Dionysus in 69
Co-directed by Madge Darlington and Shawn Sides
a re-enactment of The Performance Group’s legendary 1968 adaptation of The Bacchae as staged by Richard Schechner and filmed by Brian De Palma
Dionysus in 69 launched Rude Mechs’ new Contemporary Classics Series
Nomination for Outstanding Revived Work, BESSIE awards 2013 (for November 2012 production at New York Live Arts)
Top 9 Theatre Productions of 2009… – Robert Faires, Austin Chronicle, January 2010
Top 9 Creative Arts, Ah, Things I Was Lucky Enough to… – Wayne Alan Brenner, Austin Chronicle, January 2010
Top 9 Most Memorable Locally Produced Live Performance… 2009 – Barry Pineo, Austin Chronicle, January 2010
“For those who have seen the documentary, so safely distanced by its archival black-and-white, seeing Dionysus in 69 is a chance to explode reverence with actual, delightful experience.” – Helen Shaw, Time Out New York Five-Star Review 2012
“This 2009 ‘Dionysus in ‘69’ is an keen, spirited, brilliantly acted paean to experimental theater past, present and future.” – Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, Austin American-Statesman
“For all its latter-day busting of theatrical convention, Dionysus in 69 always returns to good old-fashioned narrative, to that ancient story of order pitted against chaos, mind against body, man against god. The Rudes play to that, and their commitment also allows us to feel their characters’ pride and yearning and horror. Ultimately, their re-creation invites us to experience this story in a rare and personal way, stepping outside ourselves and into the skins of the bacchantes. “Come to the mountain,” the actors say as the show opens. “Let the dance begin.” – Robert Faires, The Austin Chronicle
“…the Rude Mechs’ environmental staging is absolutely revelatory…” – Thomas Jenkins, San Antonio Current
Bomb Magazine BOMB BLOG Feature Article on Rude Mechs by Eric Dyer: Issue 122 Preview: Rude Mechanicals
Austin Chronicle Feature Article by Robert Faires: ‘Bacchae’ to the Future
Austin American-Statesman Article by Jeanne Claire van Ryzin: Fleshing out innovative ’60s theater
austinist Interview by Dan Solomon: Interview: Shawn Sides on Dionysus in 69
New York Live Arts (New York, NY) – November 6 – 10, 2012
Princeton University (Princeton, NJ) – December 2011
Rude premiere: December 3 – 20, 2009 at The Off Center
Rude Mechanicals (a.k.a. Rude Mechs) is proud to rebirth The Performance Group’s groundbreaking interpretation of Euripides’s The Bacchae, Dionysus in 69. By producing the first ever re-enactment of this legendary work, we offered Austin theatre-goers an extraordinary opportunity to relive history. We faithfully recreated the original production, using Brian De Palma’s filmed version of the play as well as the 1970 book, Dionysus in 69, as source materials. Rude Mechs celebrated 40 years of experimental (and “environmental”) theatre by experiencing and learning about Dionysus in 69 in the deepest way – through its performance.
Directed by Richard Schechner and created collectively by The Performance Group (TPG), Dionysus in 69 is widely regarded as one of the germinal works of American experimental performance. Influenced by the work of Jerzy Grotowski, Happenings, the Freedom Movement, and a “birth ritual” from West Irian (part of the island of New Guinea), Schechner and TPG radically interpreted The Bacchae as both a celebration of ecstasy and a critique of false prophets.
With Dionysus in 69, TPG developed “environmental theatre,” a term Schechner coined to describe a method of staging where the entire space is used by both performers and spectators, focus is flexible and variable, and the literary text is not the primary element driving the production. In Dionysus in 69, Schechner explored audience participation with such innovations as moving the performance from the theatre to the street, and constructing a space with no fixed seating. Over the course of the original production’s fourteen month run, actors switched roles, the text morphed, clothes were shed, and many spectators joined the dance or intervened, in some cases, changing the outcome of the production. During one performance, a group of students got the idea to “liberate” Pentheus by bodily carrying him from the theatre. In order to complete the night’s performance, Schechner managed to coax a spectator to play the role during the final scenes (Schechner stood behind the young man, coaching him). On many occasions, audiences responded to the outrageous adaptation with riots, sit-ins, and group actions.
“Dionysus in 69 is strong stuff, but anyone who wants to know where the modern theatre is going will have to see it.” – The New York Times, June 7, 1968
DIONYSUS, THE GOD (aka Bacchus, aka Bromius), son of Zeus and of the Theban princess Semele.
CADMUS, formerly King of Thebes, father of Semele and Agave.
PENTHEUS, King of Thebes, grandson of Cadmus.
AGAVE, daughter of Cadmus, mother of Pentheus, sister of Semele.
TIRESIAS, an aged Theban prophet, advisor to Cadmus.
