There is something really exciting going on at South Pasadena High School that you are not going to want to miss. Drama Department Head, Nick Hoffa, has once again made a bold choice in producing something unlike anything we’ve seen before; Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses which is based on the work of the Roman poet Ovid. The play is a modern retelling of 14 ancient myths with twelve actors playing 60+ roles in stories that are both hilarious and heartbreaking.
The theme is change, hence the title “Metamorphoses”; how people evolve through moments of despair. In moments of tragedy and moments of difficulty, how do we move forward and change? Hoffa explains “for the myths, it’s often about physical change. For example, a couple whose wish to the Gods is that they die together, at the same moment, so that they are never living a moment when they’re not together. And so in order for that to happen, they turn into a tree. And so they have physically changed and become a tree together but it’s also grounded in this sense of sadness; we don’t want to not be with each other.”
He says he chose this play “because it was about a big idea but told in very specific ways.” He goes on to explain, “you can’t really understand this show in some ways without knowing its history, which was that it premiered on Broadway three weeks after 9/11. The story of the play is very much attached to that tragedy in the sense that after 9/11 everybody wanted to get Broadway back up on its feet and re-open on September 17th. A lot of people felt that even though there was lots of amazing theatre going on at the time, this show, having nothing at all to do with the circumstances, was somehow a story that spoke to the moment. This was a story that allowed people to feel. It was so far removed (these 2000 year old stories) but it was about how we move forward, how do we move on? So I was very interested in that idea.”
Meanwhile, Technical Director, James Jontz and his team are mad at work on, among other things, a fully functioning pool that the actors will be getting in and out of and interacting with throughout the show. Hoffa explains that another intriguing aspect to producing “Metamorphoses” is the unapologetically cool, theatricality of the show, telling us “there’s singing, there’s movement, different acting styles and tone, it is visually impressive, we will have a violinist and cellist on stage accompanying the show, and the 6 foot by 10 foot pool of water that the actors will be in. So it’s just going to be really wild and fun!”
While last fall’s “The Laramie Project” was challenging content-wise and in many other ways, Hoffa says “this is a challenge in that the material itself is hard. There are colloquial moments, modern moments, but it asks more from the actors; you can’t do the show halfway. They have to be all in.” He says the actors are really enjoying being pushed creatively and says, “it’s really fun to rehearse because we really get to collaborate together and they have had great ideas. We have a bare stage and a pool and we’re supposed to create these worlds so we’ve had to figure out how to create these moments with just us; just with movement, with costume, with acting, sound. It allows a lot of space for creativity so I am loving the rehearsal process.” He elaborates, “even though it’s fun to rehearse like that, the actors have to get really comfortable with the language because they have to be in such command of it to be able to really take over the stage. The vocal requirements are bigger than we’ve had before, they’ve got to bring a lot of energy to it. And of course, logistically, working with the water, just the math of that in terms of the costumes!”
Student producer, Gracie Chavez, echoes that sentiment adding her excitement for its complexity in all aspects of production. “Everything in the show, including the proper sets, costumes, makeup, and of course acting, build upon each other to create this surreal retelling of the Greek Gods. It is exciting to work on such a large piece because it allows all of the cast and crew to challenge ourselves in order to make the story come to life” she says, adding, “it is such a fascinating topic that I think will truly captivate the audience.”
Actor Jackson Monical explains, “incorporating a pool of water differs from our other, far “dryer” productions because the water offers a completely different medium in which to portray the story. There is physically water, but it takes on so many metaphorical meanings throughout the show that it is imperative to the telling of the story.” He goes on to tell us he is excited to “show the more abstract nature of this piece. Never before have we done a production that pushes beyond the physical realm, so it is amazing working with the cast to create a world that is not entirely literal.”
Actor Sydney Davis Denny says it is a unique challenge to shift into a new style of performance in terms of style and tone. She says, “being able to see the symbolic nature of the show through dance and the use of water is truly fantastic. I think audiences will specifically enjoy this play because there are stories that people may know or otherwise relate to in a more modern, stylistic context. Whether you’ve read the entire works of Ovid or only seen the movie Hercules, this show truly has something for everyone.”
“Metamorphoses” has mature themes and content. Parental discretion advised for 13 and under. Metamorphoses (directed by Nick Hoffa, technical direction by James Jontz) runs two weekends: Fri Nov 15th & Sat Nov 16th, 7pm, then Fri Nov 22nd, 7 pm and two shows Sat Nov 23rd, 2 pm and 7pm. The Little Theater, South Pasadena High School, 1401 Fremont Ave. South Pasadena. General Admission is $15. Tickets may be purchased online at sphsasb.org, in the SPHS student bank after noon, or in the SPHS Main Office.