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The Bacchae

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Robert Ribar
March 5, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Director.

What is your show about?
When the young king of Thebes outlaws the worship of his cousin, the half-human god Dionysus, the deity returns to Earth to extract revenge on the family that has shunned him - severed heads and cross-dressing kings populate this darkly comic, mysterious masterwork from 405 BC.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I was an only child so, to keep me occupied, my dad frequently popped in our VHS copies of “The Wizard of Oz” and “Mary Poppins”. Soon, I was dancing around the room with Ray Bolger and Dick VanDyke and my parents enrolled me in singing and dancing lessons. Soon after, I began acting in everything from professional commercials to school plays. Later, my interest shifted towards directing and producing.

Who is more important in the theater: the actor, the playwright, or the director?
Despite being a director, of those three roles, “the director” may the least important and historically the newest. For me, the director steers the ship, leads the team and provides a cohesive vision but that vision would not exist without the playwright's initial concept. As a acolyte of Playwrights Horizons, where I both studied and worked, I believe the playwright is king. Even when dealing with an author who is long dead, there are no creative decisions that are made without consulting and pulling from the text. However, theater is an actors medium and during a run, the actor really does have full reign, hopefully within the confides that the play and the director have provided. With a few rare exceptions, the audience is there to see the actor and even a lackluster text can be elevated by a strong performance. I am a strong believer in Robert Altman’s axiom that a director’s chief job is to find good actors and then let them play.

What is one specific thing that you hope audiences will realize you’ve contributed to the production?
In terms of particular momennts, the final scene of “The Bacchae” has the potential to be Earth shattering and I think our production will tap into the primal emotion that comes when a person realizes that he or she has committed a heinous act, especially against a loved one. The moment is disturbing, bizarre, bloody and yet strangely beautiful and the actor we have performing the key role of Agave will be a knock out! In a play that is very much about "impending doom", this moment is THE DOOM!

Which cartoon character would you identify your show with: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Marge Simpson?
It’s funny because we have actually compared Dionysus, the central character of "The Bacchae", to Bugs Bunny in rehearsals. They are both mischievous and can trick their male prey into dressing up like women.

Who are your heroes?
In my personal life, my parents for pushing me into the arts and for always supporting me, especially my father, who passed away five years ago. Growing up, he built sets, took cast photos and worked on every show that I worked on. The artists whose work has resonated with me the most include Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, John Carpenter, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, David Fincher, John Waters, Kenneth Anger, Gore Vidal, Tracy Letts, Stephen Sondheim, Harold Prince and Christopher Durang. Through my office, I have been able to work with and observe some amazing theater directors working today like Sheryl Kaller and Alex Timbers. But perhaps most of all, I am inspired by the the realm of rock & roll, chiefly The Rolling Stones, the Ramones, Bob Dylan and Phil Spector.