a choice.
Any audience reactions to your 2003 premiere still hang on in your memory?
I remember some serious weeping.
Any major tweaking between your original 2003 EURYDICE script to 2020 EURYDICE libretto?
Lots of distillation had to happen. It takes about four times as long to sing a line as to say a line, so I'd say we cut the word count by at least half. I also did some restructuring, some versifying, and occasionally changing a word here and there to make it more sing-able.
Any room for minor script changes between the Dorothy Chandler production and the Metropolitan Opera production in their 2012-2022 season?
I think Matt and I might tweak some tiny moments.
You wrote EURYDICE as an homage to your father Patrick. What character similarities would people who know you and your father find in Eurydice and her father?
There are a lot of authentic talismans in that play, connecting the character to my father. There are real directions to my grandparent's house in Iowa. His egoless love, his teaching words to his daughter, his humility-all of these were hallmarks of my father.
And similarities between Eurydice and yourself?
Eurydice and I both love books.
Your mother Katherine, an actress and theatre director, exposed you to the boards in your early childhood. What made you choose to write and opposed to act or direct, like your mom?
Writing never felt like a choice... it was always part of my strange DNA... I tried to act, but was clearly ill-suited. I was always happier in the dark, in the back, watching...
You've been a Pulitzer Prize finalist twice (THE CLEAN HOUSE in 2005, IN THE NEXT ROOM (OR THE VIBRATOR PLAY) in 2010), a Tony Award nominee and recipient of numerous awards and grants. Any single announcement of your honors still holds the top place in your memories?
The MacArthur was a shock and a tremendous gift. It allowed me for seven years to follow my creative passions with incredible liberty. I will never stop being grateful. (I was also told on the phone while pushing a baby stroller past a urine soaked wall in the east village. I almost fainted.)
What's next on the plate of Sarah Ruhl?
I'm working on a new play called BECKY NURSE OF SALEM that just opened in Berkeley. I hope to bring to New York soon. It's a comedy about the Salem witch trials, believe it or not.
What feels would you like the Dorothy Chandler audiences to leave with after EURYDICE's curtain call?
Thank you again, Sarah! I look forward to meeting the alter egos of yourself and your father at the Dorothy Chandler.
For show schedule and ticket availability through February 23, 2020; log onto www.laopera.org