“He’s the God of wine and grapes and ecstasy and partying,” said Chris Daniels, 21, drama major of Dionysus, the character he portrays in the Mt. SAC theatre department’s upcoming play, “The Bacchae.”
“The Bacchae,” is a classic written by the Ancient Greek Euripides and directed by Mt. SAC part-time professor Kenshaka Ali. According to the Mt. SAC website the story’s plot is, “When the citizens of Thebes deny the divinity of Dionysus, he punishes them by inciting the women into a frenzy – driving them from their homes into the mountains where they enact wild and deadly rituals.
King Pentheus wrestles the god for control of his city, but will his denial and lack of understanding lead to his ruination? An undeniable masterpiece, “Euripides the Bacchae,” is a primal and powerful play that has remained relevant for 2500 years.”
The play’s leading man offered a simpler version of the story, “It’s about a half god half human Dionysus who’s coming to pretty much claim respect,” said Daniels. A central theme of the play’s story is revenge, “The play is basically about the Greek God of wine taking vengeance on a king,” said James Ron Martinez, 19, English and theatre arts major who portrays the character of Cadmus.
Despite this central theme the play might mean different things to different people. “Volumes of scholarship have been written about what the major themes are about this story,” said adjunct professor, Kenshaka Ali, the play’s director. Ali did say the play teaches a social lesson. “The message is dance or die,” said Ali.
Professor Ali got his start in theatre in a rather strange way. Growing up in New York City, Ali got caught on the roof of a theater peeping into the women’s bathroom at a young age. In order to pay off a skylight he had broken he was made to work in the theatre. “I was mad, sweeping around the theater, and I peeked into a room where they were rehearsing and I just stopped and I was transfixed,” said Ali.
Many of the play’s actors had high praise for Ali’s skills as a director. “We can’t get a better director, that’s one thing I know for sure,” said G.G. Crawley, a continuing education student, who plays the role of Agave. One unique feature of the play is that some of the actors are relatively new to the stage.
“I’ve done another play but only one,” said Daniels. Despite the excitement of the approaching debut, many of the play’s cast and crew are sad the project is coming to an end. “I just wish it could go on a little longer,” said Ali. The director and actors have promised a great opening night, and a spectacle for the audience.
“I’d tell them to expect some really crazy dancing and really awesome acting,” said Martinez. Other actors stressed the play’s excitement. “Don’t blink,” said Daniels. The play opens Fri., Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. in the Sophia B. Clarke Theatre.
- Mathew Foresta