LAWRENCE — Giving classic Greek mythology a contemporary spin, “Metamorphoses” explores the myths of Ovid through a modern lens, reimagining timeless tales of lovers, gods and kings. With 10 episodes, 10 actors, more than five dozen characters and a stage transformed into a pool of water, this updated classic does not disappoint.
“Metamorphoses” opens Oct. 6 at the University of Kansas University Theatre. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 6-7 and Oct. 10-12 and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 8 in the William Inge Memorial Theatre at Murphy Hall.
One of the most distinctive and challenging aspects of “Metamorphoses” is the set design. Because the water is such a prominent feature of this production, it ends up taking on multiple “characters” throughout the production.
“The water’s best quality is that it’s irreducibly real. It’s not a representation of water. It just is,” said Henry Bial, director and professor of theatre. “The reality of the water forces us to resist the temptation to drift off into the kind of lofty, detached recitation of poetry often seen in classical productions. The water makes us find ways to balance the poetry of the script with the messy reality of human existence.”
Although the stories are centuries old, Bial thinks audiences will find the play’s blend of classic and contemporary appealing.
“I hope this production will challenge folks to think about how storytelling and theatre are themselves specialized ways of knowing, as powerful and innovative in their way as any scientific disciplines taught across the university,” he said.
“Metamorphoses” has provided a unique opportunity for cast members to show off their talents as artists as well.
“It’s an ensemble-driven show with none of the usual divisions between leading and supporting roles,” Bial said. “The group has really come together to help make each other’s performances stronger.”
The company includes Nathan Bowman, Kansas City doctoral student, dramaturg; Tehreem Chaudhry, Lawrence freshman, as Therapist and others; DeAngelo Davis, Lynwood, Illinois, junior, as Erysichthon and others; Drew Hafling, Topeka senior, as Midas and others; Taylor McTague, Allen, Texas, senior, as Myrrha and others; Colin Neukirch, Topeka senior, lighting designer; Maggie Puderbaugh, Topeka sophomore, as Eurydice and others; Cassidy Ragland, Fayetteville, North Carolina, junior, as Alcyone and others; Christopher Russell, Chattanooga, Tennessee, sophomore, as Vertumnus and others; Katie Sgroi, Prairie Village junior, stage manager; Cody Siemiatkowski, Harrisonville, Missouri, senior, as Orpheus and others; Gabrielle Smith, Lansing freshman, as Aphrodite and others; and Jack Zimmerman, St. Louis sophomore, as Phaeton and others.
The production also features Kelly Vogel, resident artist and academic associate, costume designer; and Dave Wanner, University Theatre scene shop manager and scenic designer.
Tickets for “Metamorphoses” are on sale now at KU ticket offices and online at www.kutheatre.com. Tickets are also available by calling the University Theatre, 785-864-3982, and the Lied Center, 785-864-ARTS. Tickets are $15 for adults, $14 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, and $10 for children. KU student tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Season tickets are available for all eight productions for $125 for adults, $115 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff, $70 for children, and $70 for students by calling the University Theatre ticket office.
Purchasing tickets in advance is recommended. There is limited seating availability for this show. The innovative set design and the number of KU classics students reading Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” will make it a popular event.
The Department of Theatre is one of four departments in the School of the Arts. As part of the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, the School of the Arts offers fresh possibilities for collaboration between the arts and the humanities, sciences, social sciences, international and interdisciplinary studies.
Photo: A headpiece from the upcoming production of "Metamorphoses."