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Thursday January 20th

‘Tales from Ovid’ a take on ‘Metamorphoses’ myths

Rehearsals of Izzy Francke's Tales from Ovid at Kenan Theater Company on Wednesday night.
Buy Photos Rehearsals of Izzy Francke's Tales from Ovid at Kenan Theater Company on Wednesday night.

Roman gods and goddesses are popular with Chapel Hill theater companies this month.

Kenan Theatre Company is presenting “Tales from Ovid,” based on Ted Hughes’ adapted work from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” from Thursday through Monday.

See the show

When: Today to Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Monday, 5 p.m.

Location: Kenan Theatre, Center for Dramatic Art

The play is a compilation of different myths from “Metamorphoses,” but Professional Director Jeremy Skidmore said the adaptation that Kenan Theatre Company is performing is different from the current PlayMakers Repertory Company production.

He said in the mid-1990s, while American playwright Mary Zimmerman was writing her adaptation of the poem, the Royal Shakespeare Company in England was working on its production of Ted Hughes’ book based on the same myth.

“So historically, in England when the companies pick up the play they choose ‘Tales from Ovid’ over ‘Metamorphoses,’” Skidmore said. “And in the United States, everybody’s been doing ‘Metamorphoses’ and not ‘Tales from Ovid.’”

After learning that PlayMakers was doing “Metamorphoses,” Skidmore pitched the idea of doing the two productions at the same time. He brought a colleague of 13 years, Kelly Maxner, to UNC as the professional choreographer for the show.

Maxner said much of the creation process comes out of the imagery the text creates.

Junior dramatic art major Max Bitar, who is playing Narcissus and Actaeon, said the show relies heavily on movement because there isn’t much of a set.

Katie McCabe, another junior dramatic art major and the show’s lighting designer, said she adds color to the show through the lighting to enhance the tragic and transformative moods of the play.

Skidmore said one of the things he thinks is unique about this play is that there is a lot of movement, but it’s still language-based.

“I think that in the Mary Zimmerman version, the imagery and the use of the water really lifts the language to a higher place, whereas I feel the Ted Hughes version, because the language is heightened, it demands image to come from it,” he said.

Major themes of the show are mythology, moderation and the tragedy of obsessive behavior. The show demonstrates the multiple layers of human beings.

“For example, in one story, a king has a very pastoral life — a wife and a son and a happy life,” Maxner said. “And hidden deep inside the forest he has his wife’s sister, trapped, and he’s cut out her tongue, and he rapes her almost every other day.”

Maxner also said that a lot of the play is about transformation and change.

“Human beings strive for change and yet we’re so terrified of it at the same time. The play is very life-affirming and at the same time, terrifying,” he said.

“Why not go see something like that?”

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