My Play from the SF Olympians Festival

poster art by Emily Barber

poster art by Emily Barber

Ok, so a short play I wrote (that is, the first play–in fact, the first piece of fiction/adaptation I’ve ever attempted) was read last night as part of the SF Olympians Festival, a thirteen-day series of staged readings of original plays with classical themes by local writers. I took two sisters: Mnemosyne, goddess of memory and mother to the muses, and Themis, goddess of good counsel and order, mother of the seasons, peace, justice, and later, the fates. They were daughters of Gaia (earth-mother) and wives to Zeus (at different times, I should think). We were free to interpret the goddesses and their characters in any way or at any point in their goddess-lives that we chose. So I made your standard family estate squabble. Here is an excerpt:

Mnemosyne: Do you remember when she ordered the box of ladybugs from that gardening place? I think she assumed there’d be 30 or so in it, that she’d have a small colony for all her plants in the living room and corridor. You weren’t there when she opened the box; it must have been hundreds that swarmed out. First they hovered in place, a dense red cloud humming under the chandelier. Then the cloud seemed to explode, and these buzzing red dots just flew in every direction. I don’t think I’d ever seen a ladybug before, and now dozens were flying into my face, grazing my arms and legs, getting stuck between my toes and tangled in my hair. I remember thinking that the world had changed, that these furious little creatures would now always be with us, recklessly slamming their tiny, hard bodies into the windowpanes, alighting with a shudder onto our eyelids and noses when we lay down, crawling along every surface in our home so that it looked animated and we couldn’t walk or sit without hearing the startling crunch of their dotted shells under us. Somehow I don’t remember what she did after she released the insects into the room. I only remember standing alone in the swarm, blinking as they brushed past my eyelashes and tickled my ears. And then I went to your room. I imagined you’d know what to do, how to live with them. You were sitting on your bed with your arms crossed in front of your chest. The ladybugs were flying all around you and you looked so disgusted.ladybug

Themis: Of course I was disgusted. Who orders live insects for a few indoor potted plants? And doesn’t even check to see how many of them they’d get?! You were little; everything that didn’t make sense was magic and that was fine with you. But I was picking carcasses out of my shoes and backpack and pockets and hairbrush for the next two months. Can you tell me what is more depressing to a ten year old than a handful of dead ladybugs? Their legs all folded under and brittle and falling off… You don’t remember what mom did after that because she left you, literally crawling with insects, and went back to her studio. I’m the one who went around opening all the windows. I’m the one who spent the next four hours with a jar and a piece of paper trying to capture as many as I could and release them outside. I’m the one who had to pick bits of crushed exoskeleton out of the cat’s teeth for a week. Mom just unleashed this chaos into the house and pranced off! As usual.

M: But it was beautiful! For a moment.

T: Everything was beautiful for a moment. But then it just turned into something unfinished that no one was willing to deal with but me. No one but me ever wanted to think about the fallout of these caprices. We have a house full of half-painted, rotting canvases, heaps of unfinished mothworn dresses with the needles still stuck in the hems, we have a house itself that none of us can afford to keep and no one wants to sell.

Voilà. To read the full ten-page script, click here.

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This entry was posted in PERSONAL ESSAYS, San Francisco, theatre and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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