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Quick Wit: Doug Hara

The actor takes the plunge (literally!) into Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses. Jennie Webb talks with him during a dry period. logo
L.A.'s latest hit is Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses, which comes to the Mark Taper Forum following successful runs at Berkeley Rep and Seattle Rep. Zimmerman is an award-winning playwright whose popular works include The Arabian Nights with her own Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago (a production seen in L.A. at The Actors Gang). She recently directed her own adaptation of The Odyssey at the Goodman and revived The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, for which she received two Joseph Jefferson Awards.

Zimmerman's critically-acclaimed Metamorphoses is a lovely, revealing, and very funny exploration of the myths of Ovid, wherein gods and goddesses hobnob with their cohorts on a set that is fabulously fluid--literally. The mythical characters move in and around a reflective pool that spans nearly the entire stage.

Actor Doug Hara, a longtime Lookingglass Theatre Company member, has been involved with Metamorphoses since its first professional production. That's a lot of swimming. I thought maybe he'd like to dry out and talk about it.

So what about this water thing? Do you know where the idea came from? I think Mary Zimmerman had a dream of doing The Odyssey in water, and this was her way of auditioning the set. She ended up doing The Odyssey on dry land, and Metamorphoses took on a whole life of its own. Then you guys were sort of scenic guinea pigs? When in the show do you first get your feet wet? I come out in the first scene and sit in the pool. But then I get thrown face down into the water. Right. You're the drunk who passes out in the cabana? Yeah, I think I'm the first person to actually go in the drink. How is it as an actor, diving into the set? It's a completely new experience. When we started, the temperature was a bit of a challenge. It was a long time before we had a warm pool. How long are you actually in the water? What about the prune factor? The show's only an hour and a half long. But when we tech it, we're in there 12 hours at a time. It pretty much sucks. And yes, everyone gets pruney and cold. Teching the show is kind of a nightmare, but doing it is a dream. You stay warm and cozy between scenes? Everyone's got bathrobes. And we've got these rooms offstage that we call "hot boxes," with big piles of towels and glowing space heaters. Those are pretty luxurious. We didn't have those in Chicago. Yikes. What time of year did you do the show there? It was getting on winter, into December. That was pretty challenging, with nice breezes coming through. We did our best to sort of enclose the space, but we were definitely working for our art at that point. And now you're here in L.A., showing off your Chicago tan. Oh yeah, the tan thing. I don't want to get a tan. I don't want to be Eros with a tan line! Any other liquid issues we should be aware of? Water retention? A lot of people have gone down on the deck. We've definitely had some scares; you really have to be careful, because it gets really slippery. But nobody's swallowing any water. Not even the audience? Well, the audience does get pretty wet. The seats in the front row have towels on them. After all this time, are you sick of water? Or do you all have swim parties after the show? Everybody's been talking about that. The hotel where a lot of people are staying has a pool, but we haven't had a chance. You guys don't exactly do laps onstage. But everyone can swim--can't they? Yeah, I think so. Nobody's admitted it if they can't. I guess we'll find out at the pool in the hotel. Okay, then. Have fun--and keep your shorts on. When I can!

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