Metamorphoses: A Play

Metamorphoses: A Play

Metamorphoses: A Play

Metamorphoses: A Play

Synopsis

Mary Zimmerman's play Metamorphoses is based on Ovid's fifteen-volume work of transformation myths. Positioned in and around a large pool on the stage, the characters enact Zimmerman's adaptations of Ovid's tales, juxtaposing the ancient and the contemporary in both language and image. The tone of the drama likewise echoes the themes of change and contrast, from the humor of Phaeton's therapy session to the tragedy of Midas and his daughter. Various productions of this play have been awarded five Los Angeles Drama Critics Awards, the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work/Adaptation and several Bay Area Theatre Critics Awards including Best Production. Metamorphoses played around the United States and Off Broadway before moving to Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre in March 2002.

The book contains a production history, the play script, and, because the visual aspect of the play is so important, photographs from some of its past productions. The play's literature-into-drama approach gives the book a dual role in the marketplace, both as literature and as a script for performance.

Excerpt

The stage is entirely occupied by a square or rectangular pool of water, of varying depth, bordered on all four sides by a wooden deck approximately three feet wide. Hanging above the pool is a large crystal chandelier. Upstage, there is a large painting of the sky, above which gods and goddesses might appear. Also upstage is a tall double door, with steps leading to it from the deck. Ideally, there should be six entrances to the playing area: one on each of the deck’s four corners, one through the doors, and one between the doors and sky. Additionally, there is a platform for the actors behind the sky, with its own entrance and exit. The set has sat well in both thrust and proscenium theaters, but it is essential that the audience look down at the playing space in such a way that the entire surface of the water is visible.

All scenes take place in and around the pool, with shifts between stories, scenes, and settings indicated by nothing more than a shift in light or merely a shift in the actors’ orientation or perhaps a music cue. Although there is a great deal of narration in the play, it should not be taken as a substitute for action or a superfluous description of action: The staging should rarely be a literal embodiment of the text; rather, it should provide images that amplify the text, lend it poetic resonance, or, even, sometimes contradict it.

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