Dionysus: A Celebration of Defiance took off from Euripides’ The Bacchae. Euripides shows Dionysus, a god characterized by unrestraint, radically defying the city rulers who mean to block their citizens from worshipping him. Taking its impetus from this story of defiance, Chipped Off’s performance also used a Bauhaus-inspired set design (extending to performers’ hand-held masks and black, white, and red dress) that situated the production within an ethos of problem-solving, usefulness, and art’s social functionality. These contexts for the play’s songs, dances, poems, parkour, projections, puppets, videos, and sword-fighting suggested the radical possibilities for experiments with defiance. A harrowing monologue from Euripides’ play, alongside a similarly haunting performance piece involving ritualized motions and an anguished profane scream, stressed the violence that may be implicit in those possibilities.
Dionysus celebrated defiance by weaving together individual pieces about responding to being told you won’t, can’t, or shouldn’t do something, by doing it anyway. The show’s catch phrase—“Just watch me”—doubled as a defiant retort and an invitation to the audience to watch mother earth, in a gown of growing plants, speak back to her humans; groups of singers clown around with teenage angst or perform feminist rebellion; a young man claim a picnic table with back flips; and various other iterations of bravery, cheeky stubbornness, and playful insolence.
Dionysus brought together a diverse cast working in diverse forms to offer a multifaceted vision of defiance. It also promoted collaboration on stage and off. I had the opportunity to work with a visual artist who made evocative images of my poetry that appeared on screens behind me as I read. I was also on stage with a small troupe of mask-bearing performers who shadowed my movements and grouped behind me on stage, offering a grandiosity and strangeness to my presence that the poems’ protagonist, a mysterious but unescapable creature, required. Such collaborative connections among performers culminated in a final song performed by the full cast, ending the play with a sense of the strength of defiant community.
—Dale Tracy, Cast Member