ON MYTH and THE BACCHAE OF EURIPIDES
Myths’ power is that it’s true and not true at the same time. The story happened somewhere. Perhaps in another dimension. Perhaps on another timeline. Or maybe it’s still happening. Indigenous cultures don’t have any problem understanding multiple realities particularly as they acknowledge the dimensions of dream time. There is a potent hairline fracture in our psyche where myth lives, where it’s both true and not true, where all possibilities can realize. The energy of myth drives society unconsciously. Many myths embedded in North American society right now are collapsing - the myth of democracy, the myth of racial equity, the myth of financial freedom, the myth of integrity in education, the myth of sexual autonomy. All the ugly underbellies are being exposed. Our world has turned inside out and upside down in the labor pains of a new reality, we will not ever go back to what was before 2020, that door has closed. Where and how will the new myths be generated?
I am the gentle, jealous joy. Vengeful and kind. An essence that will not exclude, nor be excluded.
If you are Man or Woman, I am Dionysus. Accept.
Director’s Program Notes
November 19, 2019
Dionysus and his magnificent initiates, the Bacchantes have come back for me. I met them twenty years ago when I directed this same adaptation by distinguished Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka. I embraced his vision as it foregrounds the social and political transformations inherent to the ancient drama, and now two decades later, Soyinka’s script rings even more true as we face unprecedented environmental, ecological and spiritual challenges.
A play is relevant after 2,400 years because it illuminates primal forces, notable among them, sexuality. Dionysus, called by many names including ‘The Liberator’ has often symbolized gender fluidity. In the rigid caste system of ancient Greece, his devotees included slaves, women and foreigners allowing those usually excluded to participate in the annual Dionysian festivals.
Our play is set in 2020, just across the threshold into the upcoming decade, at the pivot point of a new era in human history. Our location is Gaia, the mythological Greek name recognizing our beloved and beleaguered planet Earth as a sentient, living goddess. Right now, Gaia demands our attention. She calls us beyond ideology to unity, a call we must heed for our survival as a species.
Myth is how we navigate and ultimately evolve both individual and collective psyches. Myth must change for us to grow. Artists are the antennae for society and we are re-imagining Euripides’ myth of Dionysus to address our need for balance between reason and passion. This timeless play tells us where to look for balance in a world twisted by the desire for power and control. The Bacchantes say look to ecstasy, to creativity, to beauty, to joy, to theater. Lose control. The timing is divine for the return of Dionysus and his wild celebrants. As our audience,
you are sitting in one of their temples: a theater.
Now they are coming for you.
Judyie Al-Bilali, Director
These program notes were written months before the maelstrom of 2020 began.
Note the descriptor ‘unprecedented’ a word that means nothing anymore after its
Note the play’s setting on Gaia, the entire earth.
Note that the myth of Dionysos tells us to ‘Lose Control’ exactly the opposite of what the deep state, a robotized mentality, symbolized by King Pentheus in the script, attempted to enforce with global lockdowns, mandates, quarantine.
Why did I set a show running in 2019 be set in 2020, a few months in the future?
Because that’s where I come from.
The Bacchae of Euripides: A Communion Rite