Back in November, I saw Ledyard Drama put on a performance of Sarah Ruhl's play Eurydice. It was absolutely fantastic - I saw it twice - and several of my friends played the leads, and a minor part, and mandachan was stage manager.
Near the end of the play, Eurydice's father dips himself in the river Lethe. Before he does, though, he states a series of memorized directions. I got a script from a friend; here is what he says:
"Take Tri-state South - 294 to Route 88 West. Take Route 88 West to Route 80. You'll go over a bridge. Go three miles and you'll come to the exit for Middle Road. Proceed 3 to 4 miles. Duck Creek Park will be on the right. Take a left on Fernwood Avenue. Continue straight on Fernwood past 2 intersections. Fernwood will curve to the right leading you to Forest road. Take a left on Forest Road. Go 2 blocks. Pass first entrance to the alley on the right. Take the second entrance. You'll go about 100 yards. A red brick house will be on the right. Look for Illinois license plates. Go inside the house."
It turns out, it's an actual set of directions. A few of the mileages are wrong, but it actually leads to an assuming brick house on an unnamed street in Davenport, IA.
Here's a road map of the route. It's not perfect - it actually takes the third entrance into the alley, not the second - but it provides a good idea of it.
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So, then, what does this route mean? Is it just a random journey?
Turns out, it is not. I found a very illuminating article in the New York Times. Apparently, Sarah Ruhl owns a large collection of her grandmother's clothes. She loves the memory of her grandmother that she finds contained within them. Memory, I should note, the remembering of love and family - is what Eurydice is all about.
The article goes on to discuss that Mrs. Ruhl grew up outside Chicago (Wikipedia says a town called Wilmette). Interstate 294 runs just a few miles from Wilmette, and is the best highway to jump on for journey to points west - like Iowa.
The kicker, though, is where her grandmother lived. Davenport, Iowa. I would, then, consider it reasonable to assume that that red brick house did belong to her grandmother. The journey from her home to there, the article says, was one she experienced many times during her childhood.
For her father, who is roughly analogous to Eurydice's father, the journey would be natural - from his own home to his mother's - the place where he grew up. It's ingrained in his memory, the last thing he gives up before his brain is wiped. And death is often likened to going home or joining one's relatives - and giving up all his memories is like dying again.
The directions end with the following, as he dips himself into the river:
"In the living room, look out the window. you'll see the lights on the Mississippi river. Take off your shoes. Walk down the hill. You'll pass a tree good for climbing on the right. Cross the road. Watch for traffic. Cross the train tracks. Catfish are sleeping in the mud on your left. Roll up your jeans. Count to ten. Put your feet in the river... and swim
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