Ceres En Victoria

category: two act full length
genre: drama
running time: two hours and ten minutes
setting: the parlor of a mansion in Whitby, England
time period: mid-19th century

Demeter, the lady of the house
Hestia, her older sister
Hera, her younger sister
Hebe, Hera’s daughter
Heracles, Hebe’s husband
Chloris, the maid
Dr. Plutus, a doctor
Dr. Triptolemus, another doctor
Demophon, his brother

Taking place a few years after Juno En Victoria, the story follows Hebe, now married to Heracles and pregnant with their first child, taking refuge in her mother’s ancestral home in Whitby, while Hera and Zeus tour the colonies and Heracles is in America over-seeing the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. Told partially through letters interspersing the real-time action in Whitby, Hebe is reunited with her aunt Hestia and confronted with the bitter madness of her aunt Demeter, who is revealed to have been another lover of Zeus, the real father of Persephone, Demeter’s daughter. Persephone has made a scandalous marriage to Dr. Plutus, a foreign doctor and a black man, resulting in a self-imposed exile from the house of her mother. This has further pushed Demeter over-the-edge, despite the efforts of her family to reconcile her to the disappointments of her life. As Hebe unravels the secrets of her history, her own secrets are revealed, including the possibility that the child she carries is the product of an affair with a childhood sweetheart, and that her marriage with Heracles is stifling her.

author’s comments:
Writing the second part of this trilogy took substantially longer than I imagined, but in its creation the history of the family at the center manifested and the aesthetic of the trilogy also coalesced. I came to realize I was not just modeling my Hestia, Demeter, and Hera after the three original Greek goddesses, but also the Bronte Sisters- Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, respectively. As the second play emerged with a more gothic tone than the sentimental, almost Austen-ish quality of the first, I could see ahead to the third play and what it would be like, and that informed many choices I made with the second regarding both story and character development, as well as style. At one point the play tipped very far in the gothic scale, but subsequent drafts found a better balance, and now I think it manages to be that near impossible thing: a bridge piece between two narratives, that somehow still manages to stand on its own. Hebe is very much the center of this play, however, much more so than Demeter, and that could be why it lands as successfully as it does. Demeter, though a fascinating figure, is a little much for a modern audience, I think, to wrap its brain around. We can sympathize with her, empathize, but unless one is insane I think it’s a far leap to identify with the insane. Hebe, though less fun than she was in the first play, emerges here as a mature, thoughtful heroine, and our window into a mysterious figure who was puzzling even to the Greeks.

Staged Readings:

No Nude Men Productions, October 5, 2016, part of the San Francisco Olympians Festival at The EXIT Theatre, San Francisco, California. Directed by Dale Albright; Art Direction by Cody Rishell; Stage Managed by Sara Barton. Cast: Terry Bamberger (Demeter), Allison Bergman (Hestia), Katrina Bushnell (Hebe), Colleen Egan (Chloris), Adam Magill (Triptolemus/Demophon), Fred Pitts (Dr. Plutus), Laurel Scotland Stewart (Stage Directions), Taylor Warren (Heracles), Alison Whismore (Hera)

Sweedish American Hall, December 20, 2016 at the Sweedish American Hall, San Francisco, California. Directed by Stuart Bousel; Art Direction by Cody Rishell. Cast: Molly Benson (Demeter), Stuart Bousel (Stage Directions), Rashad Brown (Dr. Plutus), Katrina Bushnell (Hebe), Colleen Egan (Chloris), Valerie Fachman (Hestia), Michelle Jasso (Hera), Kai Morrrison (Heracles), Nick Trengove (Triptolemus/Demophon)