At Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, an actor would come out and say, “It’s night time. We are in the city of Vienna.” while standing on an empty stage. The set was left to the imagination of the audience. Much has changed since the 17th century; theatrical sets are now a vital part of a performance. Sets can be the inside of a machine, a courthouse in Salem, even a pool.

The University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music is staging American playwright Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphoses.” The King’s Men would have a hard time explaining the scene to the audience. The performance features a pool filled with 3,000 gallons of water at center stage. 

Dana Hall, a set design graduate student at CCM and set designer for the play, is vital in bringing “Metamorphoses” to the stage. 

“It all comes from sitting down with the director at the original meeting, and figuring out what she wants the show to be. From there, I will draw sketches, come up with fact work, come up with texture ideas, kind of come up with an overall theme for the show,” Hall said. 

Hall then starts making 3-D models of the stage she envisions and begins to work with a team of designers to make her idea possible.

“Once I had a design in mind, and I knew what I wanted it to look like, the biggest challenge was working with the tech team to make it work,” Hall said. “We had a lot of problems that needed to be solved early on as far as ‘How are we going to get 3,000 gallons on stage and make it stay there?’ ‘What are we going to do when the water comes out of the pool?’”

These questions are what Hall brings to Christian Mikkelsen, fourth-year technical direction student and technical director of “Metamorphoses.” 

“I take [Hall’s] design, I take the thing she has imagined, and try and come up with a way that I can stick as closely as possible to that concept and make it a reality and make it something I can put on stage and safely put actors on and have audiences come and oogle at,” Mikkelsen said.

Mikkelsen gives form to Hall’s imagination and tells her how much her dream will cost. He has to put the set for “Metamorphoses” on stage without destroying the theater and without monopolizing the limited amount of manpower in CCM all while dealing with 3,000 or so gallons of water. 

“That’s several elephant’s worth of water. You have to figure a car is less than a ton and were talking about several of those,” Mikkelsen said. “All this water needs to be heated, treated, contained and obviously drained at the end, all while keeping it off of the stage [floor] because directly below us there’s half a million dollars worth of pianos,” Mikkelson said. 

The process for bringing this performance to fruition took a lot of brainpower and talented people, but on Feb. 5 CCM will put on a spectacle that many theatergoers have never seen before.

“I think it’s going to be visually stunning,” Hall said.