ATU Theatre Plans Production Suited for the Times

The Bacchae Rehearsal October 2020

Arkansas Tech University theatre students and faculty are moving forward with a fall 2020 production by taking a cue from ancient Greece.

ATU’s production of “The Bacchae” will be streamed at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 29, and Friday, Oct. 30, at

Due to restrictions related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the play will not be performed for a live audience. The performers will be protected by following the ancient Greek convention of performing in masks.

“Since today’s actors must wear masks because of the pandemic, Greek theatre is a natural fit for 2020,” said Dr. David J. Eshelman, professor of communication and director of the ATU theatre program. “I am stunned at how beautiful the masks have turned out.”

Mask design and construction was a collaboration between the ATU theatre program and the ATU Department of Art. Students in the three-dimensional design class taught by Manami Ishimura, visiting instructor of art, were each assigned a character mask to design and create.

The live stream of the performances will be made possible by a partnership with ATU broadcast journalism students and Christie Kellar, broadcast production specialist in the ATU Department of Communication and Journalism.

“It’s exciting to get to stretch our wings with new technologies,” said Frances Roberson, assistant professor of theatre and technical director for the ATU theatre program. “While nobody is happy about the pandemic, we are making the best of a bad situation and welcoming the opportunity to teach our students about innovative strategies to reach wider audiences. The live stream perfectly lines up with the new direction of our theatre program, incorporating film and social media influencing with classical theatre.”

Student actors in ATU’s “The Bacchae” include Blake Marshall of Alma as Pentheus; Anthony Woods of Fort Smith as Dionysus; Morgan Stringer of Bauxite as Pentheus’ grandfather; Madeleine Newman of Fort Smith as Pentheus’ mother; and Codi Crowe of North Little Rock as the blind seer Tiresias. William Cartwright of Dardanelle and Ivy Guzman of Lima, Peru, also appear on stage.

The chorus, led by Emily Porterfield of Bismarck, features Peyton Greenwood of Conway, Lane Peden of Mountain View and Grace Phillips of Salem.

Behind the scenes contributors include Matthew West of Batesville, stage manager; Kyndal Atkinson of Springdale and Florian Kinslow Fleming of Fort Smith, assistant stage managers; Lily Watson of Russellville, set designer; Andrew Egan of Gamaliel and Faith Spencer of Clarksville, lighting designers; Sophie Sargent of Little Rock, props designer; Joey Scheyder of Farmington, assistant props designer; and chorus member Peden, poster designer.

Eshelman is directing the play. He said the rehearsal process is aimed at making the script accessible to modern audiences.

“We start with a script,” said Eshelman, “but the actors reinterpret the lines and rephrase them in their own words. This method takes a lot of analytical work, but ensures that the performers really understand the text.”

Cynthia Eisemann, adjunct instructor of communication, is movement consultant. Roberson is costume designer. Costumes and props were made by Roberson’s stagecraft class. The set was built by theatre student workers.

ATU’s production of “The Bacchae” has been entered as a participating production in the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Theatre experts from the region will watch the live stream and give their response.

Call (479) 964-0890 or visit for more information about the ATU theatre program.