Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Spotlight on Elden Street’s Metamorphoses

By • Apr 1st, 2010 • Category: Interviews
Elden Street Players
Industrial Strength Theater, Herndon, VA
Through April 10
90 minutes
$19/$16 Senior or Full-time Student
Interviewed March 29, 2010

Mike: This is Mike Clark with ShowBizRadio. Today I am talking with Evan Hoffman the director of Elden Street Players’ Metamorphoses. Thank you for talking with me today, Evan.

Evan: Thanks for having me.

Mike: So tell me a little bit about the show. What is it about?

Evan: Metamorphoses is a play that was adapted by Mary Zimmerman from Ovid’s Roman epic poem, which is a collection of poems based on Greek and Roman mythology. His original piece was much much longer and had dozens upon dozens of myths. However our show covers about a dozen of them. The show talks about several myths primarily that talk about various forms of love which was a central aspect of the original piece, but Mary Zimmerman picked the ones that she thought particularly pertinent to that and how love can change people and situations.

Mike: So when you mention Greek and Roman mythology, most people’s reactions will be “that sounds really boring.” What makes it interesting?

Evan: What makes it interesting is the intensity of the story. That is really the thing I love about it. Most plays and stories we read today building back stories and discussing characters and giving you all of this back story just so they can give you a basic boy meets girl love story. It is just kind of the way we are story tellers today.

But with Greek and Roman mythology they do not mess around with that. They go straight to the point. They give you characters and put them immediately into situations. It’s very vibrant and very direct which is just fascinating to me. It makes it very intense. They will tell you that this character is desperately in love and so you get right to the meat of the story and the action and the interesting part of what is happening so much faster. So in a lot of ways people are thrown off or turned off by mythology, but I love it for that exact reason. It is so intense and so quick. You do not waste any time in these stories.

Mike: We just saw the show yesterday and I was very impressed with how quickly things moved and the fact that you did not need to build up certain characters because each scene is only five to ten minutes.

Evan: Yes it’s fantastic. A character will just walk on stage and whatever narrator you have or whatever function of narration you have just says says, “This is this character and this character is desperately in love.” We have found so far in our performances that people just go along with that, they accept it and they believe in it fundamentally the way they would any story and any character they get to know for half an hour in a movie. So it is a wonderful effect that it has.

Mike: The actors change which characters they play which can get confusing, but it really didn’t in this case.

Evan: I am very glad to hear that. The actors worked very very hard to make sure that each of their characters were each unique and special both in their physicality and the way they spoke, but also in their emotional lines so I am very pleased for the actors to hear you say that.

Mike: And of course there is the unspoken member of the cast. The swimming pool on stage.

Evan: Absolutely. Probably the central most element and character in the show. I’m glad you called it a character. I’ve certainly never seen a show that had a pool on stage around here. I know it has been done before. I do not know if any community theater has done it around here, but we are very proud of it and it is certainly very central to what we do.

Mike: I spent fifteen minutes with Theresa Bender (the show’s producer) after the show yesterday talking about the pool and looking at it while the rest of the crew was working on it. It is a huge accomplishment of what work goes into it for that 90 minutes of drama.

Evan: We are very proud of it. It is something that just kind of reminds me, and I think it has reminded a lot of people, of what a unique opportunity The Elden Street Players has in the Industrial Strength Theater and the special things they can do there. There are not a lot of theaters, both community theaters and professional theaters in this area that could pull off a production of Metamorphoses just because you do have to have a pool of water on the stage and you need to be able to let the audience look down into the water. So the stadium seating that the Industrial Strength Theater provides is a really special opportunity and not a lot of places can do that.

Mike: Was it hard giving the actors their blocking and such; getting comfortable with the water as the character they have to interact with throughout?

Evan: It was very hard when we were initially rehearsing because we rehearsed for about six weeks before we got into the water. One of our favorite phrases in rehearsal was we would block something and then we would all say, “and this will all change when we move into the theater.”

