Two Minutes' Traffic: Metamorphoses at Folger Theatre

 I am an avowed Mary Zimmerman stan, as we say here on the internet. When I first moved to DC, I caught half of her production of Pericles at the Free For All (hey Shakespeare Theatre Company, can we bring that back instead of using the money to pay for famous faces to give underwhelming performances?) before it was rained out, but never to fear- in winter of 2008, I saw her Argonautika at STC and was hooked on her style for life. I've seen her direct her own work many times because I'm privileged to be based in the Washington, DC region, but after Metamorphoses first made a big splash (pun intended) her work has been produced at every level across the world, from students to professionals.

It's why I can't quite understand the emphasis placed in the program of the Folger Theatre's current production of Metamorphoses that, under the direction of Psalmayene 24, the show has been reinvented to remove the physical water onstage that defined Zimmerman's original staging. This choice (with full acknowledgement that there was an element of necessity considering the proximity of the Folger's collections to its stage) is specifically hailed as near-revolutionary, a brave, nigh-unthinkable re-imagining. 

There is so very much to appreciate in Psalmayene's production, from the extraordinary performance by Jon Hudson Odom (always a true pleasure to see on DC stages) and some beautifully danced work by Miss Kitty embodying the spirit of water throughout the performance. It's truly a beautiful production that uses its all-black cast to powerful effect.

But I can't escape my utter bewilderment that the creative team seems to believe they are the first theatremakers to do this show without an onstage pool. There is a big, wide world out there of theatre artists, and we do this incredible art form a grave disservice to believe that the only folks making theatre worth noting are those at the highest echelons. Extraordinary theatrical moments are made at all levels, and I truly believe that we all know that limitations can be a miraculous source of creativity. Just because this team is proud of the choices they made to evoke water without its literal presence doesn't mean a college wasn't doing it ten years ago, or a community theatre didn't also move its audiences to tears every night on a budget of $1,000. We have to find a way to celebrate our work without ignoring the work of others when sweeping claims are made.

The Folger's production is beautiful, powerful, tremendously moving, and filled with laughter. I'd highly recommend it. I'd also advocate to keep our eyes open for the work of smaller stages, where the next generation of theatremakers are being nurtured and the stages that sustain the passion of theatremakers who'll never go pro and yet keep that love of the theatre alive in small communities.


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