Theater Department stages Greek tragedy ‘The Bacchae’

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Skye McLaren as Dionysus in PSU Theater's winter production of "The Bacchae". Dylan Gansen/PSU Vanguard

Portland State’s College of the Arts opens its winter term production of The Bacchae, a classical Greek tragedy by Athenian playwright Euripides, on Friday, March 3. In Ancient Greece theatrical productions differed somewhat from the show being put on at PSU almost 2,400 years later. All of the cast would have worn masks instead of the intricate hair and makeup provided for this show, and the female characters (who make up the majority of the cast) would have been portrayed by an all-male cast.

Those who attend PSU’s production will see a talented cast made up by a majority of female actors, wonderfully designed makeup substituting for the traditional masks, and live music composed by the Vanguard‘s very own Matthew Andrews. Stylistic differences aside, the play’s themes are the connective tissue that make it as relevant as ever in today’s political and social climate. This is precisely why director Richard Wattenberg and his team selected the tragedy.

Dylan Gansen/Portland State Vanguard

“It really does speak in a way that’s uncanny,” Wattenberg said. “It’s frighteningly uncanny how close it is to the circumstances of today.”

The theater department selected The Bacchae for its winter production back in the spring of 2016, partly in response to the increased interest in politics surrounding the election; some may relate the play’s ideas around xenophobia to recent immigration policies, which Wattenberg acknowledged.

“You see here a play that challenges the attempt to put people into boxes,” Wattenberg said. “Whether it be male or female, foreigner or native, or somebody who embodies reason or embodies passion.”

The Bacchae will run through March 11 on Lincoln Hall’s main stage. Evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m., with a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on March 5. General admission is $15, while seniors, students and faculty can get in for $8. Students may purchase advance tickets for $6.


Watch our interview with the production’s director, Richard Wattenberg. Dylan Gansen/PSU Vanguard

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