It proved to be not as terrifying as we had prepare for it to be which was great. We spent six weeks blocking the show working through things, figuring out how we were going to stage stuff, always just pretending we were in the water. Saying that this section will be in the water. You will get soaked here, but since none of us had ever done a show with water we didn’t really know how it would work. We spent six weeks blocking the show and then the set got built and water went into the pool and we went into the theater for the first time and we spent a week basically reblocking the show doing everything we said we were going to do in the water saying, “This works. That is how we hoped that it would go and other things saying, oh that doesn’t work at all. Let’s find something new.” It was certainly a new challenge for this show.

Mike: The costumes of course are getting soaked. Did you have to go through different iterations of costumes after seeing what would happen when the material got wet? How did that work?

Evan: Fortunately we have an amazing costume designer, Kathy Dunlap. And her daughter Laura, who was actually in the show, helped her and did a lot of research. I am extremely grateful to her. She found a lot of fabrics that could stand being soaked.

Yes we have a whole bunch of costumes in this how that people wear and then we have giant costume racks backstage where people will do the scene in their dry clothes, get them soaking wet, run off the stage and then we peel the costumes off them. There is the dry costume rack and then the much bigger wet costume rack. Everything has to immediately get hung back up so that it can drip dry. Most of our costumes do that. Fortunately we do have 24 hours between each performance over the weekend. So most of the costumes sit there and drip dry for 24 hours so that they are ready to go again. As the more performances we do we are facing issues of some costumes starting to fade or stretch a little bit or discolor, but overall Kathy did such an amazing job of finding materials and ways of building the costumes and styles of costumes that could handle it. Fortunately it is not killing us yet, but we continually find new challenges with that as well.

Mike: I loved also the overheads that were projected. Usually people use that as a crutch , but it really did add to the show and it was not distracting.

Evan: Thank you. We were not sure how that was going to work out for us and we are very pleased with the way it did. We decided early on I decided that I thought there were some things that we could help clarify through some images. However I knew immediately that I did not want to have a giant screen on stage and have it be more movie like and have it be ever present. We tried to use it very sparingly and I am very pleased with the way it worked out.

As you have seen we project on the black wall on the back of the theatre. So for the most part we are not using it and it kind of disappears and pretty much all of our projections are images on a black background so we try to avoid having a nice clean square image that you are looking at. We are very proud of that and we also have a wonderful gentleman named Richard Goe who worked with Les Zidel an myself (Les being the lighting designer) to help us find the right images and videos to really say what it is we wanted to say say to help clarify some of these stories.

Mike: And then the music that was done Theresa was saying was composed specifically for Elden Street’s production?

Evan: We were incredibly blessed to have a gentleman named Al Robertson compose an original score for the show. Several months out from opening I met with Al and he and I sat down with some of the other designers such as Les and we talked about some of the various scenes in the show and some of my ideas generally about how I was going to stage them, what I was trying to say with various scenes in the show and gave him some key words and emotions that I wanted to try and convey and genius that Al is he went home.

Al is an incredible guitar player who works with a lot of synthecizers and something that you might not have realized from the show every bit of music you heard from the show was performed on a guitar synthesizer. There were no keyboards or other instruments. Everything Al creates as a composer he creates on his guitar and then processes it through his equipment. And he can make it sound like absolutely anything. All of the bells or the stringed instruments or anything you hear last night was all coming out of his guitar. He did such a remarkable job of taking the general ideas that I gave him about story and emotions and conveying them into this gorgeous music that we have playing throughout the show.

Mike: Wow. That’s very cool.

Evan: We are very lucky to have him.

Mike: Well it sounds like everything came together. It was an excellent production yesterday.

Evan: Thank you very much.

Mike: So how can people get tickets and how many more performances are there?

Evan: We have two more weekends of performances. This weekend Friday and Saturday and then the following Friday and Saturday. People can get tickets by going to the Elden Street Players’ website and go to the links for Metamorphoses. There will be links on there to go to the box office.

Mike: What is the next project that you will be working on?

Evan: The next thing that I know I will be doing is I will be directing Wonderful Town for the Reston Community Players in the Fall.

Mike: Okay. Best of wishes with that.

Evan: Thank you very much. Thank you very much for coming yesterday.

Disclaimer: Elden Street Players provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this interview.

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