Vesta, daughter of Saturn and Ops, is the goddess of the hearth, protectress of Home and Family, and by extension— the wellbeing of the entire state of Rome. An interestingly aniconic figure, her presence is associated with the flames of a fire and the earth that composes the hearth itself. If the Vestal fire of Rome, tended fastidiously by six priestesses, is burning brightly, Rome will likewise be prosperous and sound. Famously a virgin, Vesta is also considered a maternal figure and is invoked for fertility festivals in addition to daily prayers along with Janus. Though she does not appear in many myths, Ovid has two stories about her. At Cybele’s party, the story goes, Vesta lay napping. Priapus, a fertility god known for his cartoonishly oversized constant erection, came up behind her with the intent to rape her. Thankfully, an attending donkey brayed loudly at just the right time, waking Vesta and sparing her. Thus, her feast day, the Vestalia, is celebrated by giving asses a rest day from their labors and adorning them with garlands of flowers and loaves of bread as a ‘thank you’. In a second tale, she helped Romans fend off an attempted takeover by the Gauls by baking loaves of bread and hurling them in a brash display of confidence that the invaders’ plans to starve them was not going to work.
In her play, Veronica will be focusing on the Vestal Virgins, the six high-born women chosen between the age of six and ten to tend Vesta’s fire. Though this position came with many alluring perks including rights reserved only for free men, privilege to intercede on behalf of those facing punishment, the escort of lictors or bodyguards, important tasks during ceremonies and festivals, and even the best seats at the theater— the conditions were dark and severe as well. They were required to attend Vesta’s sacred fire for a devout and entirely chaste thirty years of service, and if they were found to have strayed from the course they were remorselessly entombed alive. With this piece, Veronica will explore the nature of sisterhood, the inheritance of wisdom, and what it means to live a life of devotion. This play is for those scrambling for matches when their own sparks have flickered out.
VESTA by Veronica Tjioe
Staged Reading on October 17, 2018 at the EXIT Theatre
Veronica Tjioe is over the moon to be writing for SF Olympians for a third time after working on the Minotaur and Nephthys! She has an MA in Theatre Arts from UC Santa Cruz and her plays have been produced in England, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and on play reading podcast The Parsnipship. Her first piece, “Dead Dog’s Bone: A Birthday Play” won the Dharma Grace Playwriting Award in 2012, an ‘Encore! Producer’s Award’ at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe, and will soon make its east coast premier with Nu Sass Productions in Washington DC. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she writes and performs with The Attic Collective and pines for San Francisco fog.