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Sunday, May 8, 2011


The Durban University of Technology and UKZN Drama Departments jointly present Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses.

Metamorphoses was an astonishing Broadway hit in 2002, after premiering in Chicago in 1996. The story is adapted from the classical Ovid poem of myths, based on David R. Slavitt's free-verse translation of The Metamorphoses of Ovid, and presented as a series of vignettes.

This ambitious project is to be embarked upon jointly by the drama departments of DUT and UKZN and will take place on the UKZN Howard College Campus from May 16 to 22.

Tanya van der Walt from DUT and Tamar Meskin form UKZN with major support from both departments and institutions, jointly take up the directing reigns. This joint project follows the success of the Frontlines series of productions which brought the two departments together for the first time.

Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses is best known for its staging. It is set in and around a large swimming pool, with water playing a theatrical and symbolic frame of reference throughout. This design brief will be a creative challenge for production designer Mervyn McMurtry, and the Open Air Theatre will provide the ideal setting.

"A father's greed changes a girl into a golden statue, a boy's self-obsession transposes his humanity into a blooming narcissus, -- myths old before Ovid recorded them in the reign of Augustus Caesar circa 13 BC. In Mary Zimmerman's fresh, beautiful, piercingly apt Metamorphoses, the ten myths on which she's chosen to focus are as relevant as tomorrow," says Laura Hitchcock in her review of the original production.

"Zimmerman sets her production in and around a pool which evokes a Roman atrium and represents everything from the wind-whipped ocean that tears the adventurous Ceyx from his beloved Halcyon to the incestuous passion visited on a father and daughter by the jealous Aphrodite or the fluidy floor for Cupid and Psyche's ultimately happy couch. Water, that soothing and destructive element, is a co-star in this ensemble production," she continues.

“What is it about Metamorphoses that allows it to continue to move, inspire, and entertain? Perhaps it's the simplicity of the entire experience? Or the primal, basic feelings it touches upon and explores? Or maybe it's simply the stories of Ovid, thousands of years old, that still matter today? Whatever it is, the magic is still present. The pool of water that is featured so prominently is surrounded on three sides by the audience, with those in the closest rows only a few feet away. This much greater awareness of the audience only adds to the vital experience of communal storytelling that makes Metamorphoses so captivating," ponders Matthew Murray in Talkin' Broadway who also dubbed the production as being sharp, funny and sexy.

Ovid's influence on Western art and literature cannot be exaggerated. The Metamorphoses is our best classical source of 250 myths. "The poem is the most comprehensive, creative mythological work that has come down to us from antiquity" says Prof Karl Galinsky. Based on its influence, "European literature and art would be poorer for the loss of the Metamorphoses than for the loss of Homer" (Hadas). Ovid was a major inspiration for Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton. If Virgil is Rome's greatest poet, Ovid is the most popular.

Metamorphoses runs in the Pieter Scholtz Open Air Theatre from May 16 to 22. Bookings and further information from Lebo Sibisi on 031 373 2194.