The god of wine and theater has NOT come to town to party.
Right now at 7 Stages, “The Followers” adapts the ancient Greek play “The Bacchae” by Euripides, which tells the story of the god Dionysus battling with Pentheus, the king of Thebes.
In the play, Dionysus has returned in order to clear his mother’s name and establish himself as a god and ruler to a kingdom distrustful of his divinity.
In this retelling, playwright Margaret Baldwin refocuses the story on Agave, the mother of Pentheus, and the women of the city.
“In Euripides’ [original play], she just shows up at the end, carrying her son’s head in her hand,” Baldwin explains, “but we were really interested to find out, ‘Well, why did she go?’ What does it mean to be stung with frenzy, and what would make you leave your home, your family, your city and follow this god that you don’t even know for sure is a god?”
Centering the play on the women, Baldwin says, presents the audience with women who have agency of their own, something the original Greek play lacks.
At the same time, the play wrestles with the danger and the allure of blindly following leaders.
“What do you do when the god you follow turns from joy and ecstasy to vengeance?” Baldwin asks. “It’s a big question right now. Audiences have already responded to how this play rhymes with our world right now and what’s left for us to do.”
“The Followers” is onstage at 7 Stages in Little 5 Points through Feb. 25.
This story originally appeared with an audio interview on WABE.org.