“Polaroid Stories” Tries to Give Some Street Cred to Ovid

St. Mary’s Theatre, Film, and Media Studies department is hosting a play this year which promises to bring classic Grecian poetry to the world of pimps, prostitutes, and slum lords.

The play takes place on a pier in the outskirts of the play’s fictional city. According to Mark Rhoda, it is in this setting that “the characters’ storytelling has the power to transform a reality in which their lives are continually threatened, devalued, and effaced.” According to award-winning Director Jeremy Skidmore, the play’s greatest draw will be how the two seemingly unrelated subjects match up with one another. As Skidmore put it, “We’re taking mythical stories [from Metamorphoses] like Narcissus and Dionysis and pairing them with stories from the streets.”

“Polaroid Stories” was written in 1997 by Naomi Iizuka, is a combination of the classic narrative poem Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” and real stories from society’s underbelly. To prepare the play, Iizuka spent a year interviewing prostitutes and street children. The play won Iizuka the 1998 PEN Center USA West Award for Drama.

The play’s characters will also be transformed from immortal mythological figures to “dreamers, dealers, and desperadoes,” according to Rhoda. For example, the Zeus of “Polaroid Stories” will be a lord of the streets instead of lord of Olympus, but  he will remain an absolute commanding force; Narcissus also is no longer a God, but a pimp who falls in love with his reflection in a limousine. Characters such as these will pose quite a challenge to the play’s cast, who will not only have to exude the presence of such immortal figures but do so in some cases with little character background given to the audience.

Skidmore has worked in professional theatres from Virginia to Oslo, but says that working here with a play as poetic and non-linear as “Polaroid Stories” gives him the freedom to “play around with theatrical ideas I usually can’t” and tell “powerful tales of death, love, revenge.” The play is still in its early stages as of now, with a cast and opening day yet to be determined. Stage Manager Mary Donahue, however, already anticipates student interest. She said “I think it’s a show a lot of students will really like.”

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