Podcast Episode One: Dionysus

Here is the full transcript for episode one!

Jessica Coutinho Newey

1/16/20235 min read

snow covered mountain under cloudy sky during daytime
snow covered mountain under cloudy sky during daytime

Listen here:



Hello to the lovely ladies of the cast of Hurricane Diane. I am Jessica, your dramaturg. My role as the dramaturg is to give you as much background about the world of the play as you guys need to help flesh out your character work. 

I have spent some time analyzing the text of the play and coming up with areas that I think might be helpful for you to know about as we begin work on this production. I have a list of subjects that have come up as I read through the play and if you have anything you want me to cover, please feel free to email or text any questions throughout the whole production. My email is found by typing my name: Jessica Newey into your student outlook, but honestly, texting me is best. 

The subjects I have thus far are: Background about Dionysus, The cult of the Baachae, The Greek creation myth, Greek Theater as it relates to Hurricane Diane, and Permaculture. I also have loads of other information on the Greek Pantheon for funsies if you're interested and if I have time, as the semester starts in a little over a week. 

So for this first episode, I am focusing in on the god Dionysus. Madeleine George introduces Dionysus as the god of agriculture, wine, and song. He was so much more than that. In fact, Greek Theater is a religious ceremony to honor Dionysus. I will delve into that more in the recording on Greek Theater later. "DIONYSOS (Dionysus) was the Olympian god of wine, vegetation, pleasure, festivity, madness and wild frenzy. He was depicted as either an older, bearded god or an effeminate, long-haired youth. Some of his symbols included the thyrsos (a pine-cone tipped staff), a drinking cup and a crown of ivy." (https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Dionysos.html#:~:text=DIONYSOS%20(Dionysus)%20was%20the%20Olympian,and%20a%20crown%20of%20ivy)

Dionysus's origin story is very convoluted. You have to keep in mind that there are thousands of years for these stories to evolve. There is a lot of evidence that Dionysus is the Greek version of Osirus in the Egyptian Pantheon, so having several different origins from different areas of the Greco-Roman empire is bound to happen. I am going to ignore the Zagreus/Hades story in favor of Euripides's version, as I believe that's Madeleine George's main point of reference. 

Most of us know the head honcho of the Greek Pantheon is the Olympic god Zeus. Zeus was a horn dog, seducing and raping his way across the mortal realms, and his fourth wife, Hera was having none of it. Knowing she couldn't best the most powerful of gods, she always went after his victims and mistresses. Semele was one of the more lucky ones who chose to go to Zeus. She was a princess of Thebes, and got down and dirty with a mortal form of the lightning god. Of course, Hera found out and decided to disguise herself as a crone and have a chat with the princess who confided in the old woman that she was preggo. Hera plants the idea that the father could have been a mortal just pretending to be Zeus. 

So our naive princess asks Zeus to grant a wish and he does because he loves her so much, and swears it on the River Stix. She asks him to reveal himself in his Divine Glory. He has to, because he swore on the river to Hades, and when he does that, Semele was turned to ash. Zeus gathers the unborn infant and attaches it to his thigh to continue to incubate. Fun fact, his thigh could also mean his testicle, but the more accepted translation is "thigh." 

All the myths then have Dionysus hiding out for his childhood in various places. Usually, his aunt Ino cares for him until Hera catches up to them and turns Dionysus into a goat. This is a connection to the satyrs, those half man half goat things that follow him around. They are known as drunk, lecherous, and fun-loving guys. Ino had often disguised him as a girl, there's some indication that Hermes told her to do this, or that it was a directive from Zeus himself, but it's an excellent justification for our Dionysus being a butch female character. 

Anyway, in his goat form he's chased by Hera through Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor until he gets to the temple of Cybele where she cures him of his goat-i-ness and is taught the mysteries of orgies which is a sizable part of the cult. I will get more into the Baachae in a future episode.

As Dionysus wanders the countryside, he has all these interactions with kings and a major theme is Dionysus proving himself as a god and smiting those who don't believe in him by having them tear their children apart or the kings themselves get torn apart by his cult. I will give a few examples as it relates to particular references in the play. 

In Diane's expostion monologue, she mentions Thrace. This comes from Homer's The Illiad. The king of Thrace was Lycurgus, lai·kur·guhs who kidnaped the Bacchae and drove Dionysus into the sea. In retaliation, Dionysus drove him mad, making him think his son was a grapevine and Lycurgus cut him to bits. He was then cured of his insanity and discovered what he had done. His subjects were horrified and tied their king to a bunch of horses so he could be ripped apart. But, he died knowing that Dionysus was in fact, a god. So... win?

Another allusion made in Hurricane Diane is in Beth's monologue. Now, y'all, this is where I've been paying more attention since I'm playing Beth, if you notice anything in your lines that might be an allusion or reference, I can look into that. She mentions that she has a box inside her containing "leather-winged wildness" that she fears would be released if she wasn't constantly keeping it contained. 

In Orkhomenos, there were three women known as the Minyades that refused to engage in the rites of a festival to honor Dionysus. They stayed home instead of engaging in the festival and he filled the room with the sound of drums and tambourines while milk and nectar -or, in some readings, myrrh and saffron- filled the room, and they went crazy and tore one of their children apart. They then joined the Bacchae and Dionysus turned them into bats. 

I'm sure there are more references throughout the play. If you want me looking into anything for you, hit me up and I'll do so! If you want to explore yourself these are some of my sources:

For more information on Dionysus, I have found a very comprehensive guide at https://www.theoi.com/Olympios/Dionysos.html.

The number one book I read up on for Greek Gods and Myth has been Oh My Gods: a Modern Retelling of Greek and Roman Myths by Philip Freeman. 

I am also working my way through Euripides' The Bacchae. I'm going through Geoffrey S. Kirk's commentary, which has a ton of notations as you read. It's a slog, but it's very informative. Many quotes from the Bacchae are on the website theoi.com if you don't want to read the whole play. 

Next time I'll get into the Creation myth.