Carmenta was an ancient Roman or Latin goddess who served a variety of functions related to prophecy, childbirth, literacy, and family. A carmen in Latin is a magic spell or song, so Carmenta’s name directly references her oracular powers. (This is also the root of the English word charm.) Carmenta protected midwives, mothers, children, and pregnant women; her feast days, on January 11 and 15, were mostly celebrated by women. Carmenta is said to have invented the Latin alphabet; she was also sometimes paired with Mercury, the god of communication. Furthermore, Carmenta and Mercury’s son, Evander, was said to have brought literacy, law, and the Greek pantheon from Greece to Rome. Although there are not many myths that directly concern Carmenta, she was an important figure for the Romans, with a temple on the Capitoline Hill. She is a powerful symbol of maternal and feminine wisdom and it is easy to picture Roman matrons praying for her guidance.
Regarding her play about Carmenta, Marissa Skudlarek says: “Stuart Bousel, the founder of the Olympians Festival, might be even more obsessed with ’90s alt-rock music than he is with Greek mythology. Last year, he took me to see the reunion tour of his favorite ’90s band, Belly, which is fronted by the elfin singer-songwriter Tanya Donelly. As I learned more about Donelly and also about Roman mythology, I realized that Donelly is a modern-day Carmenta figure: her lyrics often sound a bit cryptic and magical, she’s a benevolent feminine presence in the often masculine and aggressive world of rock music, and, now that she’s no longer a full-time musician, she works as a postpartum doula. I couldn’t help wondering whether Donelly has ever served as a doula for women who loved Belly when they were teenagers and are surprised to find their former rock-goddess idol helping them adjust to becoming a mother! Therefore, I am writing a play that imagines the encounter between Carmen, a rock star turned doula, and Evie, an expectant mother who used to love Carmen’s band. Millennia after the cult of Carmenta flourished, women are still passing down wisdom to one another and helping each other through life’s transitions.”
CARMEN by Marissa Skudlarek
Staged Reading on October 20, 2017 at the EXIT Theatre
Marissa Skudlarek is thrilled to be participating in the San Francisco Olympians Festival for the eighth year in a row. After serving as box-office manager for the 2010 festival, she wrote the full-length drama Pleiades in 2011, the screenplay Aphrodite, or the Love Goddess in 2012, and the shorter plays Teucer and Laodike in 2013; The Dryad of Suburbia in 2014; Tethys, or You’ll Not Feel the Drowning in 2015; and Macaria, or the Good Life in 2016. Several of these plays have also gone on to further productions or development. You’ll Not Feel the Drowning was selected for Custom Made Theatre’s Undiscovered Works program and will receive a workshop production at the EXIT Theatre in April 2017. The Dryad of Suburbia was produced in spring 2016 in PianoFight’s Shortlived festival, and Pleiades received a full production in San Francisco in August 2014 and has been published in Heavenly Bodies, an anthology of Olympians Festival plays. Marissa’s other full-length plays include Juana, or The Greater Glory (Loud & Unladylike Festival staged reading, 2016), Deus ex Machina (Young Playwrights Festival National Competition winner, 2006), Marginalia, and The Rose of Youth (Marilyn Swartz Seven Award and Vassar College production, 2008; EXIT Theatre staged reading, 2013). Her shorter plays and translations have been produced by San Francisco Theater Pub, Un-Scripted Theatre, Wily West Productions, and the San Francisco One-Minute Play Festival. She is an occasional contributor to American Theatre‘s website and, from 2012 to 2016, she wrote a twice-monthly column for the San Francisco Theater Pub blog. Marissa can also be found writing about the arts at marissabidilla.blogspot.com, or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.