Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus, the King of Ethiopia, and his queen, Cassiopeia. Vain and arrogantly boastful, Cassiopeia claimed that she and Andromeda were more beautiful than the Nereids, the water nymph daughters of Nereus, a sea god. Outraged, Nereus addressed his grievance to Poseidon, who directed the sea monster, Cetus, to wreak havoc on Ethiopia. Desperate, Cepheus and Cassiopeia consulted the Oracle of Apollo, who declared that only the sacrifice of Andromeda to Cetus would appease Poseidon. Andromeda was chained, naked, to a rock at the water’s edge, and awaited a certain and hideous death, but the Fates had a different destiny in store for her. Perseus, who had just slain the Gorgon Medusa, was triumphantly riding Pegasus across the skies on his journey home, when he spotted the beautiful princess, swooped down, released her from her bonds, killed Cetus, and made Andromeda his wife. Together they established the kingdom of Tiryns in Argos, and had seven sons and one daughter. Their descendants, the Perseidae, ruled Mycenae at the height of its power. When Andromeda died, Athena placed her in the northern sky. A constellation and a galaxy were named after her. The myth is a cautionary tale, serving to illustrate the dangers of arrogance, the price paid by children for the transgressions of their parents, and the role of fate in manipulating the best laid plans of gods and men. Perseus’ rescue of Andromeda was the basis of the Christian story of St. George and the dragon.
Of her play, “Andromeda, Bound” Helen Noakes writes: Bound to a rock for something she didn’t do, Andromeda shivered in her nakedness and terror. Surely, Cetus, the sea monster who wreaked havoc on her native Ethiopia, was on his way to gobble her up. In a moment when death seemed preferable to interminable waiting, she called on the gods to end her suffering. She heard Cetus’ voice, but where was he? Had her fear driven her mad? Not once, in that instant of confusion and panic, did Andromeda guess what the Fates had in store. The hero Perseus, riding his winged horse, Pegasus, rescued her. Andromeda’s beauty enchanted Perseus, who took her off to Tiryns to found a dynasty. But Perseus, the son of Zeus, surely must have known beautiful women. What was it about Andromeda that drew him? Perhaps she had a beauty that was more than skin deep. There is an esoteric level to this myth. Andromeda, the passive female principle, and Perseus, the active male element, join at a time of peril for the former. The bound and helpless female assumes power when released by the male, but the male, in releasing the female and embracing her, prospers and becomes stronger. A balance occurs which ensures a brilliant future for both. Andromeda began the story as a victim, bound towards certain death, progressed to a princess who bound a hero to her, and ends as a constellation and a galaxy, whose story is written in the stars. Now that’s what I call girl power!
ANDROMEDA or “Andromeda Bound” by Helen Noakes
staged reading October 8, 2011
directed by Stuart Bousel
Maro Guevera (Stage Directions)
Shane Rhodes (Perseus)
Vahishta Vafadari (Andromeda)
Helen Noakes’, first full length play, Memento Mori, was selected as a semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center’s 2009 National Playwrights Conference. The following of her plays have been stage read at venues in San Francisco: A scene from Memory and Desire, at The Playwrights of Promise Showcase, The Phoenix Theatre, October, 2010; A full length comedy, Zeus Story, at No Nude Men Productions’ SF Olympians Festival, at the Exit Theatre, July 2010. A scene from her current work in progress, The Enchantress of Santa Fe, at The Clubhouse, June, 2010, (part of New Writers/New Works Staged Readings of Plays in Progress, sponsored by Will Dunne). Memento Mori, at the Dramatists Guild-sponsored Friday Night Footlights, The Phoenix Annex, April, 2010. Memento Mori, self-produced, at The Mariposa Studio, in December 2007. Shorter plays and works in progress were selected six times for Will Dunne’s New Writers/New Works Series presented at the Magic Theatre. Her non-fiction has been published internationally, and she currently writes an on-line op-ed column, Waking Point, for www.weeklyhubris.com. She is writing a novel, which is now being developed with a writer’s group at the Mechanics’ Institute Library. In October, 2010, she was selected to read a segment of that novel at the Mechanics’ Institute’s Author’s Carnival. She is a member of The Dramatists Guild, Theatre Bay Area, Playwrights of Promise, The Mechanics’ Institute Library, and continues developing plays at Will Dunne’s Dramatic Writing Workshops.
The mosaic of Andromeda was created by Molly Benson.