Thursday, the Illinois State University School of Theatre and Dance will open “The Forever Waltz,” written by Glyn Maxwell and directed by MFA in directing candidate Leah Cassella.
The show is loosely based on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, in which a young man travels to the underworld to retrieve the soul of his love who has died.
“This is merely a jumping off point for ‘Forever Waltz,’” Cassella said. “This play is not connected to the myth in the way that people want to connect it.”
“The Orpheus Myth is concerned mainly with the concept of trust,” Cassella added. “Orpheus is given the chance to bring Eurydice back to the mortal world with him if he can walk all the way back without looking over his shoulder. He must trust that Eurydice is following him. He looks back, she is sucked back into the underworld, myth over. This is not a story about distrusting love. This is a story about the madness we experience when we cannot let go of certain memories associated with it.”
“The Forever Waltz” follows a man named Mobile, played by junior theatre major, Martin Hanna, who has traveled to an alternate world in order to find the soul of Evie, played by senior theatre major Lizzy Haberstroh, a woman he loves very much, who has recently died. Mobile spends time reliving memories he has had with Evie, until her spirit finally appears and jumps into his flashbacks with him.
Something else that is important to this production is its music, composed collaboratively by the show’s sound designer and head of the Sound Design and Media department here at ISU, Shannon O’Neill, and junior theatre major Eddie Curley, who plays Mobile’s guide through the spirit world named Watts.
“We’re banking on the fact that music so powerfully affects emotion and mood,” Cassella said. “Eddie and Shannon took lines from the script — a compilation of all of our favorite lines, actually — and composed a song from them.”
This song is how Mobile and Watts get Evie to come back and join in Mobile’s flashbacks. Mobile creates the memories, Watts plays his music, and eventually, Evie appears.
This is a show with an important message that speaks strongly to Cassella and also to Assistant Director, junior theatre major Eliza Palumbo. This is the third show that the two have worked on together, and they have developed a strong creative relationship.
I asked the two what they were most excited about in terms of this show, and why it is important. “This play is about something that happens to everyone,” Palumbo said. “Whether you identify with Evie or you identify with Mobile, everyone has been in this situation, and everyone holds onto their past relationships in some way.”
“The potential to see yourself onstage is very high,” Cassella added. “This play is both universal and specific, which is definitely one of its strengths.”
When asked why she chose to propose this play for the 2013-2014 season, Cassella spoke further on its universal, therapeutic nature.
“This play is about the cycle of love and madness when we lose someone we love and when the memories won’t let us move on. What Maxwell has written is one of the most beautiful, poetic depictions of the cycle of grief that I’ve ever come across. “The Forever Waltz” is one of those rare theatrical balms with no motive but to soothe an incredible hurt and help give one the strength to begin again, even when it seems impossible to do so.”
This is one of the first few productions of “The Forever Waltz”, — the only other two that Cassella can find evidence of took place back in 2005 — and it is certainly in good hands, with a cast and production committee truly committed to telling a story that will reach and help its audience.