Hera, often referred to as “Ox-Eyed”, called Juno by the Romans, was the Queen of the Olympians and the reigning wife of Zeus, though not his first, in addition to being his sister. They had five children together, including two other Olympians, Ares and Hephaestus. Though she was the goddess of marriage and motherhood, she and Zeus had a tumultuous marriage due to his frequent infidelities and she often punished the women who became the object of his affection, especially if they were mortal. Despite this she could also be a very benevolent goddess, assisting the hero Jason on his quest for the Golden Fleece, for instance, and giving her daughter Hebe in marriage to Heracles upon his ascent to Olympus. Her symbol was the eye, her sacred animal the peacock, and her name was invoked at every wedding ceremony to seal the union of husband and wife.
When creating his play Juno en Victoria, playwright Stuart Bousel set out to focus a more sympathetic light on the ruler of Olympus, feeling that enough stage time had been given to Hera as the jealous shrew. In reconsidering the character he soon discovered that her central importance to the domesticity of Olympus touched everyone else connected with the divine household and so the play has emerged as a sort of “Upstairs/Downstairs” glance into the secret lives of an English country estate in the high Victorian era, with Hera and Hestia as a pair of wealthy sisters semi-retired to pastoral bliss and boredom. Since family is one of Hera’s primary spheres, the marriage of Hebe and Heracles is at the center of the story- their youth and enthusiasm for the upcoming wedding constrasting with Hera and Hestia’s more world-weary perspective. The presence of Ganymede, traditionally the attendant of Zeus, and Iris, traditionally Hera’s handmaiden, provides a further contrasting element of lower classes living much like family in the house, sharing in its ups and downs while still being expected to “know their place” as servants. The absence of Zeus as a physical presence, though frequently referenced, ironically allowed for a deeper exploration of Hera’s marriage as it liberated the author to only concern himself with the heroine’s side of things. In the ultimate stroke of role reversal, he decided to have Hera be defined by her graciousness, rather than her possessiveness, as he tried to imagine what it would be like to be a kept woman belonging to such a powerful, influential and yet rarely present- or loyal- man. The end result is something in the vein of T.S. Eliot but with an undercurrent of social discontent reminiscent of Ibsen.
HERA by Stuart Bousel
staged reading July 30, 2010
Directed by Claire Rice
Michelle Jasso (Hera)
Celeste Van Etten (Hestia)
Megan Briggs (Iris)
Katrina Bushnell (Hebe)
Joe Miller (Ganymede)
Bryce Duzan (Heracles)
Julia Heitner (Stage Directions)
Stuart Bousel graduated from Reed College with a degree in English/Creative Writing. He has served as the artistic director of three theater companies: Quicksilver Productions (1997-2000) and Horror Unspeakable Productions (2000-2002) in Tucson, and No Nude Men Productions in San Francisco (2003-2010). He has directed a number of classic plays, including Lysistrata, Orestia, Faust Part One, Salome, Edward II, Le Cid, Love’s Labors Lost, Hamlet, Phaedra, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Frogs, as well as the Arizona premiere of Derek Walcott’s Odyssey and the world premieres of David Duman’s Fishing, Alison Luterman’s Oasis and Nirmala Nataraj’s The Monk and The Book of Genesis Remixed and Remastered. Additionally he writes plays, productions of which include The Exiled, Speak to Me, Love Egos Alternative Rock, Troijka, Housebroken and Polyxena In Orbit. His play Vincent of Gilgamesh was nominated for the MAC Award in 2001; Wild Blue Peaks was nominated for the Heideman Award in 2003; Mathew 33:6 was a finalist for the Sky Cooper Award in 2007. His play Giant Bones is an official stage adaption of work by internationally acclaimed novelist Peter S. Beagle. Places Mr. Bousel’s work has been performed include New York City, San Francisco, Melbourne, Dublin, Tucson, Portland and West Orange, New Jersey (go JCC!). He co-wrote the Cosgrove winning short film Insomnia with Chris McCaleb and Amanda Karam. He occasionally acts as well and numbers among his credits the title role in Macbeth, Carl in The Baltimore Waltz, Matt in The Fantasticks, the Record Keeper in Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol and the opera Tosca, in addition to voicing a number of radio and television commercials. He is an associate artist with Atmostheatre Inc. and a founding member of the San Francisco Theater Pub. His first novel, Dry Country, came out 2008 and is available on Amazon.com.
Poster Artist Information: The poster of Hera was created by Cody A. Rishell. Visit his portfolio website here.