The Classical Theatre of Harlem (Ty Jones, producing artistic director) presents “The Bacchae” inspired by Bryan Doerries’ new version of Euripides’ classic Greek tragedy. This marks the kickoff production of the 20th anniversary season for Classical Theater of Harlem, which was established in 1999. Future productions and news for the 2019-2020 season will be announced soon.
Back for its seventh season of free theater performances and affectionately known as the “Uptown Shakespeare in the Park,” the Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) is thrilled to return to Marcus Garvey Park this summer presenting a work that continues the company’s investigation of the current political and social climate via the Greek classics.
Set in the modern era, Dionysus (God of wine and ecstasy) returns to his hometown in order to clear his mother’s name and punish the insolent city for not allowing its citizens to worship him. The clash between Dionysus, played as a modern-day rock star and his cousin Pentheus, the uncompromising and moralistic king of the city, examines the consequences of a general public that blindly follows two vastly different leaders. Dionysus represents unbridled freedom and excess while on the other end of the spectrum, Pentheus epitomizes excessive law, order and rigidity. As society slides into fear and tribalism, its citizen’s rationale becomes clouded as they blindly take orders and pick sides rather than seek moderation and rationality.
CTH’s interpretation is a lush and modern version of the classic Greek tragedy that tackles the ills of a culture obsessed with celebrity worship, social media and fear of the other, causing people to lose the ability to see the truth — that people in power are fallible…until it’s far too late.
An updated version that is suitable for older children (10 and up), CTH’s adaptation of “The Bacchae” accomplishes a fidelity to the original while giving the company the flexibility to showcase the ways in which ancient ideas have taken center stage in the current political and social climate. Calling on the cultural landscape of African American traditions, while adhering to the Greek tragic form, this fresh reimagining of the classic story will captivate, stun and inspire audiences from all backgrounds.
The company of “The Bacchae” includes Jason C. Brown (as Dionysus; The Misanthrope, Duchess of Malfi), RJ Foster (as Pentheus; Nell Gwynn at Folger Theatre, A Small Oak Tree Runs Red), Brian D. Coats (as Tiresias; The Brothers Paranormal, Fences at Florida Repertory Theatre), Gabrielle Djenné (as Chorus Member), Brian Demar Jones (as Messenger), Charles Bernard Murray (as Cadmus; Honky Tonk Nights, Dreamgirls), Andrea Patterson (as Aguae), Rebecca Ana Peña (as Chorus); Lori Vega (as Chorus Leader). The ensemble includes Andrew Farella, Malik Reed, and Alicyn Yaffee with choreography by Tiffany Rea-Fisher (Artistic Director of Elisa Monte Dance) and is performed by dancers from Elisa Monte Dance.
“‘The Bacchae’ is the perfect play to reflect our current political and social atmosphere. Styled like a Quentin Tarantino film with comedic, absurd, tragic, and musical components, this work brings to the forefront ancient ideas that are still relevant to contemporary society” said Carl Cofield, Director of “The Bacchae.”
“What I applaud about Greek plays is that they are unafraid to question everything we value – including life. This new version of ‘The Bacchae’ by Bryan Doerries gives us insight into the tension between living our lives by extreme authoritarian order or indulging in extreme pleasure. We are living in an era where broad, unique distinctions are being made about identity in direct contrast to authoritarian efforts to minimize individualism. This story tells us that the result of either of these extremes leads to consequences from which there is no return.” – Ty Jones, Producing Artistic Director of The Classical Theatre of Harlem.