This spring, the Foundation–thanks to our donors–helped fund the purchase of tickets to Broadway Grand Rapids’ production of “Hadestown” for East Grand Rapids High School Latin students. The show, which won the Tony for Best Musical in 2019, is a musical retelling of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
A few days before they attended the show, we got a preview for EGRHS Latin teachers Jason Albaugh and Betsy Kratt. “On one level, our students will be able to experience a dramatic interpretation of a popular myth,” they wrote. “The story of Orpheus and Eurydice, which is at the heart of Hadestown, is an old tale, with ancient authors like Plato, Vergil, and Ovid using the story as a narrative device in their works. Mythology is one of the aspects of our studies in Latin that captures the students’ imaginations and encourages them to look more deeply into the texts that they come from.
“On another level, the modern interpretation of the myth allows us to find common ground between ourselves and the ancient Greeks and Romans. There are many very interesting differences between our cultures, and the students are always excited to learn about gladiators, Roman food, and togas. However, with too much emphasis on these differences, it creates an otherness about these people. With stories like Orpheus and Eurydice, we can see that in some ways, these ancient cultures are not so different. We all experience love and loss, grief and joy. We all wish that we could overcome some of life’s inevitabilities. We all hope to have something special about us, but yet we also have the same human frailties, doubts and pains.
“Finally, an important branch of classical scholarship is reception studies, which seeks to explore how Greece and Rome have inspired the cultures that come afterwards. These stories and images have impacted artistic representations for generations and continue to do so now. Hadestown is not an outlier, and represents part of a continuum of works inspired by Orpheus and Eurydice, from Monteverdi, Gluck, and Titian to Sarah Bareilles, Neil Gaiman, and the video game Hades. Experiencing Hadestown in this form encourages students to recognize the impact of the ancient world on so many aspects of modern culture.”
Thanks to our donors, the Foundation will continue to help fund opportunities like these for our students.