I hate myths. No matter Greek or Roman, ancient anything makes me barf. It’s my shortcoming, I know. Without the ancients we wouldn’t have the modern novel, concrete, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, all of which I can’t live without. Well, add Lookingglass Theatre Company's METAMORPHOSES to my ‘must have’ list. Thank Jupiter, a friend convinced me to see this riff on Ovid’s poem. Gorgeous. Innovative. Mesmerizing. Don’t even bother reading the rest of this blog, just get yourself a ticket to this much anticipated revival. Or fine, read it, but quickly. Our Town spoke with Lookingglass ensemble member Raymond Fox about this exceptional show.
Our Town Why bring back the show now?
Raymond Fox This is Lookingglass’ 25th anniversary season [so] we wanted to bring back a favorite. Although METAMORPHOSES has enjoyed success across the country--productions both on and off Broadway, we have not presented it in Chicago in 14 years. [Writer/director] Mary [Zimmerman] and her designers were intrigued by the opportunity to bring the play to our home in the Water Tower Water Works in a much more intimate venue than we’ve presented it in the past.
OT As an actor, what is it like to revisit a play years later?
RF I was fortunate enough to appear in the first Lookingglass version and the two productions in New York as well as numerous regional productions of the play. As a result I was in METAMORPHOSES on and off for six years from 1998 to 2004. My wife (Anne Fogarty) and I start dating during the original run. We’re back onstage together in this revival. Our six year-old daughter is now able to see a production we thought we’d only have an opportunity to describe to her.
OT What do you feel you bring to it now that perhaps you didn’t the first time?
RF Hopefully our work has deeper emotional resonance. We’ve all experienced our own changes – both through joy and pain – over the years. We try to bring that to these ancient tales. As a result they feel richer to us. We hope we can impart that to the audience.
OT Do you find yourself remembering fragments of your life from that period of time--like when you hear a song after years and remember where you were when you first heard it?
RF Yes. Eight members of this cast (out of ten) were veterans of earlier productions. The first rehearsal weeks were extremely nostalgic. We all thought we’d said goodbye to the show long ago. For many of us, it was just hearing the original sound cues played in the rehearsal hall that brought it all back. The blocking, text and feeling returned almost automatically.
OT Obviously Ovid’s work is well, old. What makes the show meaningful for today’s audience?
RF One challenge of METAMORPHOSES is that it’s a series of very brief stories. I think the longest any of us plays a single role is fifteen minutes. So in a Chekhov piece, for example, you might have numerous beats (i.e., actions and emotional shifts) to convey over two hours or more. We only have a few minutes per story with maybe six or seven beats/moments in each. As a result, we have to be very, very precise from the moment we appear. The audience has to be able to immediately identify who we are, what we want and what our relationship is to the other people on stage. The archetypal nature of the roles therefore becomes paramount with ‘greedy businessman’ or ‘vengeful goddess,’ or ‘bereaved lover’ as starting points. We therefore try to breathe as much life and specificity as we can into each story. I think it’s remarkable that we often hear audience members’ emotional response at the tragic fate of Alcyon and Ceyx – characters they’ve only known for a few minutes.
Why are you still reading? Purchase tickets here. The show runs through December 16th
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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