An Unexpected Encounter: Metamorphoses the play

Due to the screwed up midterms and increasing unwillingness to actually do work, I decided to take this weekend off (believe me, it took endless hesitation and tons of guts) and searched online for fun stuff to do around Berkeley. I tried a bunch of things: Stammtisch from the German Department, an event that provides free beer only if you speak German; Hanging out with dogs, which worked out much better than I thought; Hanging out with a high school classmate who recently landed a job at one of the tech companies, which made me question my major decision again (I wonder, how many non-CS majors are having second thoughts now. I guess the doubts came more from the fact that apparently my classmate had everything figured out (or at least he looks like it) while I couldn’t even figure out a freaking midterm! ); Then I saw this theater play “Metamorphoses”.

Now, I know that Ovid wrote Metamorphoses, and I’m pretty sure I read parts of it in children’s book version back in third grade. It was one of those sketchy “reading corner”, which shouldn’t even be called a corner considering that it’s only one shelf. Each week half of the class bring some books to class and stacked them, then we trade books, or “borrow” it. I remembered detective stories are extremely popular, especially the “Tiger Team”. (which I recently found out was actually written by an Austrian writer. Komisch. Now I want to get German versions of them.)

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Whoever got the full collection of Tiger Team deserved respect from the entire class.  Anyways, tiger teams are limited, or sometimes reserved for friends of the owners. One time I was browsing through the “not so popular” rest of the rack and found a book about Roman mythologies. I was interested in Greek mythologies and can (even till this day) recite all the Gods living on Olympus Mountain. Thus I was like, “Roman mythologies, aren’t they just rip-offs of the Greek ones?” But I was bored and decided to give it a go.

Now that I look back, I finished the book rather quick in a single session. It did take me some time to transit from Greek god names into Roman ones, but once I got used to the naming system most of the stories were, indeed, what I already knew. I still had fun, but I kind of established this stereotype of Roman mythologies being not authentic and adopted an rather skeptical attitude towards mythologies in general. Nevertheless I still believed in Gods and would go out of my way to prove that. It took me some time to realize that some religions actually only had one God. I remembered being quite baffled:” how can one single God explain everything?”. It still seems to me that interactions between different Gods are more convincing than a monologue. After entering college I was exposed to Scandinavian mythologies and to be honest didn’t find the thrill when I first read about the Greek ones. And thus technically after Primary School I haven’t rekindled my interest in ancient mythologies.

Not until tonight.

Although, I have to be fair, the play didn’t “rekindle” anything, but it was like a sudden switch on a music box, a hurried friction on the match box; the enjoyment was temporary but it explained why I was very much interested into mythologies, or stories in general as a kid. Stories were ways for me to explore societies, when I was physically confined to the smallest unit of societies — my family. Would I call my friends, or my school a society? I would not, when I was surrounded by mostly kids who were way too young to form their own ideas, and adults who didn’t really care to establish equal terms with me. Mythologies are ambiguous attempts to merge power with humanities. Although most people would say mythologies are trying to explain natural events I actually think they are used to set social standards and rules. Greek mythologies were interesting to me because it was exotic, alien, the rules, behaviors they introduced sounded familiar but distant.

But back to the play itself. The set was practical. The actors were living the characters, and at the same time adding a modern twist into them. As Ovid mostly focused on love stories in his original work, the play also mainly included well-known love mythologies. Some words were tremendously sad but in the end I enjoyed it. I didn’t have any high expectations coming into the playhouse but it was really an unexpected, curious but rewarding experience.


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