The god Dionysus is angry. Despite being the lovechild of Zeus, the king of Gods, his mortal family refuses to recognize him as a deity. Becoming a powerful god, he travels foreign lands, spreading his seductive powers, gathering a cult of female worshipers known as the Maenads, Bacchae, or Bacchantes, and finally returns to Thebes to seek revenge. Dionysus begins the play with his origin. He tells how Zeus had become enamored with his mother Semele, daughter of Cadmus, how she became pregnant by him, and how her family refuted her dalliance with Zeus. Meanwhile, the goddess Hera, angry at her husband’s philandering, tricks Semele into asking Zeus to appear to her in his true form, a lightning bolt, which kills her instantly. Dionysus is spared, and hidden from Hera by Zeus. Dionysus’ cousin Pentheus, grandson of Cadmus, is now the king of Thebes, and keeping true to his family’s denial of Dionysus as a god, has declared a ban on his worship. Dionysus commences his plot to avenge his mother by driving the women of Thebes (including his aunts, Ino, Autonoe and Penthus’ mother, Agave) into an ecstatic frenzy and setting them loose on the woods of Cithaeron. Cadmus and his advisor Tiresias have become enchanted themselves and are about to succumb to the seduction, but when Pentheus finds them decked out in the Bacchanalian festive garb of fawn skins and thyrsus (long sticks wrapped in leaves and tipped by a pinecone), he scolds them harshly and sends his guards to arrest the man responsible for the women’s ecstasy. The guards return with the accused, Dionysus himself, disguised as a priest. Pentheus wants war — to punish the raving Maenads, their god and their ways — but while questioning the disguised Dionysus, Pentheus lets slip his own interest in the Dionysian rites. Dionysus preys on the young king’s desire to watch the Maenads. He convinces Pentheus to dress as one and attend the rites in person. The plot is nearly complete. A messenger arrives to tell how Dionysus helped Pentheus into a tall tree for a better view of the Bacchantes. Then Dionysus summoned his followers. Believing the intruder to be a lion, the women, including Pentheus’ mother Agave, went wild, wrenched him from his perch and ripped his body to pieces. Soon Agave returns to the palace proudly carrying the head of her son as a hunting trophy to present to her father. In horror, Cadmus gradually awakens Agave to what she has done as Dionysus’ possession begins to wear off. Everyone grieves for the loss of the young king. Agave and her sisters are exiled. The family is destroyed.
Heather Barfield as Margaret Ryan as Agave/Chorus
Elizabeth Doss as Remi Barclay as Agave/Chorus
Thomas Graves as William Finley as Dionysus
Jude Hickey as Patrick McDermott as Chorypheus
Matt Hislope as Richard Dia as Cadmus
Jodi Jinx as Joan MacIntosh as Agave/Chorus
Hannah Kenah as Ciel Smith as Tiresias
Josh Meyer as Bill Shephard as Pentheus
Aron Taylor as Sam Blazer as Chorus/Messenger
Katie Van Winkle as Margaret Ryan and Roxanne Levine aka Raeanne Rubenstein as Agave/Chorus
Coinciding with this production, The Humanities Institute at The University of Texas hosted Schechner as this year’s Cline Visiting Professor. He offered public lectures about Dionysus in 69 and other ground-breaking works he’s directed, met UT theatre classes, and lead Rude Mechs in several workshops and rehearsals in preparation for our run of the play.
RICHARD SCHECHNER EVENTS
Austin Film Society & Rude Mechs presented performance director Richard Schechner discussing DIONYSUS IN ’69 after screening at Alamo Ritz on Dec. 6.
November 17, 12:30 PM – Public Colloquium, Americo Paredes for Cultural Studies “9/11 as Avant-garde Art?” (The University of Texas, EPS 1.128)
November 17, 4:45 PM – Public Conversation, UT Department of Theatre and Dance “Children of Dionysus: New Collaborative Performance” (B. Iden Payne Lobby, Winship Drama Building)
Friday, December 4, 7:00 PM – Opening Night/Pre-show talk with Richard Schechner at The Off Center
Saturday, December 5 – Post-show talkback with Richard Schechner and cast at The Off Center
Sunday, December 6, 1:00 PM – Austin Film Society screening of Brian De Palma’s film of Dionysus in 69, with Richard Schechner
Austin Studios Screening Room, 1901 East 51st Street, Tickets $6/$4 AFS Members
Sunday, December 6 – Post-show talkback with Schechner and cast at The Off Center
Yoko Ono’s “Cut Piece”, Tokyo, Japan
Landmark performance piece in which Ono walks onto stage draped in fabric and invites audience to cut the fabric away until she is naked.
1964 – 1967
Carolee Schneemann deveolps and presents “Fuses”, a silent film of collaged and painted sequences of her and a partner’s lovemaking.
Summer: Hippie mecca Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, California becomes ground zero for American cultural and social revolution dubbed Summer of Love. September / October: Allan Krapow, coiner of the term “Happening” and partipant in the intermedia network Fluxus, produces FLUIDS, an outdoor installation of melting ice in Los Angeles, California.
November 15: The Performance Group begins work together in New York City.
January: The Performance Group begins work on Dionysus in 69.
January 5: Prague Spring: Alexander Dub?ek is elected leader of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia.
January 22: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In debuts on NBC.
January 30: The Tet Offensive begins, as Viet Cong forces launch a series of surprise attacks across South Vietnam.
March 1: The Performance Group acquires The Performing Garage.
