All of Roman history is pockmarked with class struggle from its very early days as a kingdom. The Aventine Triad of deities – Ceres, Liber and Libera – stood at the heart of this conflict between the elite patricians, who held fast to nearly all political power, and the everyday, regular plebs, who, on the whole, were denied access to almost all political or institutional power. Worshipped since before the foundation of Rome, Ceres, Liber and Liber are also called the plebian triad.
The trio served as a spiritual focus for the plebs, especially when the masses became so fed up they called a secessio plebis, a type of general strike when the plebs abandoned the city and told the patricians to fend for themselves. Workshops would shut down and commercial activity ceased.
Ceres is well-known as the goddess of grain and agriculture, often linked to the Greek goddess Demeter by later Roman historians. During her festival in April, worshippers would tie torches to the tails of foxes as a way to protect crops.
Liber is a god of wine, freedom, and fertility later assimilated with the Greek god Bacchus, while Libera, Liber’s female counterpart, is a goddess of fertility.
It is not really clear what the trio’s relationship to each other was originally. Hundreds of years after the trio was first deified, Roman historians linked them to the myths of some Greek gods, but the initial myths of Ceres, Liber and Libera are lost to time.
Barry’s play Rome, Ohio is set in the Built in a Day Diner in Rome, a small, dusty town in central Ohio during the early years of the 21st Century. Ceres, the town’s mayor, is considering a run for Congress and sees a surging wave of right-wing populism in her town that she might be able to ride all the way to Washington. Liber and Libera, lovers, own an ice cream truck. Libera has dreams that will lead her away from Rome, while Liber feels compelled to bloom where he is planted.
All the while, the class struggle continues between a bloodthirsty, small-government-loving, half-android billionaire and a murderous waitress who works at the diner he owns. War goddess Bellona, fresh from her second tour in Afghanistan, battles the small-town doldrums with her pals Owen, a monologist who fancies the recreational dose of OxyContin now and again, and Benito Mussolini, no relation.
AVENTINE TRIAD or ROME, OHIO by Barry Eitel
Staged Reading on October 19, 2018 at The EXIT Theatre
BARRY EITEL is a San Francisco playwright and a recipient of the 2016 TITAN Award for playwrights from Theater Bay Area. His play The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident was produced by FaultLine Theatre at PianoFight in August, 2016 and considered the “Best New Work” of 2016 by Theatre Arts Daily. His immersive jazz musical The Cool, produced by Watt/Dobson Productions, had a sold-out run at Amado’s in San Francisco in early 2017. He is the original Head Writer for Boxcar Theatre’s The Speakeasy, leading a team of nine to create a breathing novel set in a Prohibition-era speakeasy. His short plays have been produced by Shotz, SF Theatre Pub, Arabian Shakespeare Company and Pan Theatre. His play Lemons was produced by the Emerging Artists Lab at San Jose Rep. Published by Smith & Kraus, Barry is a founding member of 6NewPlays, a Bay Area playwright collective, and is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago. This is his second year in the SF Olympians Festival; for the 2017 festival, he wrote the verse play Ishtar in Syria, an examination of the complexities of the Syrian Civil War based on the myths of the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar. His play Champagne, produced by 6NewPlays, will go up at the Randall Museum in June, 2018.