An enlightened Medusa wants to see the world, a traditional tale with a twist.
Copyright Anne Murray
Cast of Characters
Medusa- (Medi) a young girl with visions of travel and long, black hair
Poseidon- an arrogant god with a fear of the feminist mind of Medusa
Athena- Poseidon’s wife (in this version)
Aesclepius- an ancient Greek doctor who is related to Medusa
Stheino- (her name means strength) Medusa’s immortal sister
Euryale- (her name means universal) Medusa’s immortal sister
The Graeae- three women who appear as hags, but are really young sisters to Medusa
Perseus-(Perce) a young man in search of glory
The Jellyfish- five male dancers and five female dancers
The Chorus- represents elements of Medusa’s conscious and unconscious mind
Female Choral Member 1
Female Choral Member 2
Male Choral Member 1
Male Choral Member 2
Scene 1- Ancient Greece
The scene is underwater. Light flickers in the background (like the way light looks when you are underwater and look up). The light has a blue haze to it. Lightning flashes and there is a distorted image of bolts of light across the background. Medusa is heartbroken, because Poseidon has called an end to their affair.
Medusa: Harsh has the land been to me! I am in love. I am in love with a man unattainable. He is for another and I must sway my mind to more serious endeavors.
Chorus: (Chanting) Medusa! Medusa! Let him go! (Sung with a deep voice ending on a low note) Let him go! (Sung with a shrill voice ending on a high, screeching note)
Medusa: The rhythm of the ocean compels me to throw myself into his world.
(Drums start to beat softly and increase as she finishes her line)
(A giant shadow of a man seems to approach, towering over Medusa and enveloping her for a moment. Medusa backs away, slowly, holding her forehead with reverence and fear).
Poseidon: (He is the shadow and his voice seems to echo as if falling from a great height) Why have you called me from my slumber?
Medusa: (Trembling and still turning her head away from him) You just don't care anymore!
Poseidon: You put me at great risk for feigned victimization. What difference does it make if I care or not? I can claim whatever I will.
Medusa: It does matter. My voice, my voice matters. I will tell her that you don't love her. I will tell her that I am your true love.
Poseidon: (Softening his tone, his shadow seems to shrink closer to her size.) Medusa, of course I love you, my child. There are other matters involved. A god cannot just leave his wife. There is a protocol, a procedure to follow. I must have grievances. There must be punishment for my actions as well. And you, my dear, you too will suffer for this disobedience of ours. Everyone must follow the order of society, even if they are the favorite of a god as mighty as I am.
Medusa: But, what does it matter? I will suffer anything to be with you again. I must be with you. There is only you in my life.
Poseidon: That is as it should be. A woman should stay with one man or god. I cannot change that rule.
Enter the jellyfish (ten dancers both male and female).
They silently move around Medusa as the lights dim and night falls. Medusa holds her arms tightly against her body as if chilled.
An image of the moon rises in the background and Medusa has left the stage in secret.
The drums beat like the waves and the Jellies move forward and back as if pulled by the tide.
At first, they move in unison and then the lights dim even more and they begin to sway, bumping into each other and causing a chain of jellies to move and swirl. As each jellyfish bumps into another, they flicker a green light until the lights are completely dark and they glow green for the remainder of the dance moving about in a frenzy.
Medusa begins to sing while offstage from some distance away and then louder as the jellies move faster and spiral. She sings of the ephemeral quality of love, like a firefly flickering in the night trying to attract a mate. She sings about how we can glow in the brilliance of the one we love and then die out just as quickly.
The dance movement changes in response to her words with the jellies illustrating her story. Some bind together as lovers with arms and legs flinging about as if swimming as one form and then separating in a strike. The light fades or disappears suddenly from their bodies as they separate after their individual duets and they each leave the stage as this happens.
The moon fades and a dim gray envelopes the stage. We see Poseidon pompously striding about with his Trident.
Athena: So it is Medusa who thinks that she can leave this island to show her beauty in far off lands. Let her be cursed to stay here where she was born. I do not want her to succeed. I have power over her and sovereignty.
Poseidon: She is but a child, Athena. Go easy on her. She will learn her place in time, when the moon is no longer full. Wait until the new moon, and try to forgive her ignorance of the place of each woman in our society. She will marry, and become compliant. Try to help her find a man to tame her will. Put your thoughts on marriage, and your efforts will be well placed.
Athena: (Turning her body and tilting her head as she clasps her hands together, raising them to the sky and then dropping them dramatically, almost violently to her side). Yes, of course. Oh, Poseidon you are brilliant. I knew there was a reason why I married you, in spite of your shameful philandering.
Poseidon: (Shrinking away as she says this, he rubs his face with one hand and then the other in alternating motion in a kind of dance of nervous insecurity. He steps to the foreground and the lights dim with Athena frozen in the background as if turned to stone. The spotlight is on him and he reveals his thoughts to the audience).
Yes, that will do, I think. I must find someone else for Medusa...someone to tame her wild thoughts of leaving the island. She mustn't see the outside world, for she is brighter than Athena. She is a new generation of female. I must keep her from thinking for herself. Yes, she must fall in love. This is by far the best way to control the fair sex for they lose their heads when they fall in love. She will forget about these ideas of equality and adventure. (The lights fade as he exits to his left).
