Stage Door News

Toronto: Coal Mine Theatre presents the world premiere of “Dion: A Rock Opera” February

Thursday, January 4, 2024

After years of development, the COAL MINE THEATRE changes the game by producing their first ever World Premiere. A fully sung through rock opera based on Euripides’ The Bacchae, DION: A ROCK OPERA is co-created by COAL MINE co-founder Ted Dykstra and Prince Edward Island poet and novelist, Steven Mayoff.

Provocative and visceral – DION will be directed by Canadian Theatre titan Peter Hinton-Davis, Associate Directed by Kiera Sangster, and Come From Away’s highly sought after Bob Foster serves as Musical Director. Joining this powerhouse creative team is an equally eminent cast including Jacob MacInnis (Alice In Wonderland/Bad Hats Theatre) in the title role of Dion, Allan Louis (The Amen Corner/Shaw Festival, Ragtime) as Cadmus, Allister MacDonald (Rocky Horror Show/Neptune Theatre) as Pentheus, Juno-nominated musician Sate as Tiresias, Carly Street (Grounded/theatreSIX, Venus In Fur/Canadian Stage) as Agave and the ubiquitous and vital chorus being portrayed by Max Borowski, Saccha Dennis, Kaden Forsberg and Kelsey Verzotti. With Set and Costumes by Scott Penner and Lighting Design by Bonnie Beecher, DION is will undoubtedly be an unmissable theatrical event of the winter season.

DION is a wild and provocative musical about the limits of reason and the potential for disorder and revenge that lies inside the cry for freedom,” adds Peter Hinton-Davis “This is a world that begs for the glamour and grist of rock and roll: the sense of divine power and human aspiration, crowds of followers and fans, groupies and grifters, prophets and politicians. I am reminded of how powerful the role music plays in moments of social upheaval, revolution, and change. There are shades of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW or PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE here, as much as THE BACCHAE or HAMLET. But rather than homage or nostalgia – it’s a new-born re-invention of the rock opera for today.”

One of the most enduring and emblematic stories in literary history, The Bacchae’s relevance is timeless in its exploration of false binaries. Right vs left, male vs female – Euripides’ play takes the risk of refusal to understand opposing viewpoints and embrace difference, to its ultimate tragic end.

For co-creator and COAL MINE co-founder Ted Dykstra, the play has held his fascination since performing the role of Pentheus opposite Colm Feore as Dionysus in an early 90’s production at Stratford. “I have been enthralled with the play ever since,” he says, adding, “It’s amazing that the relevance of the play only seems to increase over time. At this moment we see political discourse more polarized than ever, and assumptions about gender identity are being more forcefully challenged than in any other moment in history – The Bacchae fundamentally challenges the notion of these binaries. Even within one’s own self, Apollo (reason) must live in harmony with Dionysus (inspiration and passion) – one does not exist without the other and annihilation of ‘the other’ is not the answer.”

In this contemporary yet timeless re-imagining of the story, Pentheus, the conservative right-wing leader of a city-state "somewhere in time" on this earth, arrives home from a trip to learn that all the disenfranchised people in his kingdom have taken to the hills, following the non-binary, self-proclaimed Demi-God Dion. Rumour has it the runaways from society are drinking a strange brew and are often seen running through the hills naked in states of ecstasy. The runaways include almost all of society’s women, including Pentheus’ mother Agave and his Uncle Cadmus.

Pentheus has heard of this Dion. They are his cousin. They claim Zeus as a father and Pentheus' Aunt Semele as a mother. Pentheus has made it clear the story is a lie that Semele made up to excuse her wantonness. Dion wants revenge for this slandering of his mother. That is why they are back and why they allow themselves to be captured and brought to Pentheus in chains.

Pentheus is then seduced into dressing up as a woman and heading to the hills to see what goes on for himself, where he meets his end...

Dykstra began working on the World Premiere production during lockdown in 2020. With time to develop a new project and the need to reconcile discourse all the more pervasive, Dykstra wrote his long-time musical collaborator Steven Mayoff about his feeling that The Bacchae was ripe for a contemporary rock opera treatment, and they immediately set to work. With the support of the Slaight Family Foundation and the Canada Arts Council, the COAL MINE was able to fully develop and workshop the play over the course of the next few years, eventually bringing Peter Hinton-Davis and Bob Foster on board.

DION: A ROCK OPERA is on stage at the COAL MINE THEATRE February 4th – March 3rd, 2024. Tickets are available now at