There’s something in the water at PlayMakers Repertory Company. PlayMakers is transforming the Paul Green Theatre into an aquatic wonderland complete with indoor pool for productions of “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare and “Metamorphoses” by Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman, to be performed in rotating repertory Nov. 2 to Dec. 8.

PlayMakers is the professional theater in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Special events associated with the show begin Oct. 21.

The set devised for the dual productions showcases a pool filled with 15 tons of water over an open pit. Co-scenic and costume designers McKay Coble and Jan Chambers describe the design as “a marriage of engineering and art.”

Both productions will feature music composed and performed by Ari Picker and Emma Nadeau, members of Triangle musical group Lost in the Trees. Their music has been performed from Duke Performances to New York’s Lincoln Center. Their latest release, “A Church That Fits Our Needs,” was Wall Street Journal’s Best Album of 2012 and the album’s live show was named one of the top concerts of 2012 by NPR’s “All Songs Considered.”

“The Tempest” is the Bard’s last play and the theater’s first work of magical realism. In the aftermath of a shipwreck of his own conjuring, the exiled Prospero wields magical powers, illusion and manipulation to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place. His machinations bring about revelations, romance and redemption on a mysterious island.

With some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters, including mischievous sprite Ariel, the monstrous Caliban and the towering role of Prospero, the stormy epic has been the subject of many stage and several screen interpretations.

PlayMakers company member Julie Fishell will appear as Prospero, playing the role as a man in the fashion of ‘pants roles’ in opera and classic literature. Among many roles for PlayMakers, Fishell has been seen as Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Fraulein Schneider in “Cabaret” and “Hannah Pitt in “Angels in America.” She recently appeared to acclaim in “August: Osage County” for Theatre Raleigh (2012.)

PlayMakers’ production is paired with “Metamorphoses,” written by MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellow Zimmerman, based on Ovid’s classical poems of the same name.

Set in and around a pool of water, “Metamorphoses” presents the poetic myths of Midas, Orpheus and Eurydice, Eros and Psyche, and others to juxtapose the ancient and the contemporary in breathtaking storytelling and gorgeous imagery, exploring the timeless theme of love in all its forms. In “Metamorphoses,” the pool is central to the spectacle, used for swimming, bathing, frolicking and more; representing the River Styx to a raging sea.

“Metamorphorses” debuted in a critically-acclaimed, record-breaking Chicago engagement that led to a Broadway production garnering creator Zimmerman the 2002 Tony Award. The Chicago Sun-Times described it as “altogether transcendent” and “pure poetry in motion.”

In New York the praise continued, with the New York Daily News calling the show “gorgeous…a work of pure enchantment” and Broadway World saying “Metamorphoses” is “a theatrical memory for life…Do everything in your power to get a ticket!” Time Magazine said the production “shows that theater can provide not just escape but sometimes a glimpse of the divine.”

“Metamorphoses” won Drama Desk and Drama League Awards for Outstanding Play, as well as Tony nominations and the award for Zimmerman.

PlayMakers performances will be in the Paul Green Theatre in UNC’s Department for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road. Show times will be 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and on Sundays, Nov. 3, 10, 24 and Dec. 8, and 2 p.m. on Saturdays (except Nov. 2, 9 and 30) and Sundays (except Nov. 3.) There are no performances Nov. 9, 23, 28 or 30. There are opportunities to see the two plays on the same day on Nov. 10, 16 and 24 and Dec.7 and 8.

For a complete schedule, more information and to purchase tickets, call (919) 962-PLAY (7529) or visit www.playmakersrep.org. Tickets are available for every budget with three price levels at each performance starting at $15. Tickets may also be purchased as part of PlayMakers’ 2013-2014 subscription packages.

Producing Artistic Director Joseph Haj co-directs the repertory plays with Dominique Serrand, who helmed “Imaginary Invalid” for PlayMakers last season. Haj has directed epic-scale productions for PlayMakers before, such as “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby” and “The Making of a King: Henry IV & Henry V.”

In conjunction with the plays, PlayMakers will host “The Vision Series-Directors in Conversation,” a behind-the-scenes preview with the co-directors, Oct. 23 at 6:30 p.m. in the Paul Green Theatre. The event is free to the public. Participants share coffee and hors d’oeuvres provided by series sponsor Jujube Restaurant, learn about the vision for the show and get a sneak peek at the sets and costumes in progress. Reservations are appreciated. Call PlayMakers’ box office at 919.962.7529 to RSVP.

Other special events will include:

  • Oct. 21, 7 p.m.: “In the Wings,” presented by PlayMakers and the Durham County Library. Cast and creative team members (designers, actors and production personnel) discuss the plays at the Southwest Regional Library, 3605  Shannon Road, Durham;
  • Nov. 2, 3, 5, 6: preview performances at 7:30 p.m.;
  • Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m.: opening night performance of “The Tempest” with complimentary gala party afterward;
  • Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.: opening night performance of “Metamorphoses” with complimentary gala party afterward;
  • Nov. 11 (“Metamorphoses”) and 19 (“The Tempest”): all-access performances for attendees with special needs, with sign language interpretation and audio description;
  • Nov. 13 (“Metamorphoses”), Nov. 20 and 24 (“The Tempest”): free post-show discussions with the creative team;
  • Nov. 16 (“The Tempest”) and Dec. 7 (“Metamorphoses”), 2 p.m.: open captioned performances; and,
  • Dec. 7 and 8: free post-show “Mindplay” discussions sponsored by the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society.

A $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with Arts Midwest supports the production and educational programs for “The Tempest.” The award is part of the “Shakespeare for a New Generation” program supporting Shakespeare productions and related educational activities by professional theater companies. Additional funding has been provided by the North Carolina Arts Council.

Galloway Ridge at Fearrington and Southern Season are co-producing sponsors for “The Tempest.” The Catering Company is co-producing sponsor for “Metamorphoses.”

During its 2013-14 Mainstage Season, PlayMakers will also present Noel Coward’s comedy classic “Private Lives” (Jan. 22-Feb. 9), the regional premiere of “Love Alone” (Feb. 26-March 16) and Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical “Assassins” (April 2-20).

PlayMakers is based in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. The Drama League has named PlayMakers one of the best regional theatre companies in America and INDY Week calls PlayMakers the best live theater company in the Triangle. 

Coverage note: Media are welcome to cover “The Vision Series” preview with the co-directors and members of the design team at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 23. Photography, videography, lights and flashes are not restricted. For assistance, call (919) 962-5359.

PlayMakers website: www.playmakersrep.org

PlayMakers contact: For press information, interviews, photos or poster art, contact Connie Mahan, (919) 962-5359, cmahan@email.unc.edu.

College of Arts and Sciences contact: Kim Spurr, (919) 962-4093, spurrk@email.unc.edu.

UNC News Services contact: Robbi Pickeral, (919) 829-8589, robbi.pickeral@unc.edu.