Leda was the wife of Tyndareus, king of Sparta. Her children included Helen (whose abduction would spark the Trojan War) and the twins Castor and Pollux (who would eventually become the constellation of Gemini). However, Leda is most remembered for the story of Leda and the Swan. Zeus appeared to Leda in the guise of a swan. He pretended to be pursued by an eagle so that Leda would embrace him in her arms. Then (depending on the brutality of the particular telling), Zeus either raped or seduced her. She would later produce at least one egg as a result of this (again, the exact number depends on the telling) from which Helen would be born. The depiction of Leda and the swan has long been a popular subject for painters, with a wealth of depictions dating from the sixteenth century onward. It has also been a favorite subject for poets. Most famously, William Butler Yeats published the sonnet “Leda and the Swan” in 1924. In most cases, it is assumed that depicting the act of copulation between a woman and a swan was viewed as more socially acceptable than depicting a woman with a man.
Of his play Leda, Kirk Shimano writes: In researching the history of Leda and the swan, I was immediately intrigued by the secret pathway it provided for exploring the forbidden. I don’t think the Greeks would have predicted that this would be the legacy of Leda and, to me, that’s one of the greatest features of myths – they take on a life of their own. So suppose there’s a girl in a Singaporean boarding school that happens to be named Leda. She becomes curious about the history of her name and starts to read about it on the Internet, but then an austere headmistress catches her and punishes her for looking at obscene images. The girl is caned, but in the midst of the beating she starts to understand the lineage of dissenters that she has joined. Or, at least, that’s what will happen in my play.
LEDA by Kirk Shimano
staged reading on October 28, 2011
Directed by Neil Higgins
Rachel Ferensowicz (Cindy)
Maura Halloran (Mrs. Huffman)
Brian Thomen (Stage Directions)
Karen Offereins (Leda)
Kirk Shimano’s Inner Dialogue took second place in PianoFight Productions’s ShortLived 3.0 — the largest audience-judged playwriting competition in the country. His play Billy’s Got Issues was included in Wily West Productions’s San Francisco Stories and his Proposition Ate will be part of The 2011 edition of the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco’s Sheherezade. Kirk works at Industrial Light & Magic as a Lighting Technical Director, where he was most recently involved with Transformers 3. Having learned much from this project, his next play will include several more explosions and (if budget allows) at least three giant
The image of Leda was created and printed by Liz Conley. You can view her portfolio, here.