‘Bacchae’ is a new take on Greek tale - Los Angeles Loyolan : Arts & Entertainment

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‘Bacchae’ is a new take on Greek tale

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Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012 1:00 am

"This is not your grandfather's Greek tragedy," Professor Kevin Wetmore said of the theatre arts program's production of "The Bacchae of Euripides." The version used for this stage adaptation was written for a London version in 1973, by none other than LMU's President's Marymount Institute Professor in Residence Wole Soyinka. Wetmore, who is directing this run, said, "It only makes sense to perform one of his plays here."

Euripides' ancient play itself is based on the mythological story of Pentheus, king of Thebes, and his mother Agave, who are punished by the god Dionysus because they refuse to worship him. As a Greek tragedy, the story employs a full chorus on stage, several characters of both godly and royal descent, as well as the classic bloody ending - hence the tragedy.

Despite the story being ancient, Wetmore said, "The themes of the play strongly resonate both with LMU's mission and with the challenges facing our society today. ... It is a play about the conflict between the forces of oppression, whether social, political or cultural and the forces of creation, celebration and communion."

Rechard Francois, a sophomore political science and theatre arts double major, who plays Dionysus, agrees. "The language is gorgeous and tells quite the interesting story from both a historical perspective and one of today," he said.

Junior theatre arts major Nelia Miller, who plays the leader of the slave chorus, also commented on the language of the play. "The best part of working on this play was [the] opportunity to experience the creative process from all angles. The script itself is a work of art, so script analysis was really engaging," she said.

Much like the ancient Greek tragedies performed in their original incarnations, this production will involve not just speaking in a classical style, but dancing and drumming as well.

"For me, I'd say one of the most difficult parts of putting on this show so far was the language," said sophomore theatre arts major Julian Garcia. "The language and the writing is very intelligent and contains deep subtext to it. Which is great, [but] it's hard speaking in a way that we don't speak today. And not only that, but understanding each and every part of it, really going into the depths of the dialogue, the play on words, the alliteration, the meaning, the articulation," Garcia said. He is playing Pentheus in the production.

Another cast member, freshman theatre arts major Keeley Miller, who plays Agave, acknowledges the difficulty in bringing an ancient Greek play to the stage. "Also, the African influence [from Soyinka's Nigerian heritage] on this Greek classic has been a challenge too, but I think through rehearsals it's become one of my favorite parts, because we've incorporated African dancing and drumming. We have an incredible choreographer who has really taught us to be free on stage with the dancing," said Miller.

"'The Bacchae [of Euripides'] features all original music and choreography that blends elements of African, Asian and Western cultures. It's also challenging sometimes to find the relevance in a 2,500-year-old play, especially for audiences perhaps more used to the speed and pacing of films," Wetmore said.

He mentioned the extra pressure of having to impress the author of the play knowing he will soon see the production. "We hope we have done Professor Soyinka proud with this play," Wetmore added.

"The Bacchae of Euripides" will be performed in Strub Theatre on Feb. 9-12 and Feb. 15-18. The show on Sunday, Feb. 12 will begin at 4 p.m. with all other shows starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 available through the Central Ticket Agency located in Burns Rec Center or by phone at (310) 338-7588.

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