The Bacchae comes to Sandefur Theatre

Written by: Heather Beyer

Theatergoers will be taken on a thrilling journey at UA’s theater department’s production of “The Bacchae,” set to open tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Guzzetta Hall’s Sandefur Theatre.

The show is directed by UA theater professor James Slowiak. There will be performances Nov. 1-3 and Nov. 7-10 at 7:30 p.m., and Nov. 4 at 2 p.m.

The cast features an ensemble of 22 current theater majors, minors and alumni.

Slowiak invites university students and the community to experience “The Bacchae.”

“We want people to come and enjoy themselves,” he said. Slowiak said he hopes that the audience will take away an understanding of the possibility that theater can be something really vital and alive.

“The theater is a place for the community to meet and confront ideas,” he said.

“The Bacchae” is based American playwright Charles Mee’s adaption of the Greek tragedy of Euripides. “He brings a very strong feminist view to the piece, which we have tried to keep justice to,” Slowiak said. “It’s harsh. He doesn’t sugarcoat it.”

In Slowiak’s director’s notes, he said that Mee’s version speaks forcefully and graphically to the stereotypes of gender and difference that our society struggles with daily. The play forces us to question our perceptions and beliefs, and those of our ancestors.

Slowiak said that he realized that he and his students had to do Mee’s adaption. “I think it is important for the students to confront this,” he said.

The directorial approach Slowiak chose was to allow his actors to explore their characters and have a hand in creating the final product.

“I’ve tried to allow the students to help shape the performance,” Slowiak said. “I think that they feel that it’s theirs, that they own it. It’s not somebody else’s work; it’s their work.”

According to Slowiak, the story is about Dionysus, the god of wine and madness, returning to his home homeland and seeking revenge for the death of his mother.

The current guardian of the city, Pentheus, has outlawed the worship of Dionysus.

The story is about the struggle between the two of them, Slowiak said. There is also a band of women or a Greek chorus, called the Bacchae, that follows Dionysus.

“People should not come expecting to see a Greek play in the conventional, traditional way,” Slowiak said. “It’s very contemporary, and very much for mature audiences. The language and the imagery is strong.”

Audiences should expect to experience something rare and unique at “The Bacchae.”

Slowiak assures that no one will be bored — they might even be shocked.