A previous moment when Poseidon was first courting Medusa. Medusa appears on the stage and she recounts her memory of the scene. The lights come up and we see Poseidon as a man and not a shadow.
Medusa: There must have been a way to avoid this conflict for now I have nothing. It all started that day when I spoke to Poseidon. The day when I told him about the cult of Fe.
(Lights dim and Medusa slips into position quickly as the scene is brightened at mid-stage. We see Poseidon seated on a bed and Medusa stretched out next to him. Medusa begins to sit up as she speaks. They appear to have just finished having sex and the sweat is still on Poseidon's brow. Medusa is pulling the strap of her garment over her shoulder as she speaks. Her look is serious, annoyed even.)
Medusa: Why can't a woman leave the house, alone? Why can't I leave this island? For that matter, why am I female at all? (She leaves the bed as she speaks and stands facing the audience, speaking almost to her inner self). What makes me so different from you? I have dreams and thoughts and I want to travel. I want to see what you have seen.
Poseidon: (Sincerely) You can see what I have seen. Just look into my eyes. Ask me. Ask me anything and I will describe it to you.
Medusa: (Perplexed) How is it that you can say that? Your eyes are clouds to me. I cannot feel as you have felt when you saw the land beyond this island. I cannot imagine what I have not seen. I can only see life through the window of the past. The window becomes a mirror, only showing a reflection, perhaps distorted, but just the same as what I have seen before.
Poseidon: Exactly! It is not for women to see the difference between things, but the similarity. That is why men seek women out. You comfort us with familiarity. This is what keeps a man sane in a world that changes so constantly. Believe me, Medusa, you don't want to know what is out there. You should close yourself in. Perhaps it is fear that makes you wish to know what is beyond this island. Don't worry! I know and I will protect you. I will speak to Athena and we will find a new garment for you… something to make you feel more protected… something that will enclose you and cover your beauty so that you will feel at peace.
Medusa: No, no, no! (Speaking increasingly louder with each repetition). You don't understand. Perhaps it is you who is looking through a window at me. Don't you see?
I have nothing. I have no existence outside of this place. I have no purpose. For all the gods’ sake, I do not even have a name separate from that of man. I am FEEE- male. Why can't I have a name that is just to represent myself, as I am, not as a married or single woman or a woman with or without a child, just to mean me in this body? (Her gestures show her figure- hands at her sides outlining her own shape as she speaks).
(After thinking a moment and walking around in a circle).
I shall call myself FE (pronounced fay). I will challenge the way that I have been treated in the past, and I will take a voyage to the other islands. I will learn what is different, and what is the same. I will learn to think and analyze. I will develop my own philosophy, and discuss it with those who are willing and those who are not will have to suffer in their miserable windowsill.
Poseidon: (In shock, as though she has committed blasphemy).
Medi, Medi, my darling, you mustn't let things get to you so. Stress will cause illness and remember you are only a mortal. What you are saying is senseless and you will see the foolishness of it in time. I have tired you out too much this time. I will not come again, until the moon is full. A woman needs her rest, and I have been neglecting that...
Lights go dim.
Lights come up and we see five columns of varying heights and widths. On four of the columns, a member of the chorus rests: a man is reclining on a large segment of a column about a foot and a half in height, a woman is crouched on a taller column looking down as if into a pool of water, another woman is standing with her head turned to her right, as if talking aside to the fourth choral member. The fourth member is a man standing as an orator with an imaginary book in his hands. This last choral member is on the tallest and narrowest column. The fifth column is about six feet tall and is unoccupied.
Medusa: Foolish! (Emphatically) What is it that makes people use that word? It is so infuriating. Why couldn't he have said, rash or, or, or I don't know, just something else, anything else? I am not a fool because I think for myself, because I want to experience things with my own eyes and ears and body.
Female choral member1: (Standing and turning her head to the man behind her)
Yes, that is what they are afraid of, that you will follow the whims of your body.
Male choral member 1: (Looking straight ahead over a book)
…with your body. Just like all the others. Do you really want to be like all the others? You can be an individual, just get married and then you can be different just like every other young wife. The other girls will envy your uniqueness.
Female choral member 2: (Crouching and looking down at Medusa) What is it you love Medusa? Remember that love serves over all else.
Medusa: What is it I love? Better to say who is it? You know the answer. Why, Poseidon of course. He is like a father to me and a brother and a lover. He is all things. He is a god.
Male choral member 2: You must forget him, Medusa.
Female Choral Member1: (Singing) Medusa let him go.
Male Choral Member 2: (Singing) Medusa let him goooo!
Female Choral Member 2: (Singing) Medusa, you must let him go! (Ending on a low note)
Male Choral Member2: (Singing) Let him goooo!
Lights dim and come up again.
Medusa has fallen to the ground. She hears thunder and runs towards the empty column as though she can climb it. She fumbles trying to hold her long gown in her hand and claw at the column. She gives up and letting go of her dress she clings to the column as though she is a small child holding onto her mother's leg.
Lights go off rapidly.
Medusa's bedroom. Medusa is sitting on the edge of her bed wearing a garment of black linen. She is covered from head to toe by the fabric and there is a small area where the fabric is sheerer so that she can see through it. Behind her is her servant standing fixed, frozen by the gaze of Medusa.
