Just a little under 20 years ago, Mary Zimmerman put up an early version of the play that would come to be known as “Metamorphoses.” Initially titled “Six Myths,” it premiered at her alma mater, Northwestern University. Within six years, it made its way to Chicago, Broadway, and eventually international acclaim. Now, almost 15 years after its New York City debut, the Greek myth-ridden play has finally arrived at Wesleyan, courtesy of Second Stage and its director, Susannah Clark ’17.
Adapted from the epic of the same name by Ovid, “Metamorphoses” is split into 11 stories, or vignettes, each revolving around a popular Greek myth. Famous characters such as Orpheus, Eurydice, Midas, Eros and, of course, the Olympians are abundant in every tale, each one having them deal with themes of fate, change, and love.
“It’s about love in the end and [its] transformative properties,” Clark said, who previously worked on the show in high school.
Having been interested in Zimmerman’s work for years, Clark sought to make “Metamorphoses” her solo directorial debut at Wesleyan. Though she had worked on multiple projects previously in creative leadership positions—assistant directing “Godspell” last semester, for instance—she had never taken up a production as complex or tasking before this one.
“It’s completely unlike anything I’ve ever done before,” she said. “[It’s] way more technically ambitious [and] very movement based.”
Liam Tran ’17, a friend of Clark and one of the actors in the show, had mentioned to her last semester that given the technical grandeur and unique narrative dynamic of “Metamorphoses,” he thought it was the kind of challenging production that was most worth directing. As Clark was looking to take on a difficult play this semester, she decided that Zimmerman’s, especially given her previous involvement with it, was the best choice.
“[I] realized that, if I could pull it off, I would never shy away from doing anything ever again,” Clark said.
Incorporating various theatrical styles and elements from straight and physical theater to slapstick humor and dance sequences, the play also proved challenging to Clark given how exceedingly diverse its structure is in comparison to most other plays she has worked on.
“It’s a really fun script to work with,” she said. “It lets me play with styles of theater that I’ve never worked with before. [In] every scene there’s something totally different going on.”
“It’s very much modern theater,” Tran added. “Which is not something I encounter quite often. It lends itself more to the avant-garde side of theater. You have to bring the world to life using your body.”
As she discussed her experience with tech week, the nightmarish last week of production which most directors dread, she expressed immense gratitude for the way in which it went far smoother than expected. While it was not without its usual challenges, late nights, and exhaustion, Clark said that she was extremely impressed with how well her designers achieved their individual tasks and coordinated them effectively to create an overall powerhouse aesthetic. The highly complicated set was designed by Anders Dohlman ’15 and Phillip Heilbron ’15 designed the lights.
“There’s some ridiculous number of light cues,”she stated. “And every day I’m terrified the pool is gonna break, but it’s all been going really well so far and really without much…oversight from me.”
The set alone is a true sight to behold. Boasting a pool in the center of the ’92 Theater, the show is by far the most technically impressive of the semester. Tran described his experience with the tech-driven process as a unique one.
“As an actor the technical sides aren’t as pressing on you,” Tran said. “They’re great added elements that help bring you into the world you’re trying to bring to life. I’ve been very much more of an inside-out actor, not much of a physical kind of actor, and it’s made me think about those aspects.”
Armed with a powerful technical team and a truly exceptional script, Clark is set to bring life to the worlds of Ovid and Zimmerman this weekend, April 9-11, in the ’92. Especially given the amount of work that has gone into its design, “Metamorphoses” promises to be a rare theatrical experience that is not be missed.
“Come for the technical aspects,” Tran said. “Stay for the story we’re trying to tell you.”