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Metamorphoses - Notes from the Director

With a great love of unexpected performance spaces and a belief that all objects onstage have a kinetic energy, it was with eyes wide open that I attended one of the early performances of Mary Zimmerman’s watershed production of Metamorphoses.  At the time I was directing Shakespeare’s Pericles, and the similarities between the two great plays (fathers, daughters, wrath of the gods, salvation, humor) were obvious - including the wave of awe I felt at the curtain of Zimmerman’s superb creation, grieving that the vision I was encountering was now complete. Besides being an emotional tsunami as an audience member, her production had reminded me to keep daring to change the way I parent and direct my own art.  Her play was the ignition for me in my own rehearsals to fully understand that the bereft Pericles may indeed float for four acts, but ultimately he finds his daughter Marina in the fifth, and that myth means everything! Shakespeare’s dramaturgical dedication to Ovid within his own canon is clear, but there I was at Zimmerman's pool, feeling the actual splash in the second row and experiencing the revelation intensely through my own mask’s blinking spigots.
I could not help but follow the path of Ms. Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses, keeping note of the play’s tour across America - and was gladdened when it made its way to a Broadway run in early 2002.  That it would land in the commercial theatre world - like a blessing to aid the soul-wounded denizens of post-9/11 Manhattan - well, that seemed as if a beneficent muse nodded and said “Let it be so!”  And so it was.  Could it have been the same Lucina, who conveys light to Alcyone in the tale of Ceyx in Metamorphoses (and as patroness of midwifery in Pericles aids Thaisa to deliver a daughter on shipboard) who brought forth such a perfectly-timed theatrical benediction of Live Theatre as a balm for the people of New York City?
To now be a captain to the endeavor, these few years later, is a moment I do not take lightly. I’ve asked the cast to approach the play as a dream, a haunting…to imagine the water as an acting partner, a gravitational force, and to step upon the uncommon stage set with awe, thinking of the wet elements as a kind of grail, cauldron, womb.  And for me, each day in the uncommon process has been fragile and complex: working with the cast on the intricacies of the psychological tales, the intimacy of rehearsing in water and the depth of donning sacred masks…these, all these, are the moments we artists hope will come to us at least once in our careers, perhaps twice - and thrice if we’re blessed.
At this writing, we unruly inhabitants of the Blue Planet are breaking the Golden Rule and slopping around in the sticky mud of war, a misbehavior triggered by obsolete ancient myths of survival and greed, and then acted-out upon the desk blotters of our own selfish rogue officials.  So, where does such a play of change - this special play - ‘float’ in the bubbling consommé of our violent undoing?  Well, as a piece of Art alone, it acts as a response to the human condition – transforming a stage utterly to a new way of looking at things.  As a tonic, it also ‘winks at’ war by presenting the image of such wrath as nothing less than a gargantuan whirlpool sucking us all down.  Then it does another unexpected thing and shows us the inverse: through comedy, tragedy and verbal imagery alike, it presents an alchemical cone of water, rising, pointing upwards (a swirling pyramid of emotional H2O, exposing our agitation and hope) a pillar of water, churning, swimming, praying…the constant promise of the mother, the birthing womb, the plash of possibility.
The unshakeable deities may attempt to control us from wherever it is they lounge in our DNA, and at most times seem to win as a driving irrational force, but are they also the engine of a spiritual memory within - which is capable of a fresh tide of repair and reinvention?  And so, how can we not speak of both the war within and how we can awaken from those ‘mares - and ask our human bodies to venture forth on the search for the body of water where we kneel, reflect on our own capacity for forgiveness and start all over again.  
Ovid’s perceptions of human nature and Zimmerman’s adaptation skills are a great answer to the ailing spirit of the present world.  May this play show us where we come from and how we must attempt to get along with ourselves.  Live Theatre can help us do that very thing, as we agree to gather, pause, and drink it in.  Live Theatre can save us from the internal wrath of our own god-heads, head-trips and trip-outs. Live Theatre is a boon, a blessing, a bountiful sea.  

- Randall Stuart