The Bacchae

full set

The Long Beach Shakespeare Company 2008
click on a thumbnail to see a full production photo

full set set post earthquake opening first choral ode second choral ode third choral ode fourth choral ode
fifth choral ode sixth choral ode death of Pentheus Agave with the head of Pentheus Dionysus appears shrine of Semele detail Pentheus head detail

Originally I formulated a concept based around the various aspects of how a production would have been carried out back in ancient Greek times, and sought ways to weave their various concepts and ideals into my design, and then tweak them a bit. About a week before I began construction on this show, it was announced that the production was being updated and set in the 60s, and turned into sort of a rock musical... Which threw me for a bit of a loop, and also ended up wiping away a good number of my ideas. Structurally it stayed the same (as it was told to me that they still wanted it set in ancient Greek architecture, just in ruins instead of new pristine structures), but there were aspects I had to let go of. So what did I end up with? Well, my first idea was the use of the Greek skene, which was essentially the back wall of the performing area, holding doorways through which the actors would enter and exit. Often times there were three entrances which would each signify a different area... so this is what I did; except, instead of just creating a wall I turned it into three distinct opens which sort of existed apart from one another - taking that traditional flat wall surface and offsetting it to three stand alone entry points: one into the palace, one into the city, and one off into the country side around the city. In ancient times there was also a raised area above the stage that was used for the appearance of gods and so forth, and while I do not have the space for an “above” I did set the central (palace) entry on a very slightly raise platform, just to suggest this idea. As for the rest of the stage, although we did not have the traditional orchestra area down stage, I did sort of create that concept by have the entrances raised and upstage, while the remainder of the stage created a lower ringed area downstage. Other aspects of this show include a shrine to Semele (the mother of Dionysus) complete with an eternal burning flame which stayed on continually throughout the show (as well as during intermission and so forth) and only went out when Dionysus was wreaking havoc on the palace of Pentheus. There was an earthquake, which was effected via light and sound effects, plus the adjusting of two large central pillars - one which was spun around to an alternate cracked side an the other which came apart and fell over. And finally, although more of a prop than a scenic element, I had to create the severed head of Pentheus - a character that gets ripped apart during the show, and has his head, very prominently, paraded about on stage. As for lighting, in addition to the general, rather basic, lighting, I also had to have the eternal flame (a Le Flame fire effect fixture), earthquake strobes, and enough specials to make all eight dance numbers in the show different... with VERY few lighting circuits to work with. In the end, there were red lights, lavender back lights, bizarrely colored green and rose washes, and a colored spinning disco ball... if not everything I wanted to do, as much as I could squeeze out of the place. All in all, the whole production ended up quite well, despite the fact that early on I was skeptical and unhappy with the change; in the end, it all came together and produced a solid and very effective show.