The Doctor Aesclepius enters. He is confused. He has never been here before and the door to the bedroom was left open. He looks over and sees the servant and then the shrouded Medusa who has not realized that he has entered. She begins to sob and he takes her hand, feeling her pulse. As her sobs increase, he sits beside her on the bed. Finally, she stops and he sits up as though nothing has happened and asks her some formal questions.
Aesclepius: I was summoned here by your sisters. What has happened? Why is your servant ... (completes his thought with a gesture towards the girl frozen in time) why are you dressed like this?
Medusa: I am in love, Aesclepius, and there seems to be no solution for me. My wounds have grown and move of their own free will. Where my hair once twisted down my back in serpentine form there are hideous creatures. I am like the serpent. Cold. I can feel no warmth unless held by another. My form reflects my malady.
Aesclepius: Come, there is not a sickness that I have not seen. This must be of something familiar, yet has changed because of a certain fatigue or perhaps you are with child.
Medusa: (Her head moves up and back in an emphatic Greek gesture that says No! This is evident even through her shrouded garment.)
Aesclepius: I must have a look at you. Perhaps the healing springs at the Aesclepian will help. We will take you there and you will see that love is not the end of everything.
Medusa: (Refusing to remove her garment, she makes a gesture as though she is protecting herself. Holding her garment more closely she speaks.) I was given this cloth by Poseidon. His love has woven it and it was meant to protect me. I have found that it is not I that needs protection, but those around me.
Aesclepius: But, Medusa, I have known you since your birth. You have never needed protection from anything. You were always strong and filled with passion. Your wisdom surpassed your years. (Standing up from the bed) In fact, I always thought you were someone who would make a difference. Some great change for everyone. Come and remove your garment and let me see this malady that comes from great love.
Medusa: (Bending her head as if to think and then speaking) You do not fear my ideas and you do not fear death, for if you did you would not tend the sick. You wish to learn about something new, a new kind of illness, a new way of seeing?
Aesclepius: Yes, Medusa. I have always enjoyed our dialogue. Remember our discussion about the new title for a Female. FEEEEEEEEEE! It is brilliant. I have been waiting for your permission to share it with the medical world. Come now, let me help you.
Medusa: Bring then, a gazing glass filled with water and I will remove these shrouds of love. But, when you return, look only into the water and never directly at my countenance, for I am not sure if this malady be contagious to all or just those who stand fixed in their point of view, unable to move forward- to grow.
Aesclepius: (Takes her hand and bending, touches it to his forehead and turns to leave) I shall return as you have directed. It seems a strange instruction, but I have never had reason to question your judgment and would never question it in a time of need.
Medusa: (Her hand stretches out towards the door by which he has exited. She sits for a moment as if frozen by her own ideas. Then, she pulls the garment from her face and drops it with distaste on the bed).
Is this your doing, Poseidon, or have the gods found out about us? Why do you not appear to me?
(Lights dim and she is speaking softly going over things in her mind.)
What is the point anyway? Why do we even try to find love when it is inevitable that falling in love only increases our feeling of loneliness- of separation?
Enter Medusa's sisters. Lights flicker and go on very bright.
Euryale: (Speaking aside to Stheino as she enters) She seemed better when she first wore the veil, but I am afraid that it just isn't in her to wear it. It just reminds her of him and, well, I guess it keeps the rest of the world safe.
Stheino: (as she nears the bed) Has she eaten anything at all?
Medusa: I am right here. You can ask me yourself. I know I said that I wasn't being heard, but, you, my lovely sisters, have always listened. Thank the gods for you. (clasping her sisters' hands as she says this)
Euryale: Don't lose yourself in this love affair. We all fall, but we can choose how far and when to stop. (giggling slightly in spite of herself)
Stheino: Leave her be. It must run its course. Like the letting of blood, she will draw out this weakness on her own… in a natural way.
Euryale: Natural? It has always seemed to me that love is a most unnatural thing.
(After a short pause with a hand to her chin in thought and then dropping it down to her side)
Has the doctor come, yet?
That Aesclepius is a handsome man. I remember his childhood. Do you remember, Medi?
Well of course you don't. I always forget that you are mortal. Strange how that worked out. Well, he was born from your blood. That is why you are such good friends. You are blood brothers. (quizzically) Well blood something’s, anyway, that is why he understands you as we do. But of course it is different, because in some way he is more like you than we are, for he is also mortal.
Medusa: Eury, you never mentioned this before. I needn't wear the veil when he is here for he is a part of me. Does he know?
Stheino: There is a part of him that does, but it is like seeing a ship in a distant fog. Things are unclear to him, but he knows that something is there.
(hearing footsteps) Shhh! That must be him. Do not mention what we have disclosed, for he may not be ready to hear it.
Aesclepius: Medi, I have done as you have instructed. I am gazing into this bowl and will not turn unless...
(He touches his face in dismay- Medusa has risen from her bed and now faces him)
Medusa: (Stretching her hand to his face and clasping his hand to touch it to her own face, she speaks.)
Let your fears be drowned in the blood that we share. I cannot harm you. I am content to know this and to have you look upon me as I truly am.
Aesclepius: (dropping the bowl without hesitation, embraces her as her brother)
I heard something as I entered. I hesitated at the door and in lingering a moment, I thought I heard... Well you have shown me the truth of it and I am grateful. Tell me now what you would not before.
Medusa: My pain has caused these serpents to burst forth from these locks, and, thus, they bite where my mind and heart do battle.
