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Ancient myth meets modern technology in new theatrical adaptation

Ohio State theatre professor Tom Dugdale reinterprets the classic myth “Orpheus and Eurydice” in his latest show with his theater company, The Trip. Credit: Jim Carmody

Scrapping the old pen and ink, an ancient Greek romance is finding new life online through email and Skype.

Written and directed by Ohio State Department of Theatre professor Tom Dugdale, the reinterpretation of the classic myth “Orpheus and Eurydice” will incorporate these and other modern technologies next week at Strongwater Food & Spirits in Franklinton.

The production is an epic adventure involving a dramatic snake bite, an “Underworld” where Orpheus encounters the god Hades, and a journey back to the “Upperworld” that is filled with romantic longing. The theme of the epic underscores how much someone will do for love.

The myth has been retold through many different artistic mediums, including paintings, films, ballets and operas. “It’s been a great inspiration to artists through the ages,” Dugdale said.

Alongside his theater company “The Trip,” Dugdale’s show will feature actors from across the country.

For this version of “Orpheus and Eurydice,” Dugdale said he reimagined how the characters might have communicated in the contemporary age. Before arriving at the theater, he said the audience should watch a set of brief videos on The Trip’s website, which serve as an introduction to the story. Through the videos, viewers see Orpheus and Eurydice develop an online romance, which results in their wedding when the show hits the stage.

“We decided to use the video episodes because we felt it was a way that young people and all of us are falling in love [today],” Dugdale said. “Once upon a time classical characters wrote love letters. So we felt the contemporary equivalent of that was using texting, skyping, and technology as the go-between.”

In additional efforts to give the myth new life, Dugdale explored different ways of thinking about audience involvement, performance space and storytelling.

For example, he chose Strongwater for the event to make the wedding of the characters feel more real to the audience. The venue is occasionally used for weddings.

“It’s not a proper theater or auditorium where you would expect to see a performance, but where you would expect to see a wedding,” Dugdale said. “Since [the stage show] is a wedding, it makes sense to do it in a wedding space.”

After the wedding, the audience then will view a pre-produced film that assists the company in conveying the more mythical aspects of the story. In the myth, Orpheus is said to go into the underworld, and Dugdale said the film will be used to access the underworld.

Actress Jenni Putney, who plays Eurydice in production, said she was excited by Dugdale’s multidisciplinary approach, hoping the audience could engage more with the updated version of the myth.

“I hope audiences see something in the piece that reflects their own life, and in seeing that reflection, they think about their experiences in a different way,” she said.

“Orpheus and Eurydice” is scheduled for four shows between Jan. 15 and 18 at Strongwater Food & Spirits, 401 W. Town St. Tickets are $5 plus fees for students and $12 plus fees for the general public. Tickets can be purchased at www.thetriptheater.net.

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