March 16: My Lai Massacre
March 19–23: Students at Howard University in Washington, D.C. signal a new era of militant student activism on college campuses in the U.S., staging rallies, protests and a 5-day sit-in, laying siege to the administration building, effectively shutting down the university in protest of its ROTC program and the Vietnam War, and demanding a more Afrocentric curriculum.
April 2: The film version of 2001: A Space Odyssey premieres in Washington, D.C.
April 4: Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot dead at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots erupt in major American cities for several days afterward.
April 6: A shootout between Black Panthers and Oakland police results in several arrests and deaths, including 16-year-old Panther Bobby Hutton.
April 11: U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
May: May of ‘68 is a symbol of the resistance of that generation. Agitations and strikes in Paris lead many youth to believe that a revolution is starting. Student and worker strikes, sometimes referred to as the French May, nearly bring down the French government.
June 3: Valerie Solanas shoots Andy Warhol as he enters his studio, wounding him.
June 5: U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, California by Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy dies from his injuries the next day.
June 6: Dionysus in 69 opens.
June 8: James Earl Ray is arrested for the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. August 20: The Prague Spring of political liberalization ends, as 200,000 Warsaw Pact troops and 5,000 tanks invade Czechoslovakia.
August 22–30: Police clash with anti-war protesters in Chicago, Illinois, outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention, which nominates Hubert Humphrey for U.S. President, and Edmund Muskie for Vice President.
September 7: 150 women (members of New York Radical Women) arrive in Atlantic City, New Jersey to protest against the Miss America Pageant, as exploitative of women.
October 2: Tlatelolco massacre: A student demonstration ends in a bloodbath at La Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco, Mexico City, Mexico, 10 days before the inauguration of the 1968 Summer Olympics.
October 5: Police baton civil rights demonstrators in Derry, Northern Ireland, marking the beginning of The Troubles.
October 11: NASA launches Apollo 7, the first manned Apollo mission (Wally Schirra, Donn Eisele, Walter Cunningham). Mission goals include the first live television broadcast from orbit and testing the lunar module docking maneuver.
October 16: Tommie Smith and John Carlos, 2 black Americans competing in the Olympic 200-meter run, raise their arms in a black power salute after winning, respectively, the gold and bronze medals for 1st and 3rd place.
November 5: Republican challenger Richard M. Nixon defeats the Democratic candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and American Independent Party candidate George C. Wallace to become the 37th President of the United States.
November 14: Yale University announces it will allow women to register for coursework for the first time in its 267 year history.
November 22: The Beatles release their self-titled album popularly known as the White Album.
December 3: The ‘68 Comeback Special marks the concert return of Elvis Presley.
December 22: Mao Zedong advocates that educated youth in urban China be re-educated in the country. It marks the start of the “Up to the mountains and down to the villages” movement.
December 24: Apollo 8 enters orbit around the Moon. Astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William A. Anders become the first humans to see the far side of the Moon and planet Earth as a whole. The crew also reads from Genesis.
January: The Performance Group arrested in Michigan for indecent exposure while touring Dionysus in 69.
June 28: Stonewall Riots, Greenwich Village, NYC.
August 15-18: Woodstock, Upstate NY.
December 6: Altamont, Northern CA.
March 22: Eisenstadt v. Baird decided, establishing the right of unmarried women to possess oral contraceptives.
BIG THANKS TO:
The Rude Mechs’ Co-producing Artistic Directors would like to thank this cast for their untiring help building the set and enthusiasm building the show.
Our undying gratitude and biggest Rude love to:
Richard Schechner, Jerry Rojo, and Pauline Strong and the Humanities Institute without whom this project would not have been possible.
COMPANY & BOARD SUPPORT:
Our company members always make sacrifices of their time, money and stuff. For this production, a special thanks to company members: Lowell Bartholomee, Jose Hernandez, Ellie McBride, Jazz McBride, Amy Miley, Robert Pierson, Stephen Pruitt, Graham Reynolds, Leilah Stewart, Meg Sullivan, and Rude Board Members Stephanie Hunter, Patty Olwell, and Buck Van Winkle.
Jess Wade & Jamie Johnson: Artists Supporting Artists
Ian Reddy/Wingate at Wyndham
Beth at Misc Rentals
ROCKIN’ VOLUNTEERS THANK YOU!
Savanna Adams, Patrick Anthony, Kerri Atwood, Wendy Bable, Ricky Cambier, Henna Chou, Jason Cole, Shauna Danos, Bridget Dilger, Eric Dyer, Michelle Fisher, Luke Gilliam, Brandon Gonzalez, Katie Hopkins, Edmund Martinez, Travis Mills, Dona Reynolds, George Reynolds, Leslie Smith, and Doug Williams
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About Contemporary Classics
Dionysus in 69 is the first in a series of Rude Mechs re-enactments of significant, experimental performances from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s that radically influenced the work of contemporary performance artists, dancers, and theatre makers. Because all performances are ephemeral, and avant-garde performances even more so, most people never experience these germinal works. As we succeed in garnering financial support for the Contemporary Classics Series, Rude Mechs will remount these productions as closely as possible to the originals.