For thousand of years, the name Cassiopeia has been synonymous with the sin of vanity. This mortal Queen arrogantly declared herself to be more beautiful than the Sea Nymphs. As divine punishment for this insult, the Gods gave her a choice: sacrifice her daughter, the Princess Andromeda, or witness the destruction of her entire kingdom of Aethiopia. Thus the story of Cassiopeia is an object lesson in how vanity can not only be destructive to oneself, but also to one’s family and community.

Christian Simonsen’s new play “Cassiopeia” revisits the traditional climax of this myth: a rocky outcropping on the Aethiopian shore, with the Princess Andromeda helplessly chained to the rock, awaiting her deadly sacrifice to the sea monster Cetus. However, in this telling of the story, Queen Cassiopeia stands next to Andromeda, trying to appease both the girl and her own conscience by selling this ceremonial sacrifice as a “blind date”, saying that she “should give Cetus a chance before judging him”. But Andromeda, tired of playing the role of Classic Victim, verbally lashes out at her mother and her sucky parenting skills. Just when all seems lost, the brave Perseus, coming straight from his adventure of decapitating the hideous Medusa, spots the beautiful Andromeda and the approaching sea monster. Mounted on the winged horse Pegasus, he flies down to the rescue! Cassiopeia, clearly feeling emotionally threatened by an actual suitor for her daughter, suggests (unfairly) that Perseus’ majestic flying steed is “probably just a rental”, and points out (not completely unfairly) that a man who carries around a woman’s severed head in a sack may still have some intimacy issues to work out. Is it too late for Perseus to free the young maiden from her chains, both physical and psychological, created by Cassiopeia?

It’s not easy being a beautiful queen and a caring mother… so Cassiopeia settled for one out of two…

CASSIOPEIA by Christian Simonsen
staged reading October 8, 2011

directed by Stuart Bousel

Maro Guevera (Pegasus)

Travis Howse (Stage Directions)

Michelle Jasso (Cassiopeia)

Keshuv Prasad (Cetus)

Shane Rhodes (Perseus)

Vahishta Vafadari (Andromeda)

Christian Simonsen loves Greek Mythology, but not the sanitized, PG rated versions that he was initially exposed to as a kid (note to high school teachers: Leda boinked a swan. It’s a part of the foundation of Western Civilization… just deal with it). His scripts have been produced by the sketch comedy troupes “Please Leave The Bronx” and “5by5”, and by Pianofight Productions’ “ShortLived 2.0” and “ShortLived 3.0”. He is honored to be a part of the SF Olympians, and is looking forward to seeing what his fellow writers in the festival dream up!

The mosaic of Cassiopeia was created by Molly Benson.