By Paul Miailovich
This is the third time I have directed a version of The Bacchae. I keep coming back to this 2400 year old play for several reasons. First, because a significant portion of the original has been lost, translators and directors can literally fill in the blanks with their own ideas. Second, it deals with the interplay among sexuality, religion, gender and politics which is of a personal interest to me and to contemporary audiences. Third, although normally thought of as a tragedy, the play is also funny, romantic and suspenseful. This ambiguity poses a particular challenge for directors, actors and especially audiences, who may find themselves turning to their companions to ask “is this supposed to be funny?” Yet this tracks with how we experience life. Events evoke a range of emotions, so that we often do not know whether we should laugh or cry.
The mid 1960s marked the beginning of a complex cultural and political shift in America and indeed around the world. The rigid culture was unable to contain the demands for greater individual freedom, resulting in an explosion of expression. The beach party films of that time promised American youth an endless summer of unbridled fun beyond the reach of parental authority. The films, therefore, can be viewed as a tame precursor to the more wild abandon of the Summer of Love and Woodstock. In retrospect, it appears that the uptight parents who feared the coeducational beach parties would lead to a frenzy of drug-fueled sex may not have been entirely incorrect.