Callisto was a devotee of Artemis and, like all of the followers of the goddess of the hunt, she took a vow of celibacy. In order to seduce her Zeus disguises himself as Artemis, with whom Callisto might be in love, and rapes her. When Artemis discovers her follower is pregnant she casts her out and turns her into a bear. Callisto gives birth to a son, Arcas, who as a teenager almost kills his mother as she wanders as a bear. Zeus intervenes and places the mother and son in the sky as the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. Other versions of the myth exist stating that Artemis shoots the bear with her famous silver bow, perhaps persuaded by Hera, Zeus’ wife, who is angry about his infidelity. When he places the bear in the sky, saving her from the fatal shot, Hera is enraged and ensures that the bear’s feet never touch the ocean. While this explains the circumpolar position of the constellations in Ancient Greece, from the perspective of many current day locations the feet of Ursa Major do appear to dip into the sea.

Of her play about Callisto, Seanan Palmero writes: Artemis and Zeus find themselves treed by an angry bear. This is unfamiliar territory for the gods and they sense something has changed. Realizing they are trapped, and that the constellation of Ursa Major now meets the ocean, they throw the blame at each other—Artemis accusing Zeus of not understanding women, and Zeus accusing Artemis of being an uncaring friend. When Callisto happens on the scene, neither can guess what she will do, or what she has to say, to either of them.

CALLISTO by Seanan Palmero
staged reading October 7, 2011

Directed by Neil Higgins

Rachel Ferensowicz (Artemis)

Maura Halloran (Stage Directions)

Karen Offereins (Callisto)

Brian Thomen (Zeus)

Seanan Palmero is delighted to participate as a writer and director in this Olympians Festival. She is also Director of Development for AtmosTheatre, Production Manager and Technical Director for San Francisco Theater Pub, and serves on the literary committees of the Cutting Ball Theater and the Magic Theatre. She also works as a dramaturg and stage manager for No Nude Men Productions.

The image of Callisto was created and printed by Liz Conley. You can view her portfolio, here.