Professor Jessie Mills, new to Pomona College’s theatre faculty, is testing the waters in more ways than one for the production of “Metamorphoses,” which opens tonight. It’s not only her directorial debut for the College, the play has also got a unique set: an onstage swimming pool. In this retelling of the myths of Ovid, everyone tests the waters.
“Metamorphoses” is a series of interwoven vignettes where gods, humans, nature and the cosmos collide, and where all 17 student actors get into the two-level pool. The playwright and original director, Mary Zimmerman, chose plays that she felt would be amplified by water and be the full playing space of all of these stories because water is elemental, and water doesn’t behave, says Mills.
“Water can be everything that these stories need to be. It can be still and peaceful. It can be charging and enraged. It can be fun and splashy. It can be all of these things. Some of the stories are sweet and romantic, and some of these stories are haunting and horrifying, and some of these stories are irreverent and silly.”
Mills describes the theme of the play as one of reflection and transformation. That would also be the theme for the Department of Theatre and Dance in its planning and construction of the pool, as Mills and production manager Michele Miner describe it.
Logistics mattered — notifying the Campus Facilities Department; considering safety issues; adjusting room temperatures to keep shivering to a minimum when wet students emerge from the pool; providing towels, robes and slippers for drying, warmth and to avoid anyone slipping and sliding backstage.
Then, of course, there’s the transformation, which includes the set design of one big two-level pool — one level is four inches deep, the other is 10 inches deep — with almost 100 hanging bulbs overhead to evoke stars. Since everyone will get wet, there’s also the need for costume creativity, like nixing cotton and using quick-dry materials instead and having doubles of costumes on hand.
Working with a body of water, even one made by humans, has put students, theatre staff and director Mills into situations requiring creativity and change. And change is exactly what makes “Metamorphoses,” which explores ancient myths in simultaneously contemporary and antiquated ways, so lovely, says Mills.
“The humans in this story become ultimately a more powerful version of who they were before, which in some ways is connected to the idea of leaving a legacy behind, or moving out of one world into the next, and what that means for us.”
It puts humans in situations where they have to adapt and become something else, she says. Much like a Pomona stage.
Performances of “Metamorphoses” will be held at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 7 through Saturday, March 9, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 9 and Sunday, March 10 at the Seaver Theatre (300 E. Bonita Ave., Claremont). Tickets are $11 general admission and $6 for students, faculty, staff and seniors. Please be aware: contains story of incest.