Mercury is the god of commerce, financial gain, and travelers; he is also the god of communication, messages, and eloquence (including poetry). His parents are Maia, who was a daughter of the titan Atlas, and Jupiter, ruler of the gods. He shares characteristics with the Greek god Hermes, and like Hermes he is the messenger god. The name Mercury is possibly related to the Latin words merx (merchandise), mercari (to trade), and merces (wages). He is usually depicted wearing winged shoes and a winged hat, and carrying a caduceus, a staff with two entwined snakes given to him by Apollo. Mercury is said to have invented the musical instrument the lyre using a tortoise shell. In Virgil’s Aeneid, it is Mercury who delivers the message to Aeneas that he must leave to found Rome – Mercury appears again in a dream to encourage Aeneas when he is reluctant to leave behind his lover Dido. The smallest and innermost planet in our solar system, Mercury, is named after the Roman god. Three or four times a year, the planet Mercury is said to be in “retrograde,” meaning that it moves from west to east instead of east to west around the sun. This backwards movement is an illusion (Mercury doesn’t actually turn around and move in a different direction), but astrologers believe that these three or four times per year have an impact on life on Earth. Like the god Mercury, in astrology the planet is said to control communication. For this reason, Mercury in retrograde is blamed for miscommunication, botched business deals, missed flights, and issues with technology (i.e. cell phones). The website “IsMercuryInRetrograde.com” tracks this phenomenon – when Mercury is not in retrograde, the site explains, “Something else must be bumming you out…”
The messenger god in the modern world moves faster than ever. Humans are constantly communicating or about to be communicating through myriad forms – talk, text, tweet, chat, etc. And yet there are times when it seems like, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get your point across. This is Mercury’s hand. In Nicole Jost’s play, two people looking to make a connection in the virtual world are at the mercy of Mercury. A sex worker and a potential client exchange messages – trouble is, their timing is consistently off. Love and money can’t be exchanged when communications misfire.
MERCURY by Nicole Jost
Staged Reading on October 18, 2018 at the EXIT Theatre
Nicole Jost is a playwright and educator. Her plays have been staged and read at Rorschach Theatre, The Inkwell, and the Capital Fringe Festival in her hometown of Washington, DC; 20% Theatre Company and Gadfly Theatre Productions in Minneapolis; The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival’s regional showcase in Denver; and SF Playhouse, Z Space, PlayGround, ReproRights! Theater, and SFSU’s Department of Theatre and Dance here in San Francisco. She is a two-time recipient of the James Milton Highsmith Playwriting Award for queer theater. Her short plays have been published in Fourteen Hills and Transfer Magazine. Nicole holds an M.A. in Creative Writing and is currently pursuing an M.F.A. in Playwriting at SF State. She lives in San Francisco with her wife and their 15-pound cat.