Boston’s Whistler in the Dark Theatre Company premiered Ted Hughes’ Tales from Ovid a year ago in a small, quirky venue for fringe productions. As they begin re-rehearsing it for ArtsEmerson in the Jackie Liebergott Black Box Theatre, to what extent are they “brushing up” the already-made production and to what extent are they making a new piece?
Director Meg Taintor doesn’t see this as a chance to create a new production, but instead as an opportunity to explore a different message. “The production was good,” she says, “but it didn’t achieve what we needed it to. We figured out in the second week of performances what the play was about, which wasn’t what we had done.”
In preparation for the ArtsEmerson production, the casting was shuffled, music was added and the production was tightened to the core members of the Whistler company. Some of the actors (of which there are only four, plus one musician) are playing new roles. Rehearsals are spent trying to remember what was done in the last production, examining if it worked, and making sure it’s aligning with the production’s new message.
So what is the new message of Tales from Ovid? Taintor says, “We intentionally shifted the casting around so we could explore this idea of what we think the play is about, which is what transformation for the actor is. What does it mean to be a human who embodies all these different characters and all these different connections with each other?” The ensemble is also creating movement duets in between myths, that explore the relationship between actor and character.
In true Ovid-style, Whistler in the Dark’s Tales from Ovid is in the midst of a theatrical metamorphosis, and this upcoming production for ArtsEmerson will be their newest incarnation.