Playwright Mary Zimmerman loves spectacle and theatricality.
So says University of Nebraska at Omaha director Cindy Melby Phaneuf of Zimmerman, a Lincoln native known for her stage adaptations of literary works.
So it’s no surprise to Phaneuf that Zimmerman built the potential for dance into “Mirror of the Invisible World,” which begins previews Wednesday at UNO’s Weber Fine Arts Building.
“Mirror” is based on a 12th century Persian poem, “Haft Paykar” by Nizami Ganjavi. Phaneuf also directed Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses,” which takes place around a large pool of water and is based on a poem by ancient Roman poet Ovid.
This time the story is of King Bahram and his seven brides. Each is from a different country, and each tells him a story of love, loss or betrayal when he first visits them. The show is recommended for mature audiences.
“We’re celebrating the cultural beauty of each country,” Phaneuf said. Music and dance are one way the audience is transported to exotic Afghanistan or Morocco. Sharon Sobel’s colorful costumes are another, as each country is assigned a color scheme.
“Not every princess has a dance,” said choreographer Wai Yim, a former student of Phaneuf’s who now dances in Chicago. “The ones from Turkey and India do. For others, such as China, we add a little flavor of dance into their movement. That will help them find their characters and add definition to the show.”
The student actresses playing the seven princesses appear in multiple roles, Yim said. Music, costumes and movement help them develop other roles, whether they’re playing a hag, a monster or a salesman.
Yim said dance workshops he’s taken with professional companies in Chicago have given him a more diverse vocabulary of movement since he graduated from UNO in 2006.
“It will be easier for audiences to recognize the princesses if we give each of them the distinct flavor of their countries,” he said.
Phaneuf, who recently became president of the National Theatre Conference, was trapped in New York City for a few days by Hurricane Sandy. Graduate student Thais Flaitt Giannoccaro, her co-director, kept rehearsals going until Phaneuf could catch a plane home.
Contact the writer: