Arden Theatre Company’s Latest to Be Set in a 2,600-Gallon Pool

Doug Hara, seen in the original, Broadway and regional productions, directs Metamorphoses at the Arden. | Photo by Teresa Wood

Doug Hara in the Arena Stage production of Metamorphoses. He’ll direct the Arden’s adaptation. | Photo by Teresa Wood

If you know the work of Mary Zimmerman, the theatre artist whose play Metamorphoses opens the season of Philly’s Arden Theatre Company this year, you know she doesn’t do anything small. The writer and director is known for over-the-top scenery and production values—from a giant sleepwalking plank that emerged over the orchestra pit at the Met’s La Sonnambula to her lavish staging of Disney’s The Jungle Book.

So it’s no surprise that her recent staging of her play Metamorphoses called for a giant pool on stage, and that’s exactly what the Arden is planning to construct: 2,600 gallons of water will invade the space, and performers will use the aquatic landscape throughout the play, which is adapted from the classic Ovid poem. The Arden even warns that audience members may get wet.

Rendering of Arden's Metamorphoses pool.

Model of the Arden’s Metamorphoses pool.

To make it clear: Zimmerman isn’t directing this production, but the company is borrowing from her adaptation … pool included. The body of water will be an 18-by-24-foot monster, ranging in depth from 2 to 24 inches and temperature-controlled to ensure that it is “no less than 99 degrees at the top of the show,” Arden Production Manager Courtney Riggar tells me. “These temps have been derived over the course of many productions to ensure actor comfort and safety. The expectation is that the pool will cool to 90 degrees by show’s end.”

It’ll be adequately filtered throughout the run of show, but when the audience comes in, the filters and heaters will be turned off so the pool is clear and smooth as glass. The pool will be drained every two weeks and re-filled for the safety and comfort of the actors, and there will be “hotboxes,” which are fully enclosed heated dressing areas for the actors just outside view of the audience. They estimate that 75 towels will be used during every show. That’s 600 per week.

So far, the pool hasn’t been filled with water. It’s kept empty so crew can load in surrounding scenic elements, says Riggar. “Actors will enter the pool for the first time on Tuesday, September 15th. This will give them an entire week in the water before tech, which is several days more than normal productions.”

I guess we’ll have to wait to go splashing, all in good theatrical taste. The production opens on October 1st. For more information, visit the Arden website.