Where I had beauty, love has made me conscious of myself in the eyes of others. Those who would look upon me, see their own fears reflected and become frozen, unable to grow further into time.
Aesclepius: So it is the tunnel of their minds that captures them in time. (Shaking his head at his own rhyme)
Euryale: They cannot see Medusa as herself, because they would have to form a new vision, a new perspective, a new window into time.
Stheino: Those who would look and fear not, would see her as a kind of woman yet unnamed, but with the knowledge of her, they would contemplate a new world beyond this island.
Aesclepius: (scratching his head and walking about) I believe I have the solution to this dilemma.
(Euryale and Stheino look at him and Medusa turns away.)
Medusa: Is it a dilemma? Is that how you see it? or me?
Aesclepius: No my dear, Medi, it is for lack of poetry that I do describe it so.
Medusa: So then, what were you going to share with us?
Aesclepius: It is time for you to travel. You must leave this island and find those who would see you as you are.
Medusa: And the rest?
Aescelpius: They are frozen in time with or without you. It is only your perspective that helps you to see them as they really are ... unwilling to accept change.
Medusa: Then, I will go and see what there is beyond these shores.
Stheino: Remember, there are those who wish to keep you here. We must find some form of disguise.
Euryale: (fidgeting with some threads of the bed sheets) Yes, we will find a disguise!
Aesclepius: Farewell. Do not forget me when you choose to travel. I would like to see you off.
Medusa: Yes, Aesclepius, you are my true friend and I could not leave without saying goodbye. It will take some time before I travel.
Aesclepius: Goodbye, Medi of the cult of Fe.
(Stheino and Euryale both walk towards Medusa and hug her.)
Medusa: I am feeling better, like a pillar that has fallen and then is pushed right again.
(Lights go dim)
End of Act 1
Three figures dressed in black are seated around a fire. These figures represent the Gräeae
(Medusa's sisters who live on another island). In the background, a video projection of a moving eye with visible arteries. One sister sits on a rock, another kneels and the other seems to almost melt into the floor. They are passing something around and we see one eye close and another open. They share an eye and a tooth and are completely vulnerable without them.
Enter Perseus. (He is dressed as a valiant warrior. He has come to find Medusa and will not rest until he has her head.)
Perseus: Is thy sister here?
Graeae 1: I cannot see. Pass me the eye and I will reply. (stretches out a hand)
Yes, now I can see, I see a sister, one, two, and me makes three.
Graeae 2: I can't see. Where is he? Are we really sisters three?
Pass me the tooth so I might bite the hand by which I have often fed, and then I know my sister's head.
(takes the tooth and bites the sister closest to her)
Graeae 3: OOOOOOWWWWW! Yes, it's me, sister 3.
Pass me the eye and the tooth to me. I want to know and see.
(The two sisters hold out the eye and the tooth and Perseus jumps in at once, clasping with both hands and there is a tumble of black fabric and elderly legs)
Perseus: I believe I have seen what a man should not see unless over forty (covering his mouth at the shock of catching their habit of speaking in rhyme).
Enough! I will not be caught in your pattern of rhyme. I am searching for your other sibling with the raven hair, that trickster, Medusa.
Graeae 2: Meduuusa? I don't see her.
Graeae 1: Nor I.
Graeae 3: Nor I. But, I might have seen a fly.
Graeae 1: I might help if I knew the reason why.
Perseus: I have been sent to protect her.
Graeae 1: Medusa is the wisest of us all. Why would she need your protection?
Perseus: They say she has grown weak and afraid and wears a garment of black to cover her face.
Graeae 2: (in sympathy) I never imagined it would come to this. Her love for Poseidon must have taken its toll. We have not heard news of her in many moons. Hers is a land of darkness, so time passes very slowly.
Gaeae 3: But, you have called her the trickster so why should we trust you? I don't think that you are here for her protection.
Perseus: Trickster was but a nickname given to her by Aesclepius, long ago.
Graeae 3: You know Aesclepius? Tell me something that only he would know.
Perseus: Never you mind. I will find that which I have traveled for. I will knock at your maiden sisters’ door.
(The sisters reach out for one another in unison and try to form a circle around him)
The Graeae speaking together:
We will not set you free,
nor will we give up our sister to thee.
If you must to the maidens’ door
then go, and leave the eye and tooth,
for they are of no use
Perseus: You are both old and young at the same moment,
as if time would play tricks with thee.
Here is your eye and your tooth, which I cast before thee.
You must search for sight,
as I have searched for insight.
Find defenses in the weak point of a tooth.
Fear me not,
for I have not come for the young,
or the old who hobble in the caves,
or even for women as foolish as you.
(Perseus exits without realizing that they have marked his back with a Medusa head- a sign that he will be conquered by their sister.)
(Medusa is in the foreground. She is in great despair. The background is dark, but we can see columns through the darkness.)
Medusa: I am lost. I must see him again. I will go to Athena's temple and I will call for him. He will come, for he dare not risk what I might say.
(Lights dim and come up again. We see that the columns are part of the temple of Athena. It is the top of a mountain and the city can be seen in the distance.)
Medusa: Come to me, Poseidon! I must see you. I must speak my mind, before I leave this island. (she holds the black fabric in her hand and then covers herself with it.)
(There is a great noise as if it is thunder, and then, the sound of rain.)
