By Frankie Kujawa
Actor Christopher Sears returns to Baltimore Center Stage this month as Pentheus in Anne Carson’s BAKKHAI (running Wednesday, June 1st – Sunday, June 19th). Based on the Greek tragedy from Euripides, this new version is a cautionary tale about the consequences of a civilization’s fear of the unknown. Fresh from his phenomenal performance at Baltimore Center Stage in THE FOLKS AT HOME by R. Eric Thomas earlier this spring, Sears is excited to be back in Charm City to share this new role and production with Baltimore audiences.
Frankie Kujawa: In your opinion, what can audiences expect from this performance of BAKKHAI?
Christopher Sears: I think what’s different with BAKKHAI than a play is that it’s multi-dimensional. There’s dance, there’s music, there’s storytelling. It feels kind of like true theater in the sense that it’s theatre - not just with words on a stage – but theater being the container; the live medium that can hold anything. So, I feel like audiences can expect to be surprised. With this performance, audiences will find that they have to let something ‘work’ on them in a different way than the linear, ‘I’m going to go see a play. I’m following the story, etc.’ It’s not traditional in the way like a THE FOLKS AT HOME would be performed. THE FOLKS AT HOME was more, ‘Ok, we’re going to set up these characters and something is going to happen to them.’ You know, [with BAKKHAI] that story is there, but it’s part of the larger, impressionistic work.
Frankie Kujawa: So, how does BAKKHAI differ from THE FOLKS AT HOME?
Christopher Sears: They’re like almost total opposites. THE FOLKS AT HOME was very relatable, funny and grounded in reality. [Bakkhai] is a myth. It’s a funny thing to explain, but I felt that when acting in THE FOLKS AT HOME I was in a very clear world. And this world [in BAKKHAI] feels like it’s constantly finding new dimensions. Sometimes I understand it and sometimes I don’t, and when I don’t that’s cool, too. You know, thinking about ‘what is the job of the actor here’ is something I feel like I’ll figure out when the audiences are actually in the seats. With THE FOLKS AT HOME, it was like ‘Ok, they laughed’ or ‘Ok, they aww-ed’ and we’re giving them the story. With BAKKHAI there are many more variables. I feel like we’ll be working with people in a different way. Hopefully, it’s a little wild!
Frankie Kujawa: Could you describe your role in BAKKHAI?
Christopher Sears: I’m the character that’s, well, the problem (laughs). I’m the person in the way of the party. Basically, if I wasn’t there it would just be a big, awesome concert. I’m the character that’s very much in the way. My arc has to do with the story of it. Dionysos comes to Thebes and basically just wants everyone to release and become something else. But Pentheus, the King of Thebes, wants to stop all of this. He just meets with a lot of rigidity. So, I play the ‘foil’ - the one who doesn’t want people to have fun. But it’s a role that’s very fun to play.
Frankie Kujawa: What are you hoping audiences take away from BAKKHAI?
Christopher Sears: I think the show should feel fun and free. I would hope that audiences walk away feeling open and free to react and express themselves. And, also, reverent to theater because I think when theater is working well it’s engaging us, our imaginations and our child-selves in ways that nothing else really can.
For more information on the production, please visit: www.centerstage.org/plays-and-events/bakkhai/