THE TRAGEDY OF MEDUSA
A Note from the Director
I finished the working draft of the The Tragedy of Medusa the same week the Kavanaugh hearings swept our nation. Sexual assault, a topic usually reserved for hushed tones and late night disclosures, was suddenly everywhere. What constitutes sexual violence? Whose stories matter? What do we do with perpetrators? What do we do with survivors? How many years must pass before the slate is wiped clean? These questions were pounding in America’s collective conscience.
And then the hearings were over. The conversations about our national attitude on sexual assault ended as quickly as they began. Kavanaugh was confirmed, the world moved on. But I still had Medusa to deal with.
I quickly learned that Ancient Greek mythology is not the place to go if you’re looking to avoid hard questions about sexual violence. What are we, culturally, supposed to do with the fact that almost all of our Greco-Roman myths, the myths which inspired the basis of so much of our western theatrical canon, are punctuated by rape? How can we act like we - as a culture - have an evolved understanding of intimate violence when our creation story for an entire continent revolves around Zeus claiming Europa’s body and turning her into the earth? When we walk through the Getty and the most beautiful European art there depicts abduction or violence against women? This violence has become so normalized, we view it as part of our cultural legacy. Even if we don’t all grow up learning these myths, nuanced and disconcerting conceptions of sex and violence have been sewn so intimately into the fabric of our culture we can hardly recognize them.
So, if you’re still with me, I think that leaves us with two options. For one, we could admit that mythology, the skeleton of our culture, is full of horrific acts of violence and dismiss it as barbaric and dated. On the other hand, we could take the leap of faith that violence exists as frequently as it does in these stories for a reason, and begin to tilt the focus. We can tilt the focus to see the women, the queers, the foreigners, the kind men, and, yes, the monsters. We can reinvent their stories based off of the injuries in our own hearts, and see what monstrosity looks like looking out from Medusa’s stoney eyes. We can take these stories and see that the media we have been longing for that chases justice and affirms our experiences has been waiting for us, we just haven’t had control over its production.
It’s time we take back these myths. It’s time we look each other in the eyes, even if in that truth of connection, the stories we no longer need die.
Thank you for creating new mythology with us, and bearing witness to the incredible work of this team. I am indebted to you and the community we are creating.
Artistic Director of Project Nongenue, Writer and Director
Cast & Creative
Clint Blakely, Perseus · Pat Buetow, Poseidon · Korama Danquah, Athena · Derya Derman, Hera · Jake Dvorsky, Zeus · Kyra Morling, Aphrodite · Marie Osterman, Medusa
Rob Angell, Assistant Director, Producer · Olivia Buntaine, Project Nongenue Founder, Director, Intimacy Choreographer · Susan Holmstrom, Stage Manager, Fight Choreographer · Aja Morris-Smiley, Costume Design · Ann Slote, Set and Light Design · Janell Turley, Creature, Makeup, and Hair Design · Al Washburn, Web Designer, Company Manager · Ariella Wolfe, Dramaturg, Social Media Specialist
About the Play
Setting the Scene
As The Tragedy of Medusa begins, Medusa is alone, in a cave on a remote and isolated island. Suddenly, Perseus, son of Zeus and Danaë (as he helpfully points out) arrives, announcing that he has come to kill her. Despite Medusa urging Perseus to leave, he declares that he has come equipped with the weapons required to safely slay Medusa, without being turned to stone by her gaze. These include a shield from Athena, which seems to hold special meaning for Medusa. Perseus soon realizes that Medusa is not the monster that he had expected, but rather an ordinary woman. Medusa reluctantly agrees to tell Perseus her story, from her relationship with Athena to how the other gods on Olympus (Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, and Aphrodite) intervened. As he listens, Perseus begins to understand Medusa—not what others have said about her, but who she truly is.
Classical Interpretations of the Medusa Myth
Classical mythology is divided in its interpretations of Medusa, but her name usually conjures up an image of a woman with a head full of snakes and a gaze so powerful it turns men to stone. From Homer, to Ovid, to present-day popular culture, the two most prominent versions of Medusa’s mythology depict her as a Gorgon (a monstrous creature) or as a beautiful maiden who Athena turned into a monster as punishment for desecrating her temple. This supposed desecration occurred when Poseidon raped Medusa in Athena’s temple, though sanitized version of the myth suggest that Medusa and Poseidon “slept together.” Other modern versions of the myth describe Medusa as a vain maiden who was punished with an ugly appearance for claiming to be more beautiful than Athena. In all traditional tellings, Perseus is regarded as the hero for successfully beheading Medusa.
The Importance of Reimagining
Producing The Tragedy of Medusa allows us to take a story that has been told over millennia, examine why it is the way it is, and retell it in a way that is relevant and important to our current political and social climate. Our director, Olivia Buntaine, was inspired to create The Tragedy of Medusa after reading the article "Snake Eyes: The Power to Turn the Patriarchy to Stone" by McKenzie Schwark (featured in this issue Bitch Magazine: https://www.bitchmedia.org/issue/78). It suggests that the story of Athena and Medusa is one of protection, not revenge. Ultimately, Medusa deserves a chance to tell her own story, particularly as a survivor of rape. This play also gives us a chance to celebrate the ancient roots of queerness, while also acknowledging the parallel roots of misogyny, prejudice, and hatred. We need to examine this legacy in order to move forward together as a society.
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Son of Semele Company Creation Festival | Winter 2019
Son of Semele is a Los Angeles-based ensemble theatre company, that develops and produces innovative theatrical productions, and supports the work of likeminded artists. Company Creation Festival (CCF) is a festival of new works generated by ensembles using unconventional means. Four productions were presented in repertory in January and February.
Kate, Mike, Dan, and Son of Semele · Allen and Joe for Lighting and Sound Design · Al Washburn for Web Design · The Buntaine Family · The LAFPI · PNG Fam · Steph Woods and Pompey · Everyone who read Olivia's script and believed in it early on · The Gods of Olympus
And – YOU! Seriously, we wouldn't be here without you.