Poseidon: Leave? Where are you going? What is it that calls you to this place my child? Dear Medi. You know that you must find a husband. I will not speak to you here. So… you are wearing the cloak I gave you. Do you feel better, now? Perhaps... well, perhaps you have changed. You are so beautiful. It is true. I am glad that I gave you this garment.
Medusa: I have chosen to wear it in order to protect the world. I am going to travel.
Poseidon: Medi, you mustn't. Oh, I miss your beautiful hair and your soft skin.
Medusa: (Stepping back as he reaches for her.) I am different now. I am changed.
Poseidon: (Becoming seduced by her evasiveness.) I must look upon you once more. I must touch you and look into your eyes.
Medusa: (shrieking as he says this) No, my love. You can never look upon me, again. You cannot see my face or hold my body to yours. You have forsaken these things for my eventual marriage. You have traded truth for tradition.
(The lights grow dimmer, as though the moon has disappeared.)
Poseidon appears to her as a shadow of a bird of prey. His wings spread and create a mantle around her as an eagle keeping others from his kill.
Poseidon pushes her to the ground and knocks over a column with her back. He rapes her without even looking into her eyes. Her garment pulls away and he does not even see that her hair has turned to snakes. He exits as quickly as he has taken her body.
Medusa gasps and the lights go out.
Medusa has fallen in the temple of Athena. Day has come and daylight has touched her skin for the first time.
Athena awakens the girl.
Athena: What has happened, Medusa? Why are you here in my temple? Did you finally come to ask for my help to find a husband? Have you slept here, thus?
Medusa: I had come to tell you that Poseidon... Poseidon...
Athena: (Looking directly into her eyes, she understands the truth and her posture changes. She is at once protective and inspired by Medusa's strength.)
I had feared that it was true. That he may have seduced you into love. Why, then, has he done this? What caused him to become so angry?
Medusa: I said I would leave the island. I told him I was leaving to see the world.
Athena: He has chosen to punish you in this way. I had hated you so for your beauty, and your boasting of travel, and how I see you, as yourself. You are an unnamed creature, made of strength and pain, and love.
I had wanted you to suffer and hoped that love would cause you woe. I felt jealous of your ideas and your willfulness. Forgive me, Medi, for you are but a part of me, long forgotten, in my youth. I was once free from tradition, and stood strong, ready to battle for my beliefs. Now, I have given in and have made some kind of partnership with the expectations of society.
Medusa: I cannot tell you why I chose to meet him here. At first, I thought it was to reveal the love I had for him. Now, I think that it was, also, to expose his ways to you.
I wished to find a kinship with a long, lost friend. I, too, feel that you are somehow a part of me. What now then?
Athena: (Bringing her hands to her face in regret). I have done you wrong, Medusa. I have aided your enemy and even now, he searches for you day and night. He has my Aegis, the shield of my birth, and he will use it to conquer you.
Medusa: What can I do to save myself?
Athena: There is a way. You must transform yourself.
The scene is much like a Turkish bath. There are marble tables low to the ground and sinks on the walls. There is a small pool in the center of the stage. Medusa is seated on one of the tables with a cloth wrapped loosely around her. She has come to the Aesclepian to be transformed.
Medusa: Sometimes it seems as though all this has been a dream. In fact, I am feeling very tired in this heat. I will just lie down for a moment and then go into the bath.
(A soft rhythm of drums starts like a heartbeat. The sound seems to soothe her into sleep. A figure dances onto the stage, dressed as a snake with fabric extending in a kite tail fashion. It dances towards her and touches her with a staff. Medusa rises as if awake, but her stare is vacant and she is still asleep. She looks at the snake as if it is speaking through the dance and the movement of the staff. She stares transfixed by its message. She gets up and begins to dance with the staff, mirroring his movements. Lights fade and then come up slowly and we see her asleep in her bed with a staff that has two snakes coiling around it. It is a caduceus).
Medusa: (Awakening) What is this staff with which I bed myself? I have slept with it as if it were my lover. I dreamt last night. I dreamt of Hermes. Was it Hermes? Or was it the great snake, which encircles the world? There is meaning in this dream. I must speak to Aesclepius before the tears of sleep have left my eyes. (She covers herself with fabric as she exits)
Medusa rests on a divan and Aesclepius is seated at the edge of it.
Medusa: ...and that was when I awoke. It is odd that my hair was not filled with snakes in my dream and yet, …there was a snake. He was trying to teach me something. It was a kind of dance. I can almost remember it. Perhaps, I should try to act it out.
(she rises and starts to move with slow deliberate gestures)
Aesclepius: (He has not spoken, but seems to mouth words as he watches her. Then, he looks around as if he hears something. The drums have started to beat. Medusa is moving to them naturally, as if they are her very heartbeat. She moves as though she holds the staff. He calls out.)
(He runs towards her and grasps her in his arms.) You have intoxicated me! (kisses her without thinking)
(Lights go out quickly as we see him push her towards the divan.)
(Lights come up, softly, and we see that Aesclepius holds her close to him as a protective father, brother, lover all at once. He speaks.)
Aesclepius: You must tell me what has happened to you since I saw you last. What has made you fear the touch of man? ( Medusa turns her head away) I must know. I am still your one true Aesclepius. I am yours. We are both snakes, which coil together around the staff of Hermes. You must tell me.
