I think theatre is that kind of a place where someone in the dark can be confronted with something in a new way and think about his or her life in a new way.
—Steven Ratzlaff, Playwright
Call it Nietzsche behind bars. Dionysus in Stony Mountain, a new presentation by Theatre Projects Manitoba, opens at Rachel Brown Theatre on Thursday, March 29.
The central character is Heidi, a psychiatrist at Stony Mountain Penitentiary. She is currently treating James, an inmate, who is obsessed by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He has gone off his meds and spends a great deal of time memorizing long passages of Nietzsche.
The first act is a dialogue between these two people, one on the "inside," the other on the "outside." Heidi gradually begins to lose her confidence and questions her role within the prison system. Later she endeavors to work out her identity through an encounter with her uncle.
It is a probing and intellectual play that leaves us asking questions about the state of our justice system today. Playwright Steven Ratzlaff believes it's important to confront these issues.
"I think theatre is that kind of a place where someone in the dark can be confronted with something in a new way and think about his or her life in a new way," he insists.
But why Nietzche? "He wrote in the 1800s," explains Ratzlaff. But "his writing sounds very contemporary. It's very imaginative and very provocative and imagistic. He just seems like a tremendously interesting character."
Steven Ratzlaff is better known to Winnipeggers as a gifted actor. Most recently he performed in the MTC production of August, Osage County
. This is Ratzlaff's first full-length production as a playwright. To prepare, he spent time at Stony Mountain Penitentiary -- years, in fact -- interviewing inmates. He even taught a course there for one term.
The play was first publicly performed at The Winnipeg Fringe
in 2009 with himself playing the roles of James and Heidi's uncle. Since that time the play has been extensively workshopped and expanded. In this presentation Ross McMillan takes on the male roles. Sarah Constible tackles the role of Dr. Heidi Prober.Dionysus in Stony Mountain
plays at the Rachel Brown Theatre March 29 - April 8.