Getting out and about with Orpheus and his drag queen Sirens
by Ed Sedarbaum
Fourteen members of Rainbow Seniors sat entranced last Sunday as we watched the Williamstown Theatre Festival’s community production of Orpheus in the Berkshires. Added to the thrill of watching a brilliant production of a great musical play was seeing one of our own, Danny Trotter, singing and dancing his heart out in the show along with our personal friends, this writer’s barber, and scads of talented local children.
The word massive usually connotes something solid and unmoving. Yet while this production was massive indeed, it was as light as the breezes and as fluid as a stream, as close to 100 performers drifted in and out and around the huge public space of Greylock Works (the old Cariddi Mill) in North Adams.
The theme of the show was also very local – the heroin epidemic that has been growing here in North County – the product of brainstorming sessions over last winter and spring with community members and organizations.
Obie-winning playwright Lucy Thurber reimagined the Orpheus and Eurydice myth so that the young people of a town much like North Adams are cast into the grip of Hades by taking “ambrosia,” a drug meant for the gods that is deadly to humans. They are rescued by Orpheus (a young woman in this production), who descends into the underworld to win the favor of Hades with her beautiful singing voice, so that he will let her bring the young people back to the arms of their grieving families and friends.
The directing was masterfully helmed by WTF associate artistic director Laura Savia, who always kept the audience’s attention focused on the characters’ movements, even as dozens and dozens of other cast members silently drifted into place for their own massive entrances. The discipline of the performers was amazing to see – especially given how many young children were in the cast. As amazing as everyone’s singing and dancing and acting chops.
The director told us after the show that one bit of business – the Sirens being portrayed by drag queens — actually came from a suggestion made by one of our members when she visited Rainbow Seniors this winter. It’s nice to know we had a hand in the production in addition to Danny’s great singing and dancing. Laura expressed the hope that even more of us will join in on the creation of next year’s production.