Sensual Mythology

(Part of a series about creating a new production of “Metamorphoses” by Mary Zimmerman at Georgia Shakespeare, summer, 2013.)

I took a course on Greek Mythology in the ninth grade.  We read Edith Hamilton’s classic text, in a convenient paperback edition that traveled easily from class to locker and back again.  It had a few drawings, but mostly it was miles and miles of words on the page, and I don’t remember being captivated by it.

I do remember “the rosy fingers of dawn”, which showed up about ten thousand times in Hamilton’s excerpt from the Odyssey.  I remember the god Zeus fooling around with lots of unsuspecting human females (even turning one poor woman into a cow to cover his tracks), and his wife Hera being hopelessly, furiously, vengefully jealous.  But I don’t remember feeling moved by what I read.  The only feeling I remember is acute embarrassment when my friend Mike asked the teacher what “sensual” meant.  I was sure it was going to have something to do with sex.  I probably turned beet red; I certainly hid my face and giggled.

The teacher explained that “sensual” meant appealing to the senses in a rich, powerful way.  Ohhhhhh.  Suddenly, a door opened.  

Myths are deeply sensual.  Homer describes the “rosy fingers of dawn” as if they were a woman’s hands caressing the sky at morning.  Ovid (who wrote the original “Metamorphoses”) fills his stories with descriptions so delicious, you can practically taste them.  Sounds, smells, and magical sights abound.

Iris's alarm clock, Atalanta's apples, Pandora's box

Iris’s clock, Atalanta’s apples, Pandora’s box

Staging a play based on these stories requires all of us to keep our senses wide open.  Designers, technicians, actors – all of us are aware of the beauty this play calls us to create.  It’s in the words, the bodies, the faces, the music, the objects; it’s in everything we touch, say and do. 

Aphrodite (Tess Kincaid, right) seizes Myrrha (Ann Marie Gideon)

Aphrodite (Tess Kincaid, right) seizes Myrrha (Ann Marie Gideon)

Myrrha and Cinyras (Chris Kayser)

Myrrha and Cinyras (Chris Kayser)

Poseidon (Neal Ghant) prepares to drown a sailor (Barrett Doyle)

Poseidon (Neal Ghant) prepares to drown a sailor (Barrett Doyle)

Class is dismissed, folks.  This production isn’t about studying mythology.  It’s about experiencing it, in all its glorious sensuality.  It’s about letting these stories touch us.

Caution:  they’re hot.

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