Brigham Young Calls Off Production of Euripides Play

September 23, 2009

The University of Utah stages an ancient Greek play each year, and typically offers a performance at Brigham Young University as well. This year, there will be no performance at Brigham Young. The university's theater department called off the production of a modern adaptation of Bakkhai by Euripides (commonly spelled as Bacchae). Rodger Sorensen, chair of theater and media arts at BYU, said that as an institution that is part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the university "must take into consideration our particular audience." As he learned more about the production, he said, he became concerned that audience members would be "troubled" by the production. While there is not nudity, Sorensen said that the costumes show "more skin than our institution encourages us to have" visible and that there are portrayals of sexuality and violence. "We have no problem with the play, but feel it shouldn't be done here," he said.

James Svendsen, producer of the play and associate professor of languages and literature at Utah, said that the decision to call off the show at Brigham Young was mutual, and based in part on the view that the production "does not really fit the BYU proscenium arch theater nor their audience." He said that the production turns the classic work into a rock opera, with "much gender-bending in the casting" and "an abundance of phallic symbols and cleavage." Svendsen said some shock was appropriate for the play. "Yes, this ancient play is shocking, horrific and macabre and, I think, would have shocked the ancient Athenian audience," he said. "For me it's a parable for the Athenians in crisis, stuck in a 25 year old war against the Spartans, a parable against religious and political excess and a kind of insanity or tunnel vision. It's a play with an attitude."

While the production won't get to win fans in Provo, it received a strong review in The Salt Lake Tribune.

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