Mary Zimmerman

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When Mary Zimmerman adapts a play from an ancient text her directing process and the way she engages with text are woven together, both dependent on the other. She writes these adaptations from nondramatic text, writing each evening while working through the pre-production rehearsals and improvisations during the day with the cast. The rehearsal process influences the text, and the text enriches the rehearsal process, so that one cannot exist without the other. Every rehearsal is structured the same but each production is unique because as Zimmerman states in “The Archaeology of Performance”, she is always “open to the possibilities”. The piece is open to everything happening in the world and to the people involved, so the possibilities are honest and endless.

Zimmerman refers to it as ‘devising a performance’ not directing, and “the piece is made and shaped by the digging itself: it is both unpredictable and utterly preordained.” It is also fast, she always has an opening date prior to starting the four week rehearsal process before any words are typed. The speed – consider four weeks of rehearsal when you do not have a text – and the ‘digging’ method create a personal workspace for both the actors and Zimmerman. Her ‘non-hierarchical’ directorial style, as noted by Andrea Nouryeh in "Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses: Storytelling Theater as Feminist Process.", generates an ensemble work process that embraces personal investment. It is this personal investment that frees the ensemble’s “unconscious and conscious” impulses that lay unpredictable and preordained moments on the stage.

It is also important to note that Zimmerman has never done a workshop or written a draft for any of her plays. Doing this wou...

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...January 2011], available at

"NOW with Bill Moyers – Transcript - Bill Moyers Interviews Mary Zimmerman – PBS”, op. cit.

Carl Gustav Jung, The archetypes and the collective unconscious, Translated by R.F.C. Hull. 9th ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981)

"NOW with Bill Moyers – Transcript - Bill Moyers Interviews Mary Zimmerman – PBS”, op. cit.

Bruno Bettelheim, op. cit. 29

Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, op. cit. 128-9

Baucis and Philemon ask that they die together. Zimmerman’s image was of their arms wound in each other’s as they pushed out of the water to become two trees.

Ceyx, after drowning at sea, comes back to Alcyone, and they transform into great sea birds and fly out over the sea.

Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers, op. cit. 107

Mary Zimmerman, op. cit. 35
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