Don't Miss the One-Night-Only Theater Ritual Sunday, 'The Goddess Is in the Questions'
By Liz Farmer
Draped in ribbons and laurels, performer Catie Chan will start a procession to a candlelit altar before introducing herself as Athena, the goddess of wisdom and courage, at a one-night-only production later this month in the backyard of The Wild Detectives.
Chan is one of 11 actresses who will channel a Greek goddess during "The Goddess is in the Questions: an offering of divine performances" at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, May 13 as part of Women Galore. Each performer will advise and honor women using an ancient lens to provide contemporary counsel.
"The concept was a short performance piece based in text," Chan said. "It's like an offering for the audience, mixing together performance with ritual."
Ancient Greeks shared elaborate tales of gods and goddesses in order to better understand the world around them. Each mythological figure was believed to have power over a different aspect of life.
That sense of authority intrigued theater-makers Haley Nelson and Janielle Kastner, who created and curated the theatrical event as part of the Women Galore cultural festival. The duo assigned each performer a goddess from whom she will devise her own interpretation, which will be revealed in a string of five-minute performances.
"I wanted to channel our matriarchs to find ancient women that we can draw inspiration from, draw power from," Kastner said.
Fittingly, this celebration of women falls on Mother's Day. Admission is free with an offering of attendees' choice, whether it be a drink from the bar or a bobby pin from their purse.
"The practice of giving and receiving between women is such a nurturing thing," Kastner said. "This is an offer of support and wisdom."
During Chan's portrayal, she'll wash her hands and feet at the altar and share stories of Athena's family: "My mother was a cunning woman, a goddess of deep thought and magical guile, a shapeshifter, a trickster. My father was a general, a hero to his people, a king, a rapist."
Just like Zeus, her father, Athena carries herself like a general, Chan said. "It's both a source of pride and shame for Athena because although her father is idolized, he's also extremely violent against women. Zeus killed Athena's own mother, Metis, by swallowing her.
Chan carries that theme of conflict throughout her piece.
"It's about women who are brutalized, but I want to focus on female to female relationships," she said. "Athena has this instinct to help women who are in pain or in trouble."
That's why she'll offer a prayer, empowering those in attendance to trust themselves more fully.
"For me, my intention is to help us all strengthen our intuition in terms of when we're in danger. Especially in romantic relationships, we can become very blinded to red flags," Chan said. "I think oftentimes, the female story is suffering for love. I want to place importance on self-preservation."
The cathartic nature of Chan's performance is threaded throughout the entire artistic ritual. Nelson, one of the event's creators, said her goal with any piece of theater is for people to feel it within their bodies.
"I think with all of the current events that are happening and a lot of the things that women are feeling, we're connected to so much stress and trauma, and that lives so boldly in our bodies and so painfully," she said. "So if this event is sort of like reaching a hand into their body and pulling that out for them, that would be a huge success for me."