Water, costumes, dance and myth came together during the South Pasadena High School Drama Club’s performances of “Metamorphoses” in November — and the power of the play resulted in the club placing in the top three in L.A. County and in the top seven in Southern California during the annual California Educational Theatre Association’s Fall Play Festival.
The commendation also earned the club an invitation to the next stage of competition at CETA’s Southern High School Theatre Festival in Fullerton from Jan. 18-20, when it will perform an excerpt of the show.
Written by Mary Zimmerman, “Metamorphoses” is based on the myths of Ovid and was staged in a pool of water built by SPHS stage crew and technical director James Jontz. Live violin and cello music with student performers accompanied the performances.
Nick Hoffa, head of the drama department, along with student performers, shared with the Review their takeaway from the experience and their excitement for the upcoming festival.
Hoffa said that, from the beginning, the students were fully committed and ready to work seriously on the play, while also bringing a special humor to it that sparkled on stage.
“People were surprised at how funny it was,’’ said Hoffa. “I think you think Greek myths, it feels like you’re reading an English book, but the play is so accessible and it jumps from hilarious and funny. It’s a sketch show to tragic in the drop of a hat.’’
In his third year of directing plays at SPHS, Hoffa decided on “Metamorphoses’’ for the “big ensemble strength,’’ and he felt the Drama Club was ready to rise to meet its difficulties.
“This was a different kind of challenging,’’ said Hoffa. “The language was a little more heightened. It was going to ask them to do a lot more with physicality, with language and with acting in water. There were all kinds of things, and I felt like this group of Drama Club kids generally were ready to take on the challenge of something like that.’’
Senior Christian Villasenor played Phaeton, the son of Apollo, and Orpheus. He said that while the water was a challenge to rehearse in, he looked forward to every scene and the excitement that built throughout the play. He also commended the crew for its work with sounds and lights.
“This show was so much fun on its own, and compared to things we’ve done in the past, it’s got everything,’’ said Villasenor. “It’s got love, it’s got loss, it’s got jokes, it’s got drama and it’s got water, which is awesome. Being in the show was just the best time ever.’’
The show was the first producing opportunity for senior Grace Chavez, who has acted in the club since her freshman year. As associate producer, she said, she learned more about the depth of care that goes into making a show come alive. She was thrilled with CETA’s remarks, too, on the details of the production.
“It was awesome because they talked a lot about our costumes and we thought they’d focus more on the acting,’’ said Chavez. “They talked a lot about how it was a really nice collaborative work, so it was really nice to hear them compliment all the aspects and appreciate what we all did together.’’
Junior and Drama Club Co-President Kayla Nielsen played a number of roles in the production, with her main character serving as Myrrha. Her part involved dance and a number of different costumes. She said the variety of the show made the process really rewarding.
“Everything was just more,” said Nielsen. “We had more set, we had live music, we had dancing, I sang in the show. I feel like everybody in the cast and the crew put in a lot of effort, including Mr. Hoffa, of course, and it was very nice to get recognized.’’
Senior Sydney Davis Denny, who played Pomona and the narrator for Orpheus and Eurydice, among other roles, said the show was “extremely different’’ and the experience was “absolutely amazing.”
“It was more stylistic, and we got to do more involving physicality and how can we translate these things through art and dance, and even just silence,’’ said Davis Denny. “It was definitely less dialogue-focused and definitely more stylistic, which I really liked experiencing for my last year.’’
With the work of the production, its recognition by CETA and the upcoming festival, she said, it was a “nice way for us seniors to be sent off.’’
“Specifically with this show, it was mostly about just teamwork with the cast,” said Davis Denny. “Specifically when you’re in the water or things of that nature, you’ve really got to be trusting each other, and this show is all about making sure that there are relationships. … I think this year we definitely had closer bonds together, and definitely there was a lot more trust this year, which I think was really great.’’