Medusa: (Understanding her dream) Time is like the coiling serpent. We spiral around our past and we fear the moments when the staff is removed and we may see the other side. The staff is essential to our sanity.
Aesclepius: I am afraid now. Medi, have I lost you to the other side? What is it that can hold you here with me? Or must I let you go? Tell me what happened. By the gods, tell me.
Medusa: You will find my story woven into Arachne's tapestry. Her pride will be her downfall as all women are punished for any sense of self-esteem. She will lose a contest with Athena, my new found friend. The goddess will misunderstand Arachne’s purpose and trap her in the web of time. Athena will think she is protecting my memory, when she sees my story in the cloth. But, she will have forgotten the essence of my struggle. The staff will be in place again, and she will be unable to see the connection in time from the present to the past.
I have danced with the staff and have seen all these things. I have seen Arachne's message as a thread tying all memory. A thread can not have fault, but can trap us in a moment if we so choose to be enthralled in the mysteries of prediction. I see her message now. I see it.
Aesclepius: What is it, then? What is it, which turns the staff around? What will bring you back to me?
Medusa: I must speak to Euryale. She alone has universal truth. She alone, knows the secret of the staff.
Aesclepius: Euryale? But, she has never spoken of things that we could not see, already. Her words seem to pass through, clear and simple. There is no poetry in her thoughts.
Medusa: Exactly, she may see what others do not. She may see the time when the serpent encircles the universe without the staff of knowledge. She sees the links without a guide. Euryale does not need a teacher.
Aesclepius: I begin to see your reason, but first we must concentrate on your cure. I will send for Euryale and she will come in time.
Medusa: In time… Yes, I grow tired of it. Take me to the bath so that I may meet my kindred women and purify my heart.
Medusa, Euryale, and Stheino are seated on a long marble bench washing themselves by pouring water from a small dish which they repeatedly fill from a tap. Stheino begins to untangle the snakes on Medusa’s head and Euryale washes her feet tenderly.
Medusa: What do you think of Aesclepius, Eury?
Stheino begins to speak as Euryale opens her mouth.
Stheino: You can’t find comfort in him. You must always find someone different than yourself.
Medusa: I thought I was speaking to Eury! What do you think Eury?! Is it a sin to love him?
Euryale, head tilted slightly twisting a lock of hair and placing the edge of it in her mouth playfully speaks.
Euryale: Well, some might see it as a kind of self-love rather than the other thing. I imagine that this is what you need- to love yourself enough to change the hearts of others. He is of your own creation, but not your child. Your legacy will be a winged horse born into the sea of his father. I think that after a bit of time, Aesclepius will be a part of you as he once was and then time will turn around and in upon itself.
Medusa: I am not sure that I understand, Eury. You are more and more vague to me. Anyway, I must travel, but how and in what form may I disguise myself? Anywhere I go, I will have to cross the sea and that will be difficult with Poseidon’s eyes upon me.
Stheino: I know a form which no one will suspect. You may turn yourself into a being soft and transparent, but strong. You will have light by which to direct your travels and a weapon with which to sting anyone who dares to follow you. You may drift with the current when you are tired and move with each breath wherever you wish. This being will be called Medusa after you in years to come. Metamorphosis Medi, this is the change you must undertake. Follow me!
Medusa: (lingering a bit while the others run off the stage in excitement).
I can’t imagine what this form may be. What could she mean by being transparent and yet having light to direct my way? If only I could imagine it. I really need to travel. I need to view other worlds, to meet others who feel as I do…
(Medusa wanders off the stage and seems in a world of her own)
Four choral members on columns.
Female Choral Member 1: Medusa, you must think carefully about your voyage.
Male Choral Member 1: You must consider the young Perseus who still pursues you.
Female Choral Member 2: You must not let others know that you will travel without an escort.
Male Choral Member 2: Yes, there is only one way that you can be certain that you will not be followed.
All Choral Members speak at once:
You must consider your future as parallel with the present- imagine that you must become immortal. You must make a great sacrifice in order to change the plight of women. We will offer you this solution in recompense for your kind deeds. Medusa, follow the river until you reach its source and wait there for Perseus. It is there that he will try to destroy you and there that he will cast your head into the river which travels to the sea. Imagine that you are light itself congealed in the glistening vision of water transformed into a being which moves in stealth and burns the mischievous with its crimson thread.
Medusa: I do not understand your instructions. Must I die in order to save the rights of others?
I do not believe that this is the only choice. I think that there is another way.
All Choral Members:
No, Medusa, you must only appear to die and be reborn into another form like Daphne.
Medusa: I do not remember her, but somehow I imagine a great tree. I think that I understand.
Female Choral Member 1: Imagine that you can change into a being that can travel in stealth and yet is also harmless to those who would not threaten it. Let Perseus see your face as this being and he will believe that he can separate your thoughts from your will. Let him take this creature and caste it into the river. Its form will travel to the sea and you will once again appear as young and beautiful. Your being will be whole and your pain will travel and search for those who would threaten you in distant lands. You must have faith.
Medusa: How can I have faith when I haven’t any notion of what you mean for me to do?
