Greek Tragedy ‘The Bacchae’ Gets a Rock ‘n’ Roll Update at UC Davis

A contemporary adaptation of an ancient Greek tragedy.

Experience a modern twist on an ancient Greek classic with Euripides’ “The Bacchae,” directed by UC Davis Granada Artist-in-Residence Barry McGovern. This updated version features original rock music, humor, dominatrixes and cheerleaders, and is rated PG-13 for language and violent images. “The Bacchae” opens on Thursday, Nov. 29 and runs Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 and Dec. 6-8 at 8:00 p.m. as well as Sunday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m.

Barry McGovern’s version of Euripides’ work presents an American edition of this classic play. He gathered inspiration for Dionysus, the god of wine, from the larger-than-life rock stars of the 1970’s and 80’s. Dionysus captivates the audience with his electric guitar and sexual aura reminiscent of Mick Jagger while surrounded by The Bacchae, or sex-crazed American cheerleaders; dedicated fans evocative of Rolling Stones groupies who throw their undergarments at the stage.

The drama of this ancient Greek tragedy is countered by humor, even slapstick at times, presenting intricate juxtapositions between light and heavy, comedy and anguish. The production includes elaborate costumes fit for a rock ‘n’ roll king, outfits worthy of Elton John and David Bowie, as well as an original musical score composed by McGovern and fourth-year dramatic art major Dan Cato Wilson. Their combined style, says Wilson, is “somewhere between early American rock ‘n’ roll and tunes from across the pond in the style of The Who’s Pete Townsend.” Architectural scenic design adds depth and intensity to the production as well.

“The Bacchae,” written in 405 B.C., has survived the test of time and will outlive us all. This contemporary performance connects through the ages through remarkable design, laughter, tears and rock ‘n’ roll.

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