NKU Theatre and Dance Brings Greek Tragedy 'The Bacchae' to Life

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The Bacchae opened Sept. 25 at the NKU Robert & Rosemary Stauss Theatre. Performances will run through Oct. 5.

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By Elizabeth Garcia
NKU Marketing + Communications Intern

Boom. The rumbling of the drums echoed through the dark city of Thebes, between the red theater seats and the captivated audience.

Boom. The beat reverberated in the middle of the stage where the possessed, wild-haired women gyrated and bent in a frenzied dance.

Then, silence. Smeared and splattered, Sarah Alice Shull carried a severed head back to the ruined city.    

And that was only one scene.

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The Bacchae, a Greek tragedy by Euripides, opened Sept. 25 at the NKU Robert & Rosemary Stauss Theatre. The performance is directed by NKU Professor of Theatre Sandra Forman and will run through Oct. 5. Tickets can be found at the box office in the NKU Fine Arts Center – cost for students is $8.

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Sarah Alice Shull, a 20-year-old acting major, wows the audience in a scene in which she carries a severed head back to the ruined city in The Bacchae. The performance is directed by NKU Professor of Theatre Sandra Forman and will run through Oct. 5. Tickets can be purchased at the box office in the NKU Fine Arts Center.

Forman said she was “very fortunate” to cast such a close-knit group of actors. Twenty-four hours before opening night, she was calm and collected, clearly enjoying watching the students perform her vision.

“They’ve worked hard,” she said.

And it paid off.

With drinking, partying, cross-dressing and even a Greek sorority included in the play, Forman felt the performance could definitely appeal to college students.

After only four weeks of rehearsal, the play opened its doors. Matt Krieg, a 22-year-old acting major, stars as Dionysus, god of wine, who returns to the city of Thebes to cause chaos. Pentheus, played by Hunter Henrickson, is the ruler of Thebes, and he finds out the hard way it’s never wise to mess with the gods.

“It’s been a lovely process, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” Forman said at the end of the final dress rehearsal before opening night. But with live performances, she admitted, “it’s bloody hard.”

But it wasn’t all work and no play for these talented college students; it became more than obvious when the cast hung out together backstage.  

In a hallway after the show, the cast chatted away as one of the stars — the severed head — rolled by on a prop cart.

Henrickson, a 20-year-old acting major, sat for about two-and-a-half hours with a cast molded around his head to create the prop that ended up weighing about 10 pounds.

Sarah Alice Shull, who played the murderous Agaue, is also a 20-year-old acting major, and she said that holding the head during the performance is a bit of a workout. As she leaned against the wall wiping away the last of her smeared make-up, she said she always wanted to play the dark and dynamic part.

“As awful as it is, it was so much fun,” she said.  

To warm up, the girls said they have a little fun as they jam out to Beyoncé in the dressing room. It gets them pumped up for their steamy performances.

Not the classic damsels in distress, the women in the play are rather wild, powerful and confident.

“We are not docile,” said 20-year-old Gabby Francis, a musical theatre major who plays Coryphaeus, a leader of those wild women.

Getting to play the part for her is, as she put it, “empowering.”

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Gabby Francis, a 20-year-old musical theatre major, plays Coryphaeus — a leader of a wild group of women in The Bacchae.

Also See

More from Inside NKU

The Bacchae photo gallery

The 2014-2015 performance season

Box office

Department of Theatre and Dance

College of Arts & Sciences

Krieg stood at the back of the group with his hair still sprayed sparkly gold. He looked out of place without the shiny gold armor to match. He said it was fun getting to play the boisterous god Dionysus, because in real life he’s “quiet and shy most of the time.” 

Being a close-knit group of friends, the cast said they are able to laugh through the tragedy because they’ve all worked together before. It made getting along easy and that means there’s no drama backstage.

Henrickson laughed as he talked about one scene where he’s decked out in a dress and long, brunette wig.

“If it was a couple shades lighter, it’d be my (twin) sister,” he said.

Throughout the banter and rehashing of the ins and outs of the production, the cast members said they were excited about bringing a lesser-known tragedy to campus, with underlining themes like female empowerment and standing up for your beliefs.

“This group of people from Day One has focused totally on its work,” Forman said.

But clearly, this cast thinks the work is a lot of fun.

The Bacchae Photo Gallery