Bastet, also known as Bast, began as a lion-headed sun goddess of warfare, embodiment of the Eye of Ra and the protector of Lower Egypt. By the 22nd Dynasty (~1000BC), she had become a cat-headed protector deity connected to music, dance, pleasure, and sex. In ancient Egypt, cats were revered for their ability to eliminate vermin such as mice, rats, and snakes. It is suggested that Bastet’s name means “she of the ointment jar,” and is part of the etymology of the word “alabaster.” For a brief time, she was depicted as the wife of Anubis, the god of mummification and the afterlife, and as a protection against contagious disease and evil spirits. The history of Bastet’s place in the Egyptian pantheon traces a complicated translation from vibrant, energetic sun goddess to lunar sex symbol.
About his play inspired by Bastet, Alan Coyne says:
“On October 15, 1917, the exotic dancer Margaretha Geertruida “Margreet” MacLeod, née Zelle, better known by her stage name Mata Hari, was executed by a French firing squad. The French government falsely claimed that she was a German double agent. As her executioners took aim, she blew them a defiant kiss.
In 1895, the 18-year-old Zelle had married a Dutch Colonial Army captain and gone to live with him in Java. They had two children, both of whom died of complications from syphilis. She joined a local dance company and studied traditional Indonesian dance, taking the name Mata Hari, a Malay term for the sun, literally meaning “Eye of the Day.” In 1903, Mata Hari left her abusive, alcoholic husband, and moved to Paris, where she gained fame as a dancer. She was described by one French journalist as “so feline, extremely feminine, majestically tragic, the thousand curves and movements of her body trembling in a thousand rhythms.” By 1912, however, her career had declined.
During World War I, she became involved with a Russian fighter pilot, whom she later described as the love of her life. He was shot down in the summer of 1916, losing his sight as a result of his wounds. In exchange for being allowed to visit him in hospital, French authorities demanded Mata Hari seduce the German Crown Prince Wilhelm, eldest son of the Kaiser. Later that year, she met with the German military attaché in Madrid to try to set up a meeting. In January 1917, the French intercepted messages identifying her as a German spy, code-named Agent H-21. However, this was a set-up by the Germans, who wished to get rid of her. She was arrested in Paris in February 1917, and convicted of espionage in July, despite there being little to no evidence against her. At the time, France was reeling from the Great Mutinies, Georges “le tigre” Clemenceau had just come to power, and Mata Hari was seen as the perfect scapegoat to unite a country which at that point was losing the war.
My play focuses on the many interrogations undergone by Mata Hari throughout her life and career.”
BASTET by Alan Coyne
Directed by Alejandro Torres
Staged Reading on October 5, 2017 at the EXIT Theatre
Alan identifies primarily as an actor, having performed with innumerable theatre companies throughout the Bay Area, including Custom Made, Lafayette Town Hall, Indra’s Net, and the SF Shakespeare Festival. He has written for the sketch comedy groups The Last Laugh SF and Group Hug, as well as for SF Theater Pub’s Pint-Sized Plays and PianoFight’s ShortLived play competitions. His one-act play Yesterday’s News was the runner-up in Pan Theater’s 2012 Home-Grown Play Festival, and his play Hypnos, or William Shakespeare’s Cardenio was featured in last year’s SF Olympians VII. Excerpts from his musical The Theory of Everything were performed as part of Musical Cafe’s Spring Showcase in June of 2016.