Uncharted Waters: Building a Pool Onstage for the Guthrie’s Production of Metamorphoses

After months of planning and weeks of production, a 6-ton pool now resides on the Wurtele Thrust Stage as the centerpiece for Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses. Here’s a quick look at how the Guthrie Theater built and maintains the body of water.

This is part of a series connecting the library with the latest stage productions at the Guthrie Theater. See more at sppl.org/guthrie.


Is this the first pool to ever grace a Guthrie stage?

While we’ve had water effects in several productions, this is the first bona fide pool.

When did production begin and how long did it take to build?

Planning began in late 2018 and physical construction began in March 2019. The pool is built into our existing trap system, so that the surface of the water can be viewed from any seat. After the initial frame was in place, we built the floor of the pool with foam and placed a made-to-order pool liner. The pool is filled with 1,500 gallons of water which stretches the pool liner into a smooth, black surface so it will look like the boardwalk is covering a still, dark body of water.

Does the water get replaced? How do you maintain it throughout the run?

Just like a swimming pool, the water is treated (with bromine) so it doesn’t need to be changed. The pool also has two pump systems with filters. The filters and heaters run 24/7 (the water is kept at 100 degrees). They are only turned off 30 minutes before the show and for the duration of the performance.

We worked with pool consultant Anjali Bidani and Ginny Mulvaney from Custom Pools and Spas in Hopkins to ensure the comfort and safety of our actors.

How does the water impact lighting, sound, and costumes?

LIGHTING: Much like standard kitchen and bathroom outlets, our pool’s pumps and filters are wired to circuit breakers. Stand lights with low-voltage bulbs are used near the pool with overhead lighting used everywhere else.

SOUND: For this production, we placed several area mics around the stage and have a few wireless mics that move between actors for effects (when they’re not in the water, of course).

COSTUMES: Items that are constantly in water – treated water in particular – are subject to damage. Costume designer Maggi Yule noted that “white costumes pieces yellow in the pool so [they] have been made of natural fibers [that] can be laundered in hot water to whiten. The colorful costume pieces, on the other hand, must be synthetic – otherwise, the colors bleed.”

Watch the pool come to life in this time-lapse video, and see Metamorphoses in person through May 19. Learn more a the guthrietheater.org.


Check out a staff-recommended list inspired by the Guthrie's production of Metamporphoses.

To Be Transformed

List created by SPPL_Recommends

Get ready to be changed alongside these many figures from Greek and Roman myth.

See why audiences and critics alike are mesmerized by Mary Zimmerman’s award-winning adaptation of Ovid’s myths. From the Berkeley Rep Production.

Study the play after you see it to find all the details you may have missed.

Check out this new verse translation to feel the poetry of the stories.

Want a more accessible entry point? This updated version of the Metamorphoses with art by illustrator Alan Lee should do.

How's your Latin? If you want to try out as close as we can get to the original text this version may be the one for you.

The Eros and Psyche section is not actually adapted from Ovid, but instead from this writing by Apuleius, sometimes called THE GOLDEN ASS.

Perhaps you recognize some of the myths told in Metamorphoses from the constellations in the night sky. Grab this book and see how many you can find!

For those who really want to dive into what Metamorphosis truly means in our literary and cultural traditions.

Want to know more about Ovid? This is a great starting point for the newcomer and the classics major.

Give your reading of Ovid's poetry a classical soundtrack.

Building a pool on stage means you need to really know the art of stagecraft. Start here.

Maybe you won't be building a pool on stage, but you might still need to plan and build a pool.

Metamorphoses is more presentational in style with its use of narrators and descriptive dialogue--And it may just turn you on to Readers' Theater.

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