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Greek myths come alive at Arena

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Entertainment,Music,Barbara Mackay

One of the highlights of the Arena Stage 2013 season is its production, in association with Lookingglass Theatre Company, of Mary Zimmerman's "Metamorphoses," a staging of the Latin writer Ovid's poetry, which was inspired by many famous Greek myths.

First produced and directed by Zimmerman at Northwestern University in 1996, "Metamorphoses" has had a remarkable history, eventually winding up on Broadway in 2002, where it earned Zimmerman a Tony Award for Best Director. Now, a decade after that Broadway run, Arena Stage has invited Zimmerman to direct the work again in a unique setting: For the first time, it will be performed in the round.

"It will be an adventure to do it this way," said Louise Lamson, who has the distinction of having been in that very first production of "Metamorphoses" at Northwestern. "I was a senior when it opened. When it left Northwestern, I had booked two other plays so I couldn't continue on with it, but it ran for so long, I got to come back and close it."

There are many reasons "Metamorphoses" has been so well-received. To begin with, mythology is so universal, it touches many viewers deeply and lends itself easily to the kind of storytelling that is Zimmerman's trademark. In addition, Zimmerman fuses the ancient with the contemporary and creates an enchanted realm through poetry, music, lighting and stagecraft.

Onstage
'Metamorphoses'
Where: Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW
When: Friday through March 17
Info: Tickets start at $40; 202-488-3300; arenastage.org

"The stories are over 2,000 years old, but there is a lot of contemporary speech in the play, as well," said Lamson. "The show is like it's name. 'Metamorphoses' is constantly changing. It continually shifts from tragedy to comedy and from an ancient to a modern tone."

Lamson's primary character is Alcyone, wife of Ceyx. "They were a young couple who were desperately in love with one another," said Lamson. "Ceyx believes that he must go to consult an oracle.

"I try to make him go over land, but he is determined to sail and is caught in a shipwreck. Eventually, I lose him and when Aphrodite looks down on us, because of the greatness of our love, she graces us by turning us both into birds.

"And it's from that story that the notion of the 'Halcyon Days' are derived. Seven days every year, a calm comes to the ocean, and those days allow me to brood on my nest and allow us to be safe."

Lamson's life has changed considerably since she first appeared in "Metamorphoses." "I have a beautiful family with two boys now," she said. "And I feel very fortunate to have an opportunity to do this work again from a new perspective."

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