"The Bacchae" opens Black History Month at theatre VCU

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"The Bacchae," a classic Greek play, will open the 1999-2000 spring season at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Theatre VCU. Euripedes’ story hits the stage Feb. 17 at the Raymond Hodges Theatre of the VCU Performing Arts Center, 922 Park Ave. Performances will be held on Feb. 17-19 and 23-26 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 20 at 2:30 p.m.

Directed by Theatre VCU associate professor Marvin Sims, the play takes a look at an ancient icon, breaking stereotypes of location, language, meaning, and imagery. The play centers on the god Dionysus, disguised as a charismatic young holy man, accompanied by his women, called Bacchantes, who serve as the chorus. They arrive in North Africa from Asia, intent on establishing his worship. Turned aside by the community, which rejects his divinity, Dionysus’ success is thwarted by the community’s king, Pentheus.

A signature component of the Richmond community’s celebration of Black History Month, this interpretation of "The Bacchae," a classic tale of tyranny, vengeance and religious zealotry, is distinct in its African and Far Eastern settings. Sims chose the settings to reflect the geographic areas under the political control of Greece at the time the play was written. He relies on the imagery of masks created by Lydia Thompson, Ph.D., artist and assistant dean of VCU’s School of the Arts, as well as the use of accents, to weave these cultures together.

"The Bacchae" will feature third-year graduate student Jerry Tan in the role of Dionysus. Tan played Harry Dalton in Theatre VCU’s performance of "Equus." Joe Green, a first-year undergraduate student, will make his debut on the main stage as Dionysus’ nemesis, Pentheus.

The VCU production also will feature the work of Adam Crump, scene design; Jessica Betts, lighting; Andrew Timko, sound; and Elizabeth Weiss Hopper, costumes.

Sims teaches acting, African-American theatre history and dramatic theory and criticism. His directing experiences include: "Fires in the Mirror," "Native Son," "The Night of the Iguana," "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" and "The Cherry Orchard." Sims is a founding member and the current vice president of Black Theatre Network, Inc., the national academic/professional organization for African-American Theatre.

Theatre VCU’s production of "The Bacchae" is sponsored by Bell Atlantic.


"The Bacchae" will be presented Feb. 17-19 and 23-26 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 20 at 2:30 p.m. in the Raymond Hodges Theatre of the VCU Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10 for general admission; $8 for seniors and VCU faculty and staff; and free for VCU students with valid ID. For tickets, call the Theatre VCU Box Office at 828-6026.