Bellona was a Roman goddess of war who embodied its violent, cruel, and destructive nature. She was the sister and consort of Mars, and is identified with the Greek goddess Enyo. Bellona was usually depicted dressed in a helmet and armor and carrying a sword, spear, or torch as she stormed the battlefield, driving Mars’s chariot, urging soldiers forward, or taking part in the fighting herself. She was merciless and bloodthirsty, and, quite fittingly, her priests would cut their arms and legs and spill or drink their blood as part of their worship of her. Her temple in Rome served as a place for the Senate to receive ambassadors and returning generals and to deliberate over martial matters. It was also the site of the columna bellica, or war column, over which a priest would throw a spear to formally declare war. Bellona was an apposite goddess for an empire built on warfare and conquest; Romans invoked her because her brutal passion, terrifying and destructive though it was, could lead to victory.
Bellona was often depicted in art and sculpture as an attractive woman beneath her helmet and armor, which inspired Bridgette Dutta Portman to think about how war, throughout history, has often been portrayed as beautiful and seductive despite its tragic and ugly results. In early 2017, for instance, NBC’s Brian Williams described U.S. missiles falling on Syria as “beautiful,” and quoted Leonard Cohen’s lyrics, “I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.” In Bridgette Dutta Portman’s curtain-warmer Bellona, or the Mother of All Bombs, Bellona is a bomb – one that will trigger a nuclear holocaust and spell the violent end of the human race. Is there anything we can do to stop her from detonating, or is humanity fated to destroy itself with the very weapon it created? And could there be a part of us that wants to see it happen?
BELLONA by Bridgette Dutta Portman
Directed by Jerome Josephe Gentes
Staged Reading on October 13, 2018 at the EXIT Theatre
Bridgette Dutta Portman is excited to be returning for her seventh year as a writer for the SF Olympians Festival. Her ten-minute play Cymopoleia, or Wave-Walker, which she wrote for the 2015 festival, was produced by Pear Theatre in Mountain View in May 2016 and will be published in the Spring 2018 edition of the Louisville Review. Her full-length play Caeneus and Poseidon, originally written as a one-act for the 2012 festival, was produced in March 2017 as part of the 2nd Stages program at Dragon Theatre in Redwood City. Bridgette is currently president of the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco, resident playwright at Custom Made Theatre, and a member of the Pear Writers’ Guild. She was a finalist for the 2015 Theatre Bay Area ATLAS program TITAN award and is pursuing an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University. You can find more information about Bridgette and her plays at http://www.bridgetteduttaportman.com.