Elemental Truths

(Part of a series about “Metamorphoses” at Georgia Shakespeare, running through July 21.)

Earth, air, fire, water.  These are the four elements of the ancient world. We have more now, neatly arranged in a periodic table.  But for centuries, these elements were considered the basis of every physical thing.

Water Splash 1I have written before about the essential role water plays in “Metamorphoses”.  The other elements are there as well:  earth in the story of Pomona, who loves everything that grows from the ground; air and fire in the story of Phaeton, who strives to drive the Sun’s chariot across the sky and sets the Earth on fire.

Fire can be dangerous, but it gives us light and warmth and energy for everything we do. I was struck tonight by the final image of the play, which brings fire and water together while maintaining the integrity of each.  Actors set candles afloat in the pool of water, and then lift them up as metaphorical beacons, lighting the way home for a lost soul.

Light, flame, combustion, passion:  these themes burn through our play and through our work as artists.  Sometimes we burn out. One young actor said to me, when he was overlapping two shows and a day job, “candles are supposed to be burned at both ends, right?”  I had to laugh; I’ve been there so many times.  It’s the nature of the business.

Tonight, though, the image of a steady, guiding flame has stayed with me.  Maybe it’s the image I need to take with me as this project ends and another begins:  a simple flame, not burning at both ends, but glowing quietly to light my way down the path.

Fire 2

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