Festival marks the homecoming for award-winning director

Theatre @ York caps its season with a theatrical sensation: American playwright Mary Zimmerman’s Tony Award-winning play Metamorphoses, directed by the acclaimed Canadian director Jillian Keiley. The show opens March 18 and runs to March 22 in Burton Auditorium at York University.

Hailed by Time magazine as the "theatre event of the year" in 2001, Zimmerman’s brilliantly inventive adaptation of the Roman poet Ovid’s epic Myths brings to enthralling life these classic tales of mortals and immortals punished or rewarded – or sometimes both – by the "morphings" magically visited upon them by the gods.

A legendary cast of characters enacts the timeless foibles, desires and errors of humankind: the star-crossed lovers Cupid and Psyche; King Midas of the fateful golden touch; the musician Orpheus seeking to reclaim his beloved Eurydice from the Underworld; the adolescent Phaeton, yearning to drive his father Apollo’s chariot across the sky.

Keiley, a graduate of York’s Theatre Program, returns to her alma mater to direct a talented ensemble of fourth-year actors in Metamorphoses.

Right: Jillian Keiley

"Zimmerman brings a 21st-century sensibility to stories that have moved the world since time immemorial," Keiley said. "There is something in these tales that provokes a common understanding, a common horror and a common joy. It’s what has kept these stories alive for millennia."

Keiley ranks among the brightest rising stars in Canadian theatre. The founding artistic director of Newfoundland’s Artistic Fraud theatre company, she is a winner of the Canada’s Council John Hirsch Prize (1997) and Canada’s most prestigious theatre award, the Siminovitch Prize (2004), in recognition of her "startlingly original and radically imaginative" work. (For the full story, see the Nov. 3, 2004 issue of YFile.) Her stellar list of credits include Theatre Newfoundland Labrador’s Tempting Providence, which has toured across Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, and garnered four-star reviews during its Toronto run at Factory Theatre last spring.

Working with Keiley on Metamorphoses is a creative team of undergrad theatre students handling all aspects of the production design and execution. The fact that Metamorphoses is set around a large pool of water onstage is just one of the challenges facing the production team. Following Keiley’s vision, the entire set will be used as a musical instrument.

Praise for US productions of Metamorphoses has been effusive:

"Writer-director Mary Zimmerman’s lovely, deeply affecting work shows that theatre can provide not just escape but sometimes a glimpse of the divine." Time Magazine

"Funny one moment, achingly sorrowful the next, Metamorphoses somehow manages both to lift you out of the moment you’re living in and speak to it with piercing directness." Wall Street Journal

Theatre @ York, the production company of York University’s Theatre Department, has been entertaining audiences for more than 35 years. Each year, the company mounts a challenging season of plays drawn from the contemporary and classical repertoire, featuring some of Canada’s most promising stage talent.

This production of Metamorphoses is part of the third annual York Fine Arts Festival, which takes place in a variety of locations on York’s Keele campus, from March 11 to 31. The festival spotlights the resident talent in the Faculty of Fine Arts at York University.

Also featured in the festival is a dramatic workshop production of Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf (March 13-15). York theatre Professor Ines Buchli directs young actors from York’s graduate and third-year performance workshops in Heaney’s brilliant re-telling of the 11th-century Anglo-Saxon epic, recounting the adventures of Beowulf, a Scandinavian hero who saves the Danes from the ferocious monster Grendel. (Nobel laureate Heaney received an honorary doctorate from York in 1996.) Performances are in 139 Centre for Film & Theatre, on March 13 & 15 at 7pm, and March 14 at 2 & 7pm.

Other Theatre Department events in the festival include the theatre studies showcase Inter/play (March 13 & 16) and Scenes by Design (March 26-29), an exhibition of original costumes and accessories, set and lighting designs, props and stage maquettes. Both Inter/play and Scenes by Design are in the Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre located in the main lobby of the Centre for Film & Theatre on York’s Keele campus.

Preview performances of Metamorphoses take place March 16 and 17 at 7:30pm, and March 18 at 1pm. Metamorphoses opens March 18 and runs to March 22 at 7:30pm nightly (no performance on Good Friday, March 21). There will be a matinee performance on March 20 at 1pm. All performances take place in the Burton Auditorium on York’s Keele campus.

Admission to Metamorphoses is $15, students and seniors $10. The March 16 preview is pay what you can and the March 17 and 18 previews are $5. Admission to Beowulf is pay what you can in support of a theatre student bursary. Admission is free for Inter/play and Scenes by Design.

For tickets, order online at the Box Office or phone 416-736-5888. Visit the Faculty of Fine Arts Festival Web site for more information on all the events.