1969 : Police Shut Down Play at University of Michigan

January 21, 2018 all-day

It was the Age of Aquarius. Or maybe not.

Late in January, the University Activity Center sponsored a two-week Creative Arts Festival. One of the sponsored plays, Dionysus 69, fresh from New York City, was shut down by the police, and 10 actors and actresses were arrested for public indecency.

Dionysus 69 was a modern day adaptation of Euripedes play The Bacchae. It follows Dionysius, the god of wine, in his successful attempt to lead the women of Thebes into a wild celebration which is carried to far. In the end, Pentheus, King of Thebes, is killed by his mother in a mad frenzy.

The one and only performance was held at the Michigan Union, with 600 attending, and 200 turned away at the doors.

Unfortunately, the play featured two nude scenes and complaints were received. One such complaint came from State Senator George Kuhn of Birmingham who believed no such play should be produced on a state university campus. Kuhn was responding to newspaper coverage of nudity and failed to appreciate artistic license.

A Dionysus Litigation Fund was set up by the University Activity Center to fight the charges.


Michigan History, January-February 2016

Michigan Alumnus, March 1969, Vol. 75, no. 7, pp.10-11.