April 08, 2020

COMING UP… Come on in, the waters of the Belfast Maskers’ ‘Metamorphoses’ are fine

Ask director Wendy Wincote Schweikert how her work is going these days at the Belfast Maskers, and she might give a one-word answer: swimmingly. That’s because the community theater’s newest show, “Metamorphoses,” features an onstage swimming pool that measures 111/2 by 81/2 feet and is 8 inches deep.

To fill it each week before performances, Schweikert uses a hose attached to the theater’s kitchen sink. Then, before the lights go up, she hauls 5-gallon buckets of hot water from the restaurant next door because, you guessed it, the show’s 11 actors perform in and out of the pool. When “Metamorphoses” was performed on Broadway, the water was kept at a comfy 105 degrees. “I’m thrilled when I can get it up to 70,” said Schweikert.

But Schweikert’s actors are Mainers. They’re used to bracing waters. Besides, they can go backstage and warm up by heaters blasting hot air. Sanded paint on the floor minimizes sliding, and the rubber roofing construction prevents leaks. No one has come down with a cold yet, except for Schweikert, who is not in the show.

When “Metamorphoses” premiered off-Broadway less than a month after Sept. 11, 2001, the 12 stories based on Ovid’s epic poem about Roman kings, gods and commoners had a healing effect on the collective psyche of theatergoers. The show was a sellout from the first ripple. The production went on to Broadway, and then won playwright and director Mary Zimmerman a 2002 Tony Award for best directing.

Zimmerman, who lives in Chicago, spends summers on Islesboro, from which she called Schweikert in July. The Belfast director and her artistic team went out to the island and had a working lunch with the creator. Of the play, that is.

“It was amazing to speak to one of your heroes,” said Schweikert, who also saw the Broadway production. “Her play moved me so much. It’s storytelling at its most involved.”

Not to mention symbolic, ritualistic and downright primal. A daughter lusts for her father, lovers turn into birds and trees, Midas has his touch, Eros has his wings, and Apollo has his domestic troubles with a son who wants to borrow the car keys to blaze across the sky. Will kids ever change?

Comic and tragic in equal measures, “Metamorphoses” makes its splash at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 22. The theater seats 70. Leave bathing suits at home. But call ahead for tickets. 338-9669.

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