Metamorphoses: A Play / Edition 1 available in Paperback
Called by Time the "theater event of the year," Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses brings Ovid's tales to stunning visual life. Set in and around a large pool of water onstage, Metamorphoses juxtaposes the ancient and the contemporary in both language and image to reflect the variety and persistence of narrative in the face of inevitable change. Nominated for three 2002 Tony Awards, including "Best Play," Metamorphoses earned Zimmerman a Tony for "Best Direction of a Play."
|Publisher:||Northwestern University Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Mary Zimmerman is a professor of performance studies at Northwestern University. She has adapted-directed The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, The Odyssey, The Arabian Nights, Eleven Rooms of Proust, and Journey to the West. She is a MacArthur Fellowship recipient, an ensemble member of Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company, and a Manilow Resident Director at the Goodman Theatre.
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Metamorphoses: a Play
Northwestern University PressCopyright © 2002 Ovid
All right reserved.
A NOTE ON THE STAGING
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 provideimages that amplify the text, lend it poetic resonance, or, even, sometimes contradict it.
Woman by the Water
Midas and His Daughter
Ceyx, a King
Alcyone, His Wife
Erysichthon and His Mother
Eurydice, His Bride
Vertumnus, God of Springtime
Pomona, a Wood Nymph
Cinyras, a King
Myrrha, His Daughter
Nursemaid, Her Nurse
Q and A
Baucis, a Poor Woman
Philemon, Her Husband
In addition, there are several important narrators, servants, sailors, other gods and goddesses, denizens of the Underworld, spirits, and so forth.
[A WOMAN is kneeling by the side of the pool, looking at her own reflection. She looks up and addresses the audience.]
Bodies, I have in mind, and how they can change to assume new shapes--I ask the help of the gods, who know the trick: change me, and let me glimpse the secret and speak, better than I know how, of the world's birthing, and the creation of all things, from the first to the very latest.
[The SCIENTIST enters, wearing a lab coat and shaking a jar of water and sand. As she speaks she walks forward, sets the jar down, and the elements separate.]
Before there was water and dry land, or even heaven and earth, nature was all the same: what we call "chaos," with neither sun to shed its light, nor moon to wax and wane, nor earth hung in its atmosphere of air. If there was land and sea, there was no discernible shoreline, no way to walk on the one, or swim or sail in the other. There was neither reason nor order, until at last, a god sparked,
[ZEUS appears above the sky. He lights a cigarette.]
glowed, then shone like a beam of light to define earth and the heavens and separate water from hard ground.
Once these distinctions were made and matter began to behave, the sky displayed its array of stars in their constellations--
[The lights of the chandelier begin to glow.]
a twinkling template of order. The sea upon which they shone quickened with fish, and the woods and meadows with game, and the air with twittering birds. Each order of creature settling into itself.
A paradise, it would seem, except one thing was lacking: words.
[MIDAS enters through the doors.]
man was born. He was born that he might
[MIDAS comes forward and steps into the water.]
Some say the god perfected the world, creating of his divine substance the race of humans;
others maintain that we come from the natural order of things.
[Two LAUNDRESSES enter with a dreamy air, carrying a basket of laundry.]
But one way or another, people came--erect, standing tall, with our faces set not to gaze down at the dirt beneath our feet, but upward toward the sky in pride or, perhaps, nostalgia.
[ZEUS and the WOMAN depart. The SCIENTIST takes off her lab coat and joins the laundresses. The trio settles. Two of the women dip linens into the pool while the FIRST LAUNDRESS lounges.]
What would you do with all the money in the world?
What a question.
I know what I'd do. [Pause.] Do you want to know what I'd do?
I'd never do laundry again.
That's it. That's the big dream?
Among other things.
Do you want to hear a little story?
About rich people?
There was a certain king, named Midas. Net worth: one hundred billion.
[As MIDAS begins to speak, his young DAUGHTER comes out, bouncing a red ball.]
Now, I'm not a greedy man, but it is an accepted fact--a proven fact--that money is a good thing. A thing to be longed for, a necessary thing. And my god, I have a lot of it! It wasn't always this way with me--the boats, the houses by the sea, the summer cottages and the winter palaces, the exotic furnishings, the soft clothes, the food and--
[To his DAUGHTER.]
Honey, can you stop that now? Be still now. Daddy's talking.
