Telluride Theatre: "Dinner With Dionysus" At Ah Haa

PosterParty like it is 1237 B.C.

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Promise, he will bring the wine.

It’s Dionysus, who can be scarier than your mother-in-law on a bad hair day and just as unpredictable.

The strange and wildly contradictory aspects of the god have, over time, been cobbled together by different interpreters – from Nietzsche to Joseph Campbell –  in different ways: Dionysus represents the essential tension between the human and the divine. He is the god of mysteries and bacchic mania. He is the archetypal image of indestructible life. He is ecstasy itself.

Now ask yourself what the different spins have in common. Doesn’t creativity emerge out of divine chaos?

Dionysus is the son of Zeus and the mortal Theban princess Semele, the god of wine, winemaking, plants, animals, fertility, (orgiastic) ecstasy (or ritual madness), and patron of the arts, whose kantharos (Greek pottery used for drinking) was never empty – like all true artists who are filled to the brim with creative impulses.

Dionysus is the Liberator, whose wine, music, and ecstatic dance freed his followers from self-conscious fear and care and subverted the oppressive restraints of authority and society in general. True artists tend to see themselves as living outside social conventions, no?

The god’s devotee knew as a matter of personal experience that after drinking the wine, they felt a strange new life within.

Rage at being thwarted. Driven mad when things don’t turn out as imagined. Unbridled joy when things work out as envisioned. Dionysus is emotional-intuitive power driving creativity, a force as enigmatic, intrusive, and strange as it is compelling.

In that very real sense, the wildly unpredictable Dionysus sits on Sasha Sullivan’s (and all playwrights) shoulder when she writes. He is her persistent and unnamed writing partner, her muse. Sasha’s latest work, written “Dinner with Dionysus,” honors the legacy of the god.

Telluride Theatre‘s “Dinner with Dionysus,” an original play by Sasha Sullivan (in collaboration with her cast and crew), takes place Sunday, August 18 – Thursday, August 22, at the Ah Haa School for the Arts, 300 South Townsend Street. The production is free to all, though the suggested donation is $15. The extremely limited seating (the Daniel Tucker gallery holds about 40) is on a first-come, first-served basis. However, if you become a member of Telluride Theatre, your seat is reserved. To become a member visit www.telluridetheatre.org/support

Caravaggio's Bacchus

Caravaggio’s Bacchus

Sasha Sullivan not only wrote, but she also directed “Dinner with Dionysus.”

The dances in honor of Dionysus were usually held at night time by torchlight and were preceded by fasting, the ecstatic movement accompanied by the weird music of wind instruments and the clashing of tambourines. Mingled with the strange sounds were the shouts of the Bacchanals – Dionysus is the god’s Greek name; his Roman counterpart is Bacchus – as they waved their torches in the darkness, giving the scene an unearthly light. The wild and irregular dances were characterized by a tossing of the head and a violent, whirling bodily motion inducing a physical frenzy like that of the “dancing dervishes” of Mohammedanism – or dancers at the Moon – who routinely lost control in the delirium of the ritual.

The choreographer of the followers of Dionysus – his regular entourage, the Bacchantes, included secondary divinities: satyrs, sileni, maenads, Pans, centaurs, and nymphs –  is Lyndia Peralta, who created the moves in Telluride Theatre’s runaway hit, “Hair” (also directed by Sasha). And Ethan Hale and Sam Burgess wrote the production’s original music.

Set design is thanks to Telluride’s own Burning Man, Anton Viditz-Ward.

Costumes were fashioned by the irrepressible talent of Melissa Sumpter of Melange.

“Dinner with Dionysus” features Laura Colbert, Cat Covert, Layna Fisher, Danielle Jenkins, Marissa Mattys, Dahlia Mertens, Caroline Moore, Pamela Sante, Tom Shane, Colin Sullivan, Burgess and Hale.

Wine and food are part of the evening’s ecstatic celebration.

Note: The production is not suitable for children under 18.

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