Female Choral Member 2: Medi, take this potion and drink and you will find another form in which to place all of your spirit. You will wear this garment that Poseidon has given to you, but you will need Stheino to carry you -in this new form- upon her back. She is strong and will protect you if Perseus tries to harm you in any way. It must appear as though he has severed your head from its core and that you will no longer preach these ideas of future wisdom. But, at a later time and place, it will be revealed that you are still alive and that through this ruse, a metamorphosis did trick the sly Perseus and did defy the enemy of FE.
Medusa: I have trusted you as my counselors within this mind, within this philosophy and I must follow that which my prescience does provide.
I will go now to Euryale and ask her for the means with which to explain this to my dear Stheino, for it is not likely that she will give accord to put me in harm’s way.
All Choral Members:
Let her go to the wind and the rain and spread her knowledge through the sea- a fluttering butterfly of the deep.
Lights go dim.
Medusa and Stheino are covered by the burqa and abaya. They are walking next to a stream which is shown through a projection on a scrim. They are arguing as they walk together. The movement is achieved through bunraku puppetry.
Stheino: I don’t know how you and Euryale convinced me to do this! This will never work even if you are transformed, Perseus may even end up cutting off my head instead.
Medusa: That is why we made the mask. He will see it as we lie down as if in slumber. His view will be through Athena’s shield and she has promised me that it was not polished when he left her so many weeks ago. He will be filled with fear and will hasten to do the deed and carry me away. My form will allow me to extend myself through the smallest gap in his satchel and I will drop into the river and float down to the sea. Neither Perseus, nor Poseidon will ever know the difference until, perhaps, it is too late to find me in a foreign land. For one god can not undo the work of another.
Stheino: Yes, it was kind of Athena to help you, but I don’t see why she couldn’t just call the whole thing off and send Perseus home with some sort of replica or something.
Medusa: It will all make sense in time. Just have faith in my ideas and let the story unfold. Perseus may one day become an ally.
Stheino: (over the sound of the stream) I think I hear someone approaching. We must find a place to sleep.
Medusa: Be careful how you place me so that the mask is visible in the Aegis and lift me up away from your head so that thy precious locks will not be severed from thy crown.
Stheino: I will stand by you, my dear sister, in this and in all things.
Stheino takes her place near a tree and carefully increases the space between her and the mask.
(Perseus enters with his sword raised, searching and then poking at the ground. He acts as if he hears something and then realizes his own sense of jittery nerves and relaxes while mumbling to himself.)
Perseus: I must trust the goddess, Athena. Her word is sacred and her messenger, the owl, is wise. I will find her here. The goddess of the snakes, is that how she named herself or what the others call her, I wonder? Athena said not to look upon her as I might be stifled in my disbelief and unable to take further action for this just cause.
I wonder what it was that this dark-haired creature has done which would anger a goddess so often lenient in her punishment. I heard there was something that took place at the temple, but no one has given me the details. I don’t really enjoy punishing someone without the facts, but I guess it is not my right to ask as this quarrel is between others far superior to me.
(Medusa and Stheino begin mumbling as if talking in their sleep and Perseus turns to see the dark heap on the ground. He jumps back and holds the shield in front of him waving the sword clumsily and then dropping his satchel.)
Medusa: (Speaking softly as if in a dream)
Have you come for me, at last? I can not see you for my face would mock your words and keep thee still within your narrow vision. Come bring peace to me that I might serve Athena in my death and give her aid in conquests yet to come. My visage a symbol of eternal strength of women who would move about in independent thought. (Her voice fades off)
Perseus: Even in sleep she knows her fate and does resign herself to it. I admire her qualities and will allow her spirit to return to earth as the snakes which I do now see moving in the reflections of this Aegis. Twilight doth approach and I have a ways to travel in this night. Be still, oh gently sleeping nymph, it does appear that your form does appeal to the likes of many even in this darkness and I can see why Poseidon would have risked the love of the goddess for thee.
(He raises his sword and holding the head in place seemingly cuts it from the body. This is achieved with bunraku puppetry.)
Medusa: (singing her song of lost love)
Stheino raises her arms from beneath the burqa and grabs Perseus. They struggle as he tries to hold the jellyfish and it moves into the stream floating off stage in the current towards the sea. Stheino captures Perseus and brings him to the edge of the water to regard his failed deed.
Stheino: Now, you see that women are not so foolhardy as to succumb to fate. What you see there is Medusa, alive and well and in her entirety. She will travel and see things that others did not dare. Look upon your arm and see the mark of her defense. The judgment doth burn to remind you of your foolishness.
Perseus: I do see her as a phantom glow which alerts her movement with the current. But, how can this be? She has metamorphosed, for I did see her face in the aegis of Athena.
Stheino: (still holding his arms) Look beside the brook. There is the face that you did fear. You must take it to the goddess Athena and she will fasten it to her shield as a sign of respect to a kindred spirit. (releasing him and pushing him towards the mask)
Go now and tell the goddess exactly how things have passed and know that history has changed on this twi-night when magic doth prevail and fate has a moment of repose.
Perseus: I thank you for my freedom and will do as you bid me, but where shall I find the goddess at this witching hour?
Stheino: Go to her temple and you will find a bird with eyes that glow as the moon on a summer’s night. Carry the mask and tell the story to the bird then turn round in faith and wait for the goddess to speak. She will direct you with her voice and you will know what fate has in store for you.
Perseus: (confused) I feel as if someone has removed my clothes and asked me to walk about the wood. You have taken my sword and kept me from my intended mission. How will I proceed from here and how will I save face?
