Posted on Jan 30, 2005

Nothing unusual appeared in the program for the College's production of Metamorphoses, which ran last fall in Yulman Theater, until you saw the acknowledgement of “water consultants.”

Donald Birch and Joseph Decowski were instrumental in staging the first show at Union to feature water-a whole pool of it-as a central “character.”

The two men, who normally hold down duties on the Facilities staff, helped the Yulman crew design and build what director Joann Yarrow calls “a magical place”-a 20- by 20-foot pool of undetermined depth-for the play by Mary Zimmerman that is based on the myths of the Roman poet Ovid.

The pool, Yarrow said, provided the medium for human interaction in the play, and indeed the dozen characters in the ensemble used it continuously. “It was definitely another character in the play, another being with us,” Yarrow said.

The technical considerations for staging a play with water were enormous: Can the floor take the weight? How do you keep the water out of the basement? How do you filter it and heat it? Birch, Decowski and others solved the problems. Robert Balmer, dean of engineering, and students Victoria MacMullen and Tim Pulask helped design the pool.

The production required some items not normally found backstage: a large supply of towels (special thanks to Athletics), a clothes drier, mops and squeegees. Actors rehearsed in bathing suits; costumes, reserved for the production, needed a full day to dry. (“We could never do two shows in a day,” the director said.)

The play relied heavily on the actors' physicality, Yarrow noted. “This is a movement-based work. The actor is not just a talking head. It's the body which speaks as well.”

Yarrow brought in Louis Guillemette of Cirque du Soleil in Montreal to help the actors to develop the work through a process called contact improvisation. It was the actors themselves-not a choreographer-who developed the movements. The play, according to the program, “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.” Featured characters included Midas and Silenus, Alcyone, Orpheus and (naturally, given the reflective medium) Narcissus.

In the ensemble were Andrew Burke, Kassandra Collazo, Phil Chorba, Aneesh Dambreville, Jackie Garrity, Ryan Schiavone, Carly Hirschberg, Charles Holiday, Becca Hutton, Charles May, Mandee Moondi and Davin Reed.

Set design was by Prof. Charles Steckler, lighting by John Miller, costumes by Lloyd Waiwaiole, and sound by Doris Lo.