On Monday afternoon, the Bulletin interviewed four Acting majors from the cast of Arcadia University’s most recent theater production, Metamorphoses. Swiveling in the adjustable office chairs in Landman Library's Faculty and Staff Resource Room, Trevor Foehl ’13, Kelsey Hodgkiss ’14, Olivia Lantz ’14 and Jess Jacob ’14 gathered to chat a little about life since rehearsal began in September. Under the direction of Ceal Phelan of People's Light and Theatre, the actors have become a close-knit ensemble worthy of retelling one of Western literature’s most enduring classics.
Jacobs begins the conversation by doing a twirl, showcasing an emblem of the cast’s transformation into a genuine collective: a pair of graffitied jeans marked up with memorable quotes, inside jokes and drawings. Foehl, Hodgkiss and Lantz add to the exhibition, pointing to a place on the hip, the crease of a pocket, the inseam on the right ankle—pictures and phrases that recall notable moments in their journeys as students and burgeoning actors, as individuals and members of a community.
Metamorphoses is a patchwork of narratives from Greek and Roman mythology. The play doesn't focus on a central character, so its success hinges on the strength and cohesion of the entire cast.
“How close the ensemble has got in this cast is pretty amazing because we have some really different, strong personalities,” says Hodgkiss, with a smirk. “Just the environment that we worked in, which was so playful was… very beneficial to us as an ensemble and also very beneficial to the style of the play…. I think that has to do with Ceal, it has to do us as a cast and it also just has to do with the nature of the play and its themes of love.”
Since the original production of Metamorphoses premiered off-broadway just months after the 9/11 attacks, the play has shaken audiences with its themes of love, human mortality and the void death creates for the living. So, ten years later, as the show was being produced in Glenside, Phelan left the script unopened in favor of asking the cast to converse about the tragedy.
Pelhan, who has been an ensemble member of People's Light and Theatre for more than 20 years as an actress, teacher and director, led the ten-person cast in a series of exploratory exercises, examining their stances on love, life and loss. Although she allowed for a playful atmosphere, Pelhan also encouraged students to break barriers by starting the rehearsals off in serious conversation.
“It was very emotional,” adds Hodgkiss. “It was really helpful in that I don’t think a lot of us had talked about [the events of 9/11] in that capacity before […] To sit there and just have this really open, raw discussion about it was a little difficult emotionally for some people but also really good and really cathartic and also helpful to the work. And that was kind of the beginning of us growing together as an ensemble. It’s a very strong ensemble play and so we did a lot of work to get together close as an ensemble. That really helped.”
Jacob adds that she’s worked with a lot of casts since she started performing at the age of three. Though many say they’ll hang out outside of rehearsal, it rarely happens. This cast is different.
“I’ve never worked with a cast that has come together in such a way where we all call each other up and we’re like, ‘so what are you doing tonight? Let’s go to the arboretum!’ We actually get together and do things.”
For a show that depends on the unity of the cast, there can be no doubt that Arcadia University’s production of Metamorphoses is a success. The proof is in the pants.