Arts & Features Staff Writer
Crumbling ruins comprise the set of Metamorphoses, placed behind a small fountain. Sod covers the entire stage to create an inviting, grassy meadow. A rope swing adorned with vines and flowers hangs from the catwalks above the stage, which many actors implement into their scenes. Tree stumps and added flowers give the audience the impression of watching the show outdoors.
Senior drama student Grace Siplon and director of the UNC Asheville theater department’s fall main stage production Metamorphoses said she wanted the direct the play since the first time she saw it as a 16 year old.
“I saw it and I was in love with it,” Siplon said. “I read the script again, it was my favorite script I have ever come across and I had proposed
to direct it four times and only on the fourth time did it actually happen. So, I was very excited to do it.”
Metamorphoses is an ensemble-driven show, originally directed by Mary Zimmerman, whose scenes all tell different stories about the communication and expression of love, both heartwarming and tragic as adapted from the poems of Ovid.
The show also includes a design team of UNCA seniors, who designed the lighting, sound and set, as well as directing the show itself.
Throughout the process of staging the show, the director worked closely with her other designers to make the show as cohesive as possible.
“The total magic vibe goes through so much more than just the actors. There was just a deep sense of understanding with me and the designers,” Siplon said. “The design has been beautiful since the beginning and we have worked very hard on it. I’m extremely confident with what we have to present.”
The design team comprised of all seniors worked hard together to create a cohesive atmosphere for the show.
“It’s really important for designers to work together so that nothing looks out of place,” said senior drama student Connor Harmsworth. “It’s been really fun, we have been working on this project since April of last year because it is our senior show.”
Harmsworth pulled and designed the props for the show while working alongside other designers.
“Metamorphoses is a show that can be seen in any time period, really,” Harmsworth said. “We have a mix of time periods in this show, actually. Each scene is kind of different; you have one scene where Midas has a gold cell phone, another scene with a clock where it’s timeless. You just kind of have to cater to whatever the scene needs and whatever the artistic needs are and whatever the needs of the actors are.”
Directing and helping to design the world of Metamorphoses proves to be a great privilege for Siplon, who is grateful for her cast that made her experience so enjoyable.
“I fully believe that everything happened exactly when it needed to,” Siplon said. “I am just blown away by how amazing this cast is, they connected with the script, they connected with my form of direction which is really exciting. Working with the cast and building the ensemble was definitely my favorite part.”
The ensemble holds great precedence in the show, having each actor play different characters across the scenes performed. Each character becomes distinguishable by their added costume pieces and all actors originally wear white.
“I play a bunch of different characters because it is like scene by scene,” said freshman political science student Mae Tesh. “I start out just as a woman and I’m wondering what the world is about. I narrate, I play wood nymphs that fall in love, I play an old woman who loves her husband so much she wants to die at the same moment as him, it’s a show where each scene embodies a different kind of love.”
The special structure of the show allows actors to explore and connect with several character types and also bring new personalities to each character they play.
“It’s unique in the fact that it kind of goes scene by scene and tells a different story each one,” Tesh said. “Sometimes we break the fourth wall a little bit, it’s also unique in the fact that it starts on a light note and then goes very deep and dark and picks it right back up. It kinda gives everyone that rollercoaster of emotions.”
Tesh is very appreciative of her opportunity to perform as many different characters during the show, but has made a connection with one role in particular.
“My first character, entitled ‘woman,’ I relate to her a lot,” Tesh said. “She just wants to know about the world. She’s constantly thinking, she kind of knows the story of man but wants to know further. I relate to that, who doesn’t want to know the secrets of the universe?”
A very prominent aspect of the show is the idea of love and the various ways love can be expressed to others.
“The show is all about love — it’s about different forms of love,” Harmsworth said. “There’s a lot of love that went into the production of this and there’s a lot of love between the actors and the designers. We worked together these four years and we are able to put on a really beautiful show. Especially right now with the political climate of the world and how things are changing it helps at the end of the day to stop and think about the ones that you love and how you want to better yourself.”
Another common theme of the production is the concept of myth and its correlation with humanity.
“So basically what you have with the themes of this show are about the benefits and huge pitfalls of love and the traps you can find yourself in,” Siplon said. “The human condition and trying to find out where you manifest in the universe and how we change. Everyone changes and that was a big influence for the set as well. It’s a connective dream for humanity. In modern ages, we aren’t giving our mythic sides enough attention, we try to rationalize our emotions and opinions and everything has to be rational; we are not comfortable feeling something we can’t explain.”
The show aims to leave the audience with a sense of warmth and appreciation for those around them.
“It is all about human connectivity,” Siplon said. “Especially in a theater like this, where you’re in the round, where you can see the audience across from you. It’s a very connected piece of work. If you come with your friends you’ll feel a sense of kinship with them when you leave. When I first saw this show I left crying, not because the ending was sad but because the final lines that the show leaves you with are so impactful and beautiful, it’s a spiritual high.”