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New University of Toledo theatre production features unique stages, costumes and themes

On November 14, 2012


The stage of the CPA will soon undergo a transformation as it prepares for the upcoming production of “Metamorphoses.”

“Metamorphoses” is Mary Zimmerman’s Tony award-winning adaptation of Ovid's book, containing a collection of myths taken from both Greek and Roman mythology. These stories are similar to stories found in the Bible, the Torah, the Epic of Gilgamesh and various other forms of religious literature.

Originally performed in Chicago, “Metamorphoses” is now brought to the local stage for University of Toledo students to enjoy. However, being a UT production, the adaptations of these tales may not be what audiences expect.

“‘Metamorphosis’ means ‘transformation,’” said Irene Alby, professor of theatre and director of the production. “I have decided to use the theme of birth as a metaphor for the play. As a journey of transformation towards wisdom, a women's journey to birth is an apt metaphor.”

Transformation doesn’t just take place in the play, but on the actual stage as well.

“The play is centered around a pool — and sure enough, our choreography is centered in and around a heated pool on stage,” Alby said. “Working with a pool has definitely had its challenges. It has meant figuring out which characters get wet, far enough in advance to ensure that costumes and makeup for those characters will be water resistant or even water proof. It has required a lot of careful planning about movement and choreography.”

Despite these potential complications, the cast and crew have had the welcome advice of T.J. Gerckens, lecturer of lighting design, who was previously the lighting designer of the Broadway production of “Metamorphoses,” and Daniel Thobias, assistant professor of theatre, who has worked on the Berkley Rep production of the play. According to Alby, the two have been very helpful through passing on their knowledge.

“[Gerckens] has been a font of knowledge as to how to avoid pitfalls and errors, [and Thobias], who has designed the set for this play, has also been an excellent resource for the show,” she said.

Alongside the advice of the two experienced new professors is the help of Erica Frank, visiting assistant professor of costume design who has worked in Hollywood as a costume designer for movies such as “The Hunger Games,” “The Watch” and “Revolution.” She and Thobias are mentoring Halah Mohamad, the costume designer for the production.

“So far it’s been a great learning experience,” the senior art and new media major said.

The metaphor of transformation doesn’t just end with the production itself.

“This play has become a symbol of the metamorphosis of our department as a whole,” Alby said, “first with the renovation of our space last year, and now with the addition of these talented new faculty members.”

Even with a variety of experience levels within the cast and crew, Alby is able to keep it at a higher level of acting.

“I love working with her,” said Jamie Wilson, assistant director and stage manager of the play and a senior majoring in theatre. “She has brilliant ideas.”

“Even though this is an amateur performance, Irene Alby holds everyone accountable to the professional standards of the entertainment industry,” said Lance Miller, a senior majoring in theatre and the production’s Midas character. “I cannot thank her enough for the knowledge and experience she has passed on to me.”

Hopefully, according to Miller, the audience leaves having been transformed in their own way.

“The beautiful thing about ‘Metamorphoses’ is that if you look down inside, we can all identify with each character from time to time,” he said. “Be in touch with your body and mind. Know that the Greeks believed we all have bits and pieces of each character in the show. If you let yourself feel these connections we all have you will also not just see but feel the ‘Metamorphoses.’”

Tickets cost $7 for students; $10 for faculty, staff, alumni and seniors; and $12 for the general public.

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