By Madison Lane
Let the bacchanal begin. As audience members filed into Harvey Powers Theater last weekend, they were greeted by the sounds of foreign drums and the sight of a majestic set curtained by long, flowing fabrics. “The Bacchae” was exciting to witness before it even started.
“The Bacchae” is the story of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and ecstasy, as he returns to his home in Thebes. Dionysus, played by Sam Nelsen ’11, narrated much of the story, telling the audience of his birth and his banishment, followed by everything that happens in the city of Thebes upon his return. The story was originally written by Euripides, but the ensemble of this production used a theatrical production technique called “devising” to stage the entire show and even rewrite some of it to make it more relevant to modern audiences.
“As devisors, our ensemble was committed to ‘writing from the stage,’ that is to say we honored all parts of the collaboration as both artistic and interpretational,” director Anjalee Hutchinson said in her note to the audience. “[The show was] an idea conceived by not one but many–an idea better than anyone could have come up with alone.”
For example, a popular line from the very first monologue, delivered by Dionysus, was “All I have to say to that is ‘Haters gonna hate.’” Obviously, Euripides did not write that line, but its inclusion aided in drawing the audience’s attention and guiding their understanding of the plot, as well as adding humor to an otherwise extensive speech.
Another aspect of traditional ancient Greek theatre that this ensemble chose to reinterpret was the idea of a Greek chorus. In ancient theatre, the chorus was composed of about 12 members, whose purpose was to serve as the voice of the common people, interjecting between scenes of the show. In “The Bacchae,” the “Greek chorus” was literally the voice of the college population, the common people seeing the show. They sang songs (such as a parody of “Grenade” about being respectful audience members) that tied the themes of the show into the lives of everyday students.
“I felt like it was so well done, it was utterly seamless in its presentation of the story, and the fact that it was student-led and student-created was mind-blowing,” Andrew Vogl ’11 said.
At every moment, there was something unexpected going on onstage, from oranges stampeding out from under the projection screen to water being flung into the air as an act of freedom and rebellion.
“It enlightened me to how artistic the department is and peaked my interest in attending more shows,” Olivia Cohen ’14 said.
For nearly two months, the cast and crew of “The Bacchae” put hours upon hours of work and all of their energy into making the show a lively, humorous, engaging work of art, and they went above and beyond this task.
“[Working on this show was] one of the most challenging but absolutely rewarding experiences [I’ve had in Bucknell theater],” stage manager Emma Case ’13 said.
The department is constantly trying to address the campus climate and improve it. This was a show about tolerance and taking the time to understand “them”–the other side, someone who is outside your circle of acquaintances. If the University community should take one message away from this show, it is to strive to find balance in your life and the world around you.