[She stops, momentarily. MIDAS turns back to the audience.]
Excuse me. The outrageous food and two-hundred-year-old wine. No, it wasn't always like this. I came up from poor and I worked hard all my life. Still do, mind you. My father was a minor manufacturer in [he can't remember] . . . somewhere . . . in . . . somewhere. But I was born with a head for business and it's always been as though everything I touched has turned to gold. Not literally, of course--wouldn't that be something? Turned a profit, I meant. And--
[Again to his DAUGHTER.]
Sweetheart. Daddy asked you: Be still. Take it inside.
[She retreats but shortly reenters, jumping rope.]
You see this pool? It cost a pretty penny, I can tell you. But all it takes is hard work. Plain and simple. And those who haven't got it in them, well, what can anyone do? They just haven't got it.
[To his DAUGHTER.]
Be still! You're driving me nuts already!--
[To the audience.]
But you know, I never forget that I do it all for my [he can't remember] . . . let's see, all for my . . . it's all for the, uh . . . for the, um ...the family. Yes, that's what it's all for. Family is the most important thing, isn't it? One's own family, I mean--not anyone else's for god's sake. When I get home at midnight seven days a week, in the moments before sleep, I realize that ...um ...I realize . . . what was I--? Oh yes, that the family is what really matters.
[A SERVANT enters.]
Yes, what is it?
[SILENUS enters, drunk, vine leaves in his hair, wearing a leopard-skin skirt and holding a wine bottle in a brown paper bag and some chips.]
This man's been making trouble in the town. We believe he is a vagrant, sir, of the worst, most drunken kind.
What should we do?
No need, no need. In my day, I've certainly been three sheets to the wind.
Three sheets to the--? What--? What the hell are you talking about, King? I'm all rummed up!
Why even last week at the feast for--
Let me tell you something. You know what?
Let me tell you--
Let me tell you something.
Yes, all right.
I've been all over the world.
[He settles into the pool, beside MIDAS.]
Oh, have you?
Yes. I--I'm lost now. But I have been--all over the place.
Mmm. How nice for you.
You listening? Well, let me tell you there is a country beyond this one, where ...uh ...
How very fascinating. Well, if you will excuse me--
No. Listen. I strayed from the crowd, and I'm lost now, but there is a country--
No. Further. Over the ocean. I've been there.
King, I tell ya, it's like a dream, a dream. I. Am. Telling. You. That in this place the people . . . they see each other. And in this place they live without desire of any kind and so time? There is no time--just the blue sky above and the pretty moon at night and they got the meadows under their feet with the yellow flowers and--
Well, thank you, this has been most entertaining, but--
And the people live forever.
[MIDAS's DAUGHTER begins to skip rope.]
They live forever. They never die.
What is it, some herb they have, some . . .
Oh, no. No no no.
Something in the air? Something we could distill? I have shipping fleets you know to bring it--
No, no. It's--
Is that your daughter?
What? Yes. [To her.] Go on, get out of here! Be still for once in your life! [To him.] Go on, go on.
[She retreats for good.]
You're rich indeed.
Go on. Is it an animal? Even better if it's an animal, we could breed them here. My god, the millions! Don't worry, young man, you'll get your cut--
No. Nope. No.
It's not an animal? What is it? What is this secret to eternal life?
SILENUS [pointing to his own head]: It's here.
Some formula, you have it? The formula?
SILENUS: No, no. It's here [pointing to MIDAS's head].
SILENUS: And here [pointing to MIDAS's heart].
Oh, that. The "inner life." What uselessness. All right then. Off you go. You may sleep in the cabana.
Thank you. [He falls drunkenly, facedown in the water.]
Oh for god's sake, turn him over. Someone turn him over before he drowns.
[The SERVANT, with distaste, goes into the pool and turns SILENUS over with his foot.]
Excerpted from Metamorphoses: a Play by Ovid Copyright © 2002 by Ovid. Excerpted by permission.
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Table of Contents
List of PhotographsProduction HistoryMetamorphosesA Note on the Casting
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Having just performed the show at a Performing Arts high school, I must say that the play itself is magnificant. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the Greek Myths. From the story of Midas, which can be humorous as well as depressing, to Baucis and Philemon, which is a beautiful tale of true love never dying, there isn't a way to get bored.