Demeter, sister of Zeus, Hera and Poseidon, called Ceres by the Romans, was the goddess of agriculture and the fruitful earth, particularly grain. She taught men the arts of farming and ensured the planting, ripening and harvesting of all that grew. A mother goddess, she had one child, Persephone, by her brother Zeus, who she loved dearly. When Persephone was taken by the god Hades to be his wife, Demeter blighted the entire earth, causing the first winter. An agreement was reached where Persephone would return to her mother for half the year, during which time Demeter would let the earth be fruitful once again, thus establishing the seasons and also earning Demeter a place with Hades and Persephone as the center of the Mysteries, a cult pre-occupied with the life-death cycle and the Underworld. Demeter’s symbol is the poppy, her sacred animal is the mare, though any domestic or farm animal was under her protection.
Of the Demeter of her play, Claire Rice writes: The Law of Demeter is also the Principle of Least Knowledge. Demeter, the Goddess herself, is not “earth mother” as she is so often described but instead she is “Giving Mother” or crudely: “Distribution Mother.” And so, a cold description of computing code is named. The Law of Demeter says that a given object (or function) should assume as little possible knowledge about the structure it exists within or the duties of those objects (or functions) around it. Like a person in a water brigade. This person knows only that it is their job is to take a bucket full of water from one person and give it to another. They don’t need to know about the fire. They don’t need to know about where the water comes from. They don’t need to know how many people are in the line with them. They must only move the bucket of water from one hand and put it in the next. And this is all they need. At first it seems counter to what we think about when we think of the woman that is the Goddess Demeter. She who makes the grain grow that feeds us all. She that suffers so much sorrow when her daughter departs to the underworld, she kills all the growing things on earth. But, maybe it is not so counter. We believe our Gods work for us. They listen to our prayers, shower us with divinity, fill us with the muses’ gifts, teach us lessons, and encourage us to better living. But, the Greek Gods were never so hands on with the human race, or even each other. They did not act, create, love, or destroy because any human prayed or sacrificed enough. They acted on their own whims and caprices. Following only so many laws or rituals or sacred trusts as pertained to them exclusively, and only if it got them what they wanted. No Greek God ever bent so low as to give altruistically, or with any feeling toward the greater good. And no God has ever mourned so completely and with such violence as Demeter, who would have the whole of the human race suffer with her, for her daughter. What if our Gods work on a Principle of Least Knowledge? What if the Gods no longer have purpose because we too are part of a distribution chain and we have forgotten our functions?
DEMETER by Claire Ann Rice
staged reading July 22, 2010
directed by Liz Anderson
Julia Heitner (Demeter)
Theresa Ireland (Hera)
Brianna Calabrese (Hestia)
Michelle Jasso (Louisa)
Gloria McDonald (Persephone)
Chris Quintos (Stage Directions)
Claire Rice is playwright living and working in San Francisco. She graduated in 2006 with an MFA in Playwrighting from San Francisco State University, and was working there until just recently as an office manager and lecturer in the Department of Theatre Arts. She started a small theatre company in the spring of 2008 with fellow SF State graduates so they could selfishly produce our own work. Ann Marie Productions has since produced five small productions, including most recently Aileen Clark’s one woman show How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Lost My Virginity. In the summer of 2008 Thunderbird Theatre Company produced her full length comedy Pride and Succubus. Additionally, she directed Housebroken by Stuart Bousel for the Bay Area One Acts Festival (BOA) in 2010.
Poster Artist Information:
The poster for Demeter was created by Leia Weathington. Visit her website here