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'Metamorphoses' Shines Spotlight on African-American Actress

Eve M.Ferguson | 3/15/2013, 1:25 p.m.

In perhaps the most poetic use of the water, her father played by Chris Kipiniak, swings her rhythmically, gracefully and perilously close to the water's surface, intimating the act while holding her firmly at his waist.

"That is actually all on Chris, where I drop down, and I trust him 100 percent," Lathrop said. We did practice a lot (on mats at first), so the first time we did it, it was scary. But then after that, I just had to trust that he will not drop me, and he knows how tall I am and knows the level his arm has to be at in order for that to work. But as far as the drowning, that's all in my control. I am doing all the flailing."

Lathrop's theatrical training shows in the fluidity of her movements, evident in both roles as Hunger and Myrrha. But her execution of the characters reflects not only athletic ability, but a sense of maturity far beyond her years.

"I haven't danced since middle school, but I had an incredible professor in movement at the University of Illinois," she added.

"My roles called for someone who looked youthful, someone who could play young. I think that is what Mary was really looking for, and also the emotional depth it takes to play Myrrha," Lathrop said. "It helps that I am lighter than some other people, but I don't think that was the main factor in me getting cast."

While the young actress has an affinity for the works of William Shakespeare, she has been cast in many diverse roles. They include "FML: How Carson McCullers Saved My Life" at the Steppenwolf Theatre and "I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady from Rwanda" at her alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

"I think that theater is storytelling, so it's just a different way of telling a story. But no matter what, whenever you play a character you're always going to feel it to the core and use your body," Lathrop said. "These are just characters who use their body differently than I would use with other characters."

"Metamorpheses" plays at the Arena Stage for American Theater's Fichlander Stage through March 17. Tickets are available by calling (202) 488-3300 or visiting areanstage.org.