Pool Party

Constellation takes a dip in the pool

”Some of the front rows of the audience [get wet],” says Constellation Theatre Company’s managing director A.J. Guban. ”Just a little splash, just a little bit.”

Obviously, Constellation’s new production of Metamorphoses isn’t your typical night out at the theater – for the audience or the company. ”This is the most technically challenging production we’ve ever done,” notes Constellation’s founding artistic director Allison Arkell Stockman.

Metamorphoses: Katie Atkinson, Jefferson Farber, Jade Wheeler

Metamorphoses: Katie Atkinson, Jefferson Farber, Jade Wheeler

(Photo by Scott Suchman)

And the most challenging aspect was constructing a real-life pool directly atop Source Theatre’s concrete stage floor. That task fell to Guban, who designed the set for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s lavish Rocky Horror Show in March. There are three levels to Constellation’s 4,000-gallon, trapezoidal-shaped pool, explains Guban, who spent months working with a consultant to design a pool as deep as three feet and including an underwater exit for actors.

Sixty percent of the action in Metamorphoses takes place in the water, requiring the show’s 10 actors to learn special moves and requiring Kendra Rai to design special quick-dry costumes. Constellation raised $50,000 in advance to stage the production, and is offering eight shows a week instead of the usual five to help cover costs.

”[Metamorphoses] is a great match for us,” says Stockman of Mary Zimmerman’s Tony-nominated stage adaptation of Ovid’s tales, which includes classic stories about Midas, Narcissus and Orpheus and Eurydice. Since its founding in 2007, Constellation has made a name presenting epic stories with sharp acting ensembles, smart lighting and elaborate set designs by Guban, fantastical costumes by Rai and often live, transporting original music by Tom Teasley. Both Rai and Teasley have won Helen Hayes Awards for their work for Constellation, which also earned a Hayes Award in 2009 as Outstanding Emerging Theatre Company.

”[Metamorphoses] is a very meaningful show,” concludes Stockman. ”It’s got a combination of great spectacle and lots of entertainment value, but at its heart, its messages about love and compassion are profound and moving.”

Metamorphoses runs to June 3 at Source, 1835 14th St. NW. Tickets are $20 to $35. Call 202-204-7760 or visit constellationtheatre.org.

Doug Rule is a theater critic and contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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