Saturn was one of Rome’s most adored deities. God of the Golden Era, Saturn was an agricultural god who carried a scythe and blessed the people with grain and full crops. The harvest would later be dedicated back to Saturn in a grand event known as the Saturnalia. That this ritual feast coincides on the calendar with the modern Christmas is no coincidence since Roman conversion to Christianity would not have been possible if they had been required to forget this beloved tradition. This holiday featured exquisite displays of wealth and generosity through banquets and gift-giving, fitting for a celebration of a god whose temple also doubled as the state treasury. Saturn was also a chthonic god, which makes perfect sense when we consider the nature of harvest. We cast our seeds into the field with the full knowledge and, indeed, hope, that they will grow and then, one day, die. However, what may come as a surprise is that Saturn may or may not have also been the Greek elder god, Kronos. Rather than falling victim to Zeus’ patricide, the Romans believed that their Divine Patriarch was merely ostracized. And, while Goya forever memorialized Saturn eating one of his sons, the Romans would have us remember him as the venerable father who gave them wealth and those carefree Saturday mornings.
Centering around a Saturnalia of a commemoration for a beloved and deceased grandfather the play unfolds and memories are shared with the grandfather’s descendants each taking parts of his role onto themselves, creating their own mythologies from pieces of his. However, although these memories start off largely hagiographic, little by little, darker memories are shared inadvertently until it is finally revealed that the context in which the patriarch passed was a violent one. The stories of fathers and sons are often complicated, just like the relationship between Greece’s Kronos and his almost-eaten son Zeus and the Romans’ greatest feast, bequeathed by and dedicated to Saturn. Through his play, John wishes to explore these relationships and their entropic nature which fluctuates between hero worship, fear, disdain, and, oft painfully, love.
SATURN by John LaMar Elison
Directed by Dan Kurtz
Staged Reading on October 4, 2018 at the EXIT Theatre
John LaMar Elison returns to SF Olympians as a first-time writer, having played King Lattay in Aeneas by Colin Johnson in 2013. Elison believes that life is all about the stories. Currently, he tells some of those in Spanish at the Fairfax Library as a bilingual youth librarian. He has been published in Jerk Poet, Poetic Diversity, Flight, Daughters of Babalon and Synthesthesia Literary Journal. He received his B.S. in Anthropology from the University of California Riverside in 2012. He lives in Oakland with his wife, author Meg Elison.