|I was first introduced to Euripides' The Bacchae in my freshman year at the university in 1970. Nothing much of the play stayed with me, however, other then a memory of the mother ripping apart her son and the god walking away from the devastation smiling.
Bill T. Jones
photo: Joanne Savio
Returning to the play in 1996, I found myself initially seduced by the charm and ease with which the "pale young stranger"--Dionysus, the god of ecstasy in disguise--toys with and ultimately destroys the symbol of order and authority, the king. What am I to make of this display of the god's omnipotence, beauty, and cruelty when set in opposition to a human being's desire to assert his and his society's value system? It is precisely this question that Euripides answers by not answering.
Today, just as in 407 B.C. when the play was written, there is in our society a discussion as to whose values will prevail in directing the future of the culture.
I recognize in The Bacchae two contradicting systems of belief about which I too am conflicted. I personally struggle with the desire for an ecstatic/transcendent experience, recognizing in it a valid response to a world in which we need to coexist with forces that seem increasingly out of our control. But at the same time, I know full well that the search for a wild and transformative experience is potentially filled with undesirable ramifications-both for the individual and the society as a whole.
I intend to take up an engagement with the play in a dance/musical/theater work: The Loud Boy. My working title describes the god as "The Loud Boy" inasmuch as Dionysus is sometimes described by the Greeks themselves as the "loud god."
In developing this new work, I have shifted the focus from the devotees of the god (the Bacchantes) to the god himself. I am a subscriber to the notion that all our gods are projections of our own psyches and that any sensitive analysis of our gods reveals a great deal about how we view ourselves and our dilemma as human beings. Because we live in an era so lacking in consensus (moral/religious/ethical), any attempt at describing the attributes of a god lead us to a veritable tower of Babel.
In staging The Loud Boy, I hope to create a character of Dionysus that is a composite of attributes gathered from various contrasting quarters of our fragmented society.
This installation is not about a finished product, but an intimate contact with my process and an invitation to participate in that process. I would like to hear your honest responses to my explorations of a "god force." In an era burdened by the desire for simple answers, I would consider it a major accomplishment to make a broadly appealing theatrical spectacle out of complexity.
I would appreciate your help.
Bill T. Jones