Senior Kate Healy as Aphrodite and junior Sally Wippman as Iris in the PAD production of Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses. Photo by David Kilper/WUSTL Photo Services. Download high-res version.
“The myth is a public dream.”
So argues playwright Mary Zimmerman in Metamorphoses, her hypnotic, Tony Award-winning adaptation of myths by the Roman poet Ovid.
Beginning this weekend, the Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences will present Metamorphoses, perhaps the most acclaimed theatrical work of the past decade, as its spring Mainstage production.
Performances will take place in Edison Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 23 and 24; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 25. Performances continue the following weekend at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 30 and May 1; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 2.
Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. Tickets are $15, or $10 for children, students, seniors and Washington University faculty and staff. Tickets are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and through all MetroTix outlets.
For more information, call (314) 935-6543 or visit padarts.wustl.edu.
Sophomore Gadi Abramowitz as Eros and junior Sally Wippman as Psyche. Photo by David Kilper/WUSTL Photo Services. Download high-res version.
Based on translations of Ovid by David Slavitt, Metamorphoses weaves 10 classical Roman tales into a visually spectacular yet decidedly low-tech evening of theater.
“Metamorphoses is predicated almost entirely on the things that theater — and theater alone — does best,” says Henry I. Schvey, PhD, professor of drama, who directs the cast of 12.
“It’s filled with gorgeous, unforgettable images, but it also allows the audience to use its own imagination,” Schvey says. “There’s a real fusion of movement, image and speech.”
Central to that fusion is the bold set design, which largely consists of a 15-ton pool installed on the Edison stage.
“The play explores ideas of change and transformation, all of which take place through the conduit of water,” Schvey says. “So in a way, this apparently complex set is very simple: a pool, a doorway entrance, a platform for the gods, and a chandelier representing the heavens above.
“Each myth is staged individually, and there’s a kind of postmodern aspect as the play moves in and out of time,” Schvey says. “Some stories are set in modern dress, others in togas. King Midas is revealed as an ordinary businessman. Zeus’ thunder bolt may be symbolized by a glowing cigarette.
“Zimmerman connects these ancient tales with the ways people still behave today,” Schvey says.
Individual scenes range from the familiar (Orpheus and Eurydice, Phaeton and Apollo, Eros and Psyche) to the less well-known (Vertumnus and Pomona; Alcyone and Ceyx; King Cinyras and his daughter, Myrrha).
“Metamorphoses does not provide a conventional theatrical experience, although there is certainly thematic unity,” Schvey says. “Each myth explores some aspect of love — whether it’s Midas’ love of money, Orpheus’ attempt to bring back his love from Hades, the spiritual union of Cupid and Psyche or the selfless generosity of an elderly couple (Philemon and Baucis), who share their humble meal with Zeus and Hermes, who come disguised as beggars.
“And there is a narrative arc,” Schvey says. “The stories gradually move from love of self to love of others and finally to a sense of transcendence and cosmic change in the universe.”
Cast and crew
The cast is composed of six male and six female actors, all of whom portray multiple characters.
“There are approximately 60 parts in Metamorphoses, so everyone takes on at least five or six roles,” Schvey says. “Everyone plays at least one god and narrates at least one scene, which provides a kind of fluidity and balance among the various myths.”
Other roles are distinctly nonverbal, with actors portraying trees or abstractions like Hunger, or combining to form the dark cave where Sleep resides.
“The world of Metamorphoses is a world that is magically changing,” Schvey says. “Everything is given life through the physical abilities of the actors and through the willing — and creative — participation of the audience.”
Cast members are Gadi Abramowitz, Marissa Barnathan, Kate Healy, Micah Herstand, Sam King, Artem Kreimer, Megan Lacerenza, Jonathan Levinson, Maryse Pearce, Amanda Spector, Dan Tobin and Sally Wippman.
Sets and costumes are by Michael Loui, the PAD’s scene shop foreman, and Bonnie Kruger, senior lecturer and costume director, respectively. Choreography is by Cecil Slaughter, senior lecturer in the PAD’s Dance Program. Lighting and sound are by lecturers Sean Savoie and Tim Albert.
Sophomore Gadi Abramowitz as Narcissus, gazing at his reflection. Photo by David Kilper/WUSTL Photo Services. Download high-res version.
In conjunction with the production, Zimmerman will deliver WUSTL’s annual Women’s Society Lecture at 11 a.m. Wednesday, April 21, in Edison Theatre. (Please note, this lecture previously was scheduled to take place in Graham Chapel.)
Titled “Bodies I Have in Mind: Adapting Ancient Texts for the Stage,” the talk is presented as part of the Assembly Series. It also serves as the PAD’s 2010 Helen Clanton Morrin Lecture, which previously has brought to campus such notables as Jane Lapotaire and Zoe Caldwell.
In addition, Zimmerman will lecture on “Opera and its Discontents” at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 22, in Room 276 in the Danforth University Center. That talk is sponsored by the PAD and by the Department of Classics and the Center for the Humanities, both in Arts & Sciences.
Both lectures are free and open to the public. For more information about the Assembly Series, visit assemblyseries.wustl.edu or call (314) 935-4620.
For more information about “Opera and its Discontents,” call the PAD at (314) 935-5858.
WHO: Washington University’s Performing Arts Department
WHAT: Metamorphoses, by Mary Zimmerman; directed by Henry Schvey
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 23 and 24; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 25; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 30 and May 1; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 2
WHERE: Edison Theatre, located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
COST:$15; $10 for children, students, seniors and Washington University faculty and staff. Available at the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.
INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543