Thursday, July 20, 2017

Upstate Perseus, a play in four scenes

Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini at Florence

Upstate Perseus is a play in four scenes, inspired by the ancient Greek myth of Perseus. A boy is raised by a single mother, grows to manhood and undertakes the dangerous mission of bringing down a possibly mythical beast. Along the way he rescues a beautiful girl named Andromeda from another kind of beast, accidentally kills his father, and returns home to kill, perhaps by accident, a tyrant who has been oppressing his mother.

The Perseus myth has been told and retold for perhaps three thousand years, and has been the subject of sculpture, paintings, drama and film. The popular 2010 movie Clash of The Titans (a remake of the 1981 film with the same title) draws on the same tales, as does the popular young adult series of Percy Jackson novels. Euripides and other Greek dramatists tackled the myth in various plays which have not survived.

In other words, it’s a good story worth telling and retelling. My version, written in the summer of 1977, was intended for a theater group that appeared only momentarily in a tent on Limekiln Lake in the Adirondacks, i.e. it was never performed in any serious way. On rereading the old manuscript, it seems worth making it available under a Creative Commons Sharealike license so that any interested groups could perform or draw upon it in any way they wish. There is no cost for downloading the PDF at

Andromeda by Domenico Guidi
 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC

This version of the ancient myth is set in upstate New York and along the Canadian border and features teenage characters who happen to bear those powerful names, Perseus and Andromeda. There’s an Athena who runs a diner and a Hermes who works as a delivery man. No one rides on Pegasus, though, and Medusa doesn't exactly turn anyone to stone. Otherwise the plot, through a series of remarkable coincidences, recreates the events of an ancient myth in a 1970s setting.

Here is the scene in which Perseus rescues Andromeda from a monster, in this case a human one:

Scene 3

The curtain rises on total darkness. The howling of a wolf can be heard, slowly blending into the the terrified scream of a young woman. The lights come back up on a forest road. A man, is dragging a fiercely resisting young woman off the road into the surrounding forest. Enter Perseus, who pulls Herman’s rifle out of its bag, and runs offstage after the woman and her assailant. The sound of fighting can be heard, a gunshot, and then silence. Perseus re-enters, leading the badly shaken young woman.

PERSEUS: This is the first time I ever tried to shoot somebody. I think I missed him.

ANDROMEDA: I hope you hit him. I hope he goes off somewhere and bleeds to death.

(She sits on a rock, glancing up at Perseus who stands leaning on the rifle.)

I don’t know how to thank you. You saved my life.

PERSEUS: Oh, that’s all right. I had to do what I could.

ANDROMEDA: You saved my life.

PERSEUS: Are you all right, miss? Do you need to go to a hospital?

ANDROMEDA: No, I’m all right. Just let me sit for a minute.

PERSEUS: Shouldn’t we call the police?

ANDROMEDA: No way! That bastard has more money than you or me. We go to the cops and we’d be the ones ending up in jail. (She extends her hand to Perseus.) Uh, I’m Andromeda, by the way.

PERSEUS: Andromeda? No kidding?

ANDROMEDA: I know it’s a weird name.

PERSEUS: No, that’s not it. My name is Perseus.

ANDROMEDA: Perseus? Wow! I guess your parents were really into myths too.

PERSEUS: Yeah, my mother was. But hey, you know the story of Perseus and Andromeda, right? How he came along and rescued her from a monster.

ANDROMEDA: Yeah, this is like the most amazing coincidence ever. I mean, that old man you shot really was a monster.

UPSTATE PERSEUS can be downloaded as a free PDF at the Wilderness Hill Books site.

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