Granada Artist Directs Greek Classic With Rock ‘N’ Roll Flair At UC Davis
UC Davis Granada Artist-in-Residence Barry McGovern, known for his screen and stage roles in “Far and Away,” “Joe Versus the Volcano” and “Waiting for Godot,” directs Euripides’ classic “The Bacchae” with original rock music, humor, dominatrixes and cheerleaders. A wickedly sexy Dionysus locks horns with King Pentheus in a violent power struggle between freedom and control. “The Bacchae” opens on Thursday, Nov. 29 and runs through Saturday, Dec. 8 at Main Theatre, Wright Hall.
Barry McGovern’s vision of Euripides’ ancient Greek work, aided by Irish poet Derek Mahon’s translation, brings “The Bacchae” home to American audiences. His inspiration for Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry seeking vengeance on King Pentheus and the town of Thebes for denying his deity, was the larger-than-life rock stars of the 1970s and ‘80s. Dionysus commands every inch of the stage with his electric guitar and fierce sexuality à la Mick Jagger. His groupies, the Bacchae, are sex-crazed American cheerleaders, as smitten as Rolling Stones fans who throw their under garments on stage during concerts.
“I wanted to make this Greek tragedy accessible and enjoyable for today’s audiences,” says McGovern. “The Bacchae’s” themes are universal and evergreen: power and money corrupt—obey the gods, or else!” In other words, excessive control, personified by King Pentheus and his household, leads to perversion. Thus McGovern has chosen to outfit Agave (Pentheus’ mother) and her followers as dominatrixes. Their defiance of the gods, of moderation, brings great tragedy.
The drama is often relieved by humor. McGovern’s direction even employs some slapstick. There are intricate juxtapositions between light and heavy, comedy and anguish. Master of Fine Arts candidate Bobby August, Jr., finds this challenging in his role as Dionysus, “He is so fun-loving and flamboyant one minute and then so harsh and unforgiving in the next.”
Master of Fine Arts candidate Maria Candelaria finds her character Agave challenging as well, “She enters very late in the play. In baseball parlance: she’s the closer. Moreover, she moves from exaltation, to shock, to grief and finally resignation, all in one continuous scene!”
Candelaria is grateful for the rare opportunity to work under McGovern’s direction, “I have learned some acting fundamentals like playing a moment simply with no added flourishes; and trusting the text to move the actor and audience alike as the story unfolds.”
More dimensions are added to the production with McGovern’s use of original live music that he and Dan Cato Wilson have composed. “Our combined musical style is somewhere between classic early American rock ‘n’ roll and tunes from across the pond in the style of The Who’s Pete Townsend,” says Cato Wilson, a fourth-year dramatic art major. “Barry’s music is fun and upbeat while my music injects sonic energy, texture and variety.”
Master of Fine Arts candidate Travis Kerr’s architectural scenic design adds depth and dimension to the production as well. His intricate scenic design jarringly recalls 9/11 Manhattan at certain points in the drama as when Dionysus makes an earthquake shatter the palace of Pentheus.
“The Bacchae’s” rock ‘n’ roll spectacle is furthered by Master of Fine Arts candidate Loree Silveira’s wild costumes. She provides Dionysus with six glam rock outfits worthy of Elton John and David Bowie.
Euripides’ “The Bacchae,” has endured since 405 B.C. and will outlive us all. This uniquely modern production offers a rare chance to connect with the ages through glittering and monumental design, laughter, tears and rock ‘n’ roll.
This production is rated PG-13 for language and violent images.
Main Theatre, Wright Hall, UC Davis.
Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 and Dec. 6-8, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 2, 2 p.m.
General $17/19; Students, Children & Seniors $12/14.
530.754.2787 or 866.754.2787; http://tickets.mondaviarts.org.
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