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Cue the waterworks: How Synetic Theater’s splashy ‘Tempest’ comes to life

Synetic Theater's "Tempest." Note: The actor in the photo is Alex Mills and he's actually not in the production (they took some pre-production photos) but he's portraying the character of Prospero in the photo. In the production, Prospero will be played by Philip Fletcher.(Contact: Liz O'Meara-Goldberg, Marketing Manager, 703-824-8060 Ext. 106) Synetic Theater

After a captivatingly swampy silent rendition of "King Arthur" in 2010 -- and behind-the-scenes pledges to never do it again -- Synetic Theater is again transforming its Crystal City stage into a lagoon-like tableau, with standing water onstage and an audience "splash zone." This time, it's for Shakespeare's waterborne epic, "The Tempest," which begins Thursday. "It's just so cool," says the theater's technical director, Phil Charlwood. "It adds another world. We just go, 'Okay, we'll deal with the headaches.'"

Here's what it takes to enliven this watery world each night, by the numbers:

The number of gallons of water used on the set.  Arena Stage’s production of “Metamorphoses” (through March 17) also features onstage water, but Synetic’s setup is quite different. “Our water is the stage,” says Charlwood. “It's not a pool. It's a whole world.”


The number of inches of standing water the performers wade in onstage. "The depth is very critical to how the actors move," says Charlwood. "It's amazing how much difference a half an inch makes.”



The number of pairs of Speedo Amphibious water shoes some performers are likely to go through during the run. (Water shoes are made for walking in water, but the crew learned during "King Arthur" that Synetic's performers do far more than that: They run, leap and dance.)


The number of ponchos kept on reserve for audience members with seats in the first three rows, dubbed "The Splash Zone."



The number of times it will rain each night ... on stage

Lavanya Ramanathan is a features reporter for Style.
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