The mythological Pleiades were seven semi-divine sisters, daughters of the titan Atlas and the sea-nymph Pleione. From oldest to youngest, their names were Maia, Elektra, Taygete, Alkyone, Kelaino, Sterope, and Merope. They were nymphs and companions of Artemis, the virgin goddess of the hunt. They were also said to have cared for the infant Dionysus.
In the most famous myth about the Pleaides, the hunter Orion began to pursue the seven sisters. To save the Pleiades from Orion’s nefarious intentions, Zeus took pity on them and transformed them into stars. (The Pleiades star cluster is located in the constellation of Taurus.) This story depicts the Pleiades as naive damsels in distress, but other myths suggest that they are more complex characters, loved by some of the most powerful Greek gods. The eldest three Pleiades all had children by Zeus, the most important of which is Maia’s son Hermes. Alkyone and Kelaino were both lovers of Poseidon, and Sterope was a lover of Ares. Merope, the youngest, was the only Pleiade to fall in love with a mortal, Sisyphus. For this reason, she became the dimmest of the Pleiades when they were turned into stars. Only six stars of the Pleiades are easily visible to the naked eye, though modern telescopes reveal that there are actually over one thousand stars in the Pleiades cluster.
Marissa Skudlarek’s Pleiades envisions the title characters as the seven debutante daughters of an East Coast titan of industry in the early 1970s. Moira, Elena, Teresa, Alison, Kelly, Sarah and Meredith are each caught between the traditional expectations of their social class, and the new opportunities offered by the feminist movement. Is their rabble-rousing cousin Missy right to say that men are pigs? Is free love a blessing or a burden? And when the handsome and charismatic Bruce pays the sisters a visit, is that a love triangle forming—or a love quadrangle? During the course of a summer in the Hamptons, family secrets will be revealed, consciousnesses will be raised, and the seven Pleiades will come to a deeper understanding of the meaning of sisterhood.
PLEIADES by Marissa Skudlarek
staged reading October 22, 2011
Directed by Liz Anderson
Xanadu Bruggers (Moira)
Sarah Rose Butler (Sarah)
Brianna Calabrese (Alison)
Megan Cohen (Meredith)
Alisha Ehrlich (Kelly)
Rachel Ferensowicz (Elena)
Karen Offereins (Missy)
Allison Payne (Stage Directions)
Brant Rotnem (Bruce)
Lily Yang (Teresa)
Marissa Skudlarek is thrilled to be involved in the 2011 Olympians Festival as a playwright and associate producer, after serving as box-office manager at the 2010 Olympians Festival. Her other full-length plays include Deus ex Machina (winner of the 2006 Young Playwrights Festival National Playwriting Competition; workshopped in New York City), Marginalia, and The Rose of Youth (winner of the Marilyn Swartz Seven Competition; produced at Vassar College in 2008). Her short play Drinking for Two was featured in San Francisco Theater Pub’s Pint-Sized Plays Festival in August 2010. An occasional actor, she has performed at Theater Pub in the December 2010 show, Code Red (in a sketch she co-wrote) and the April 2011 show, Aristophanes’ Congresswomen. Marissa grew up in Oregon, studied drama and French at Vassar College, and has lived in San Francisco since 2008. She blogs about theater, books, playwriting, and more at marissabidilla.blogspot.com.
The Pleiades image was created by Emily C. Martin. You can view her portfolio, here.