Stheino: That’s it, the face will save you. (laughing) The world is changing and you need not think too much for Medusa will not banish you, but only encourage you to think and listen more to nature’s song and to the wisdom of the snake and the owl.
Perseus: Your words are odd and yet I feel their purpose is just. (flirting with her) Farewell and may we meet again in better circumstances.
Stheino: (she slaps him in the face) Perseus leaves, mumbling to himself and rubbing his cheek.
Athena: Speak young Perseus. Tell me exactly how it happened.
Perseus: I am not exactly clear, but it would seem that Medusa is a kind of transparent being which travels with the current as it flows. I saw a faint viridian glow as she passed me in the darkness and then it seemed to fade and flicker with the water’s movement.
Athena: And how was it that she did escape your fine sword, Perseus?
Perseus: Her sister held her form close upon her head and then lay as if asleep beneath a tree. When I approached, I saw her face within the shield and struck hard to sever flesh from body and did hold the head within my hands and yet somehow she morphed into a being with soft flesh almost invisible and yet her touch made my flesh burn and I did drop her into the brook and by now she floats upon the sea. I am sorry for this failure of efforts and hope to please thee.
Athena: (smiling to herself)
Well, it seems as though you have done the right thing and now must find a way to meet your own true love. I can not help you there, but bid you go in haste and let your fate evolve again in the light of this new event.
Perseus: (gestures towards her direction and is surprised to see the owl in her stead.)
Aesclepius enters with Stheino and Euryale.
Aesclepius: I am fearful that she will not make it past Poseidon’s lair. Why did she not come to me before she left?
Stheino: It did not seem wise at the time, for she feared that you would try to persuade her to wait.
Aesclepius: Still, it did not seem like a wise choice from what you have recounted. There were many risks for her.
Euryale: She wanted to say goodbye, but felt that if she saw you, she would not be able to tear herself from your arms. You must have known in some way that she had changed, for you are a part of her.
Aesclepius: (taking Euryale aside) I dreamt last night that Medi was with child.
Euryale: (a bit surprised at his foresight) Yes, it is the case. There are three souls that travel together, a colony of lives whispering through the sea.
Aesclepius: (counting quizzically with his thumb and forefinger) Two sons?
Euryale: Well, not exactly. They have two fathers.
Aesclepius: (wringing his hands) One from this wretched union forced upon her, and the other…?
Euryale: Don’t worry! You still have her love.
Aesclepius: Mine? Ours I mean, but we did not risk…
Euryale: Sometimes, a love can be more powerful than nature, and then souls will intermingle and divide.
Aesclepius: I would like to have traveled with her to keep them safe. Will the children survive the voyage?
Euryale: Her heart is strong, but one will be born as a kind of beast…
Aesclepius: (interrupting her) We will love him just the same.
Euryale: …Poseidon came to her in the form of a bird of prey. His offspring will be a winged steed of great strength to carry him through the sky.
Aesclepius: …and my son?
Euryale: He will be handsome and strong born from your ethereal seed.
Aesclepius: What must we do now?
Euryale: We have only to wait until the current pulls us and we hear the music.
Euryale and Aesclepius exit.
Stheino is left to herself. She sits and seems to fall asleep against a column. Lights go down and up. We hear rhythmic music and Stheino awakens as Medusa enters.
Stheino: Is this a dream? Have you returned already?
Medusa’s figure swirls in a dervish Sema. She rotates around Stheino as a planet orbiting her. She seems to want Stheino to move with her.
Stheino: You seem to want me to turn with you as the limbs of an octopus. Is this truth?
Stheino begins to spin with Medusa and they rotate until the stage becomes dark and the music fades.
Euryale’s voice is heard and she says:
Truth is an octopus with gossamer wings
floating in utter gracefulness
Spiralling once and back again
In her subterranean realm
Diaphanous tendrils made transparent
By the light of the gods
The scene is a modern apartment. Medusa is sitting on a couch straightening her stockings. We see the tattooed markings of a snake on her leg.
Medusa: I thought that you were ok with the idea of me traveling to Japan, Perce?
Perseus (Perce): Well, it is just that I thought we might travel together. I just didn’t think that you would go by yourself.
Medusa: I can’t believe that you are saying this now. All that work and now I feel like you don’t even care about the writing grant. I have always wanted this, you know that, Perce.
Perseus: I know, I know. I guess it is my pride hurting a bit. I wanted us both to get it. You deserve it more though. You have worked hard.
Medusa: I know! Times are changing. Don’t worry, though, I still love you even if you are old-fashioned. Just loosen up that backbone and flow with it. I have to go my own way. That is all there is to it.
Perseus: I feel like you are some kind of sea creature, just floating away from me.
Medusa: I know the dream where my head turns into a jellyfish. It is a strange one. I guess I am kind of flowing in a different direction, but it will all be worth it when I finish that play. You’ll see. Just wait for it. Have some faith.
Perseus looks up and smiles.
Lights go dark and the curtain closes.
Anne Murray creates video installations, social projects, and interactive participatory collections. Most recently, she is known for her project, What are you howling about?, which is a collection of people’s fears recorded in Algeria and combined with video to bridge connections between the United States, Europe, and North Africa through the investigation of emotions we all share and which often become the root of prejudice. Through her video work, she presents our fears as a common thread in humanity rather than a means to divide us.