Truth emerging from her well, with the paper ripped across her bust, revealing white coveralls, a pink tshirt, and tatood arms. Text from a script is blurry in the background.

Pity+Fear (a travesty)

the full script

(print »)

Prologue: Running Lines

[Miriam is on a ladder, wearing a headlamp, hanging a curtain or a light. Maybe she’s also running lines, or humming a song from later in the script. The space is set up for rehearsals / tech week.]

Choral Parode: An Audience

Josie [offstage]: Miriam? Hey Mia!

Mia: Josie?!

Josie: Where are you?

Mia: I’m in here!

Josie: In where? I can’t see anything…

Mia: On stage!

Josie: Why’s it so —

[Turns on the work lights. She’s carrying a guitar. She sees the audience, and is frozen.]

Mia [blinded]: Aaa! Josie. Too much!

Josie: Uh, Mia…

Mia: Hey, I’m so glad you came, how are you?

Josie: Mia.

Mia: What? What is it? What’s wrong?

Josie: You… You have an audience.

Mia: What?

Josie: An audience.

Mia: I don’t — [sees them] Fuck! That’s today? I’m not ready! Oh my god, it’s a mess in here, I… Sorry, let me… just… [picking things up and moving them around] I’m still — I haven’t even — I can’t — I’m sorry.

[Mia runs out. Josie still frozen, looking at the audience.]

Josie: [to audience] Hi. [off] Mia! [to audience] I’m Josie, and that’s… [off] Miriam! [to audience] Have you just been sitting here in the dark? Did she… [off] Miriam Ericthonius Suzanne!

Mia [offstage]: I didn’t write this part, yet!

Josie: What? Get out here! All these people are just staring at me!

Mia: I didn’t write this part!

Josie: Which part, the beginning?

Mia: I didn’t know where to start!

Josie [or “last night” or “last week” etc]: But we open tonight! Did you write anything?

Mia: Yeah! Sure, but it’s all just middle bits. Like, exposition, you know? I was trying to write a shitty first draft, but then it’s not a draft at all, it’s just… shitty piles of shit?

Josie: Is this your costume? Let me see it.

Mia: What? No, this is just work clothes.

Josie: But those socks!

Mia: Oh yeah, I just got those. It’s a joke. You know, these masks?

Josie: Theater masks, yeah —

Mia: So I read that actors in tragic roles used to wear a boot called a “buskin” — maybe they needed the money? — while actors with comedic roles only wore “a thin soled shoe” called a sock. So like, socks. That’s their names! Sock and Buskin! Sock’s the happy one. And then on the other foot —

Josie: Oh wow —

Mia: Two Greek philosophers, right? This one — that’s Heraclitus — the weeping philosopher. Cause he’s a big old Buskin butt, right? Just sad all the time. And next to him is Democritus, the laughing philosopher. No relation. And he’s sock guy. Get it? Tragedy, tragedy, comedy, comedy, theater, philosophy — boots n socks n boots n socks…

Josie: Yes, very clever. You’re wearing mismatched niche nerd socks.

Mia: To say of two socks that they are identical is nonsense, and to say of one sock that it is identical with itself is to say nothing. That’s Wittgenstein.

Josie: I’m positive it isn’t. So what are we doing? Let’s see… [reading from a program] “Pity plus Fear. Is that how you say it?

Mia: Say what?

Josie: It’s written with a plus sign. Pity plus fear? Pity and fear? It looks like a title. “Pity and fear, a travesty.”

Mia: For this show? I don’t know. I bet we can do better. What about Ancient Lesbian Teachings Translated From the Greek? I have a whole pile of titles here somewhere…

Josie: I bet you do. This also says: “Josie Cool. Chorus.”

Mia: Sure, we could try it. What are you reading?

Josie: It looks like a program?

Mia: We made programs?! When? [to the audience] Did they give you one at the door? Can I see that? As herself, Miriam? As myself?! What is this, some sort of memoir, naval-gazing, one woman show?

Josie: Two women.

Mia: One woman and a chorus.

Josie: I guess the real tragedy was the friends we made along the way. What do I need to do?

Mia: The chorus is like… extras.

Josie: I am pretty extra…

Mia: They sing songs and… comment on the action? Wait, you said Pity & Fear, right? That’s Aristotle.

Josie: Oh no, more philosophy? You really went down the rabbit hole, didn’t you?

Mia: No, no, it’s a line from Poetics. That’s his whole, like, treatise on playwriting. I had to read that shit in college! I have it here somewhere…

Josie: First five minutes… Heraclitus, Wittgenstein, Aristotle…

Mia: What do you mean ‘first five minutes’?

Josie: The show! I’m worried the audience might have trouble keeping up!

Mia: There’s is no show! I haven’t written any show! [out] Are you keeping up?

Josie: There’s an audience. We’re on stage. This is the show.

Mia: Fine. Semantics. [pause] It’s kinda creepy. Their eyes follow me when I move.

Josie: You know they’re just people right?

Mia: Riiiiiight. [rummaging again] Ok, here we go. Aristotle says that tragedy is… The imitation of an action that is serious, and complete, and of a certain magnitude; Not like a large magnitude, but clearly defined… constrained even. Certainin language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament… Which means, like, a chorus — song & dance, whatever — Uh… language embellishedthrough pity and fear effecting the proper catharsis of these emotions.

Josie: Great. Is that what we’re doing? Greek Tragedy? Catharsis?

Mia: Sure? I mean, it’s no amphitheater, but it could work… Skene up here, that’s where the action happens… Then an orchestra up front, we’ll need some kind of altar in the middle — for sacrifices or whatever — and around it, this is where the chorus does their thing. I guess you’re already set up, though? Maybe with a long enough cable, you could… [lost in thought]

Josie: This says we start with a prologue?

Mia: Well, I didn’t write one.

Josie: You’re a clever girl. You’ll think of something.

[Josie turns off the work lights, leaving Mia now directly in the spotlight.]

Episode: The Lyric I

[Mia - Greek Words]

Mia: Let’s see, Greek Tragedy, ok… I don’t really know where to start. I guess I said that already. Let me find my notes here… It’s kinda dark… Here’s something.

The word “Tragedy” comes from the Greek word trágos, meaning he-goat, and aeidein, to sing. I don’t know how you say it, but like an ode? So I guess, basically, a “goat song”? Because maybe there’s a prize goat for the best performer? Or an animal sacrifice? Some Dionysian ritual? Bacchanal or whatever? I’m not sure why the goat’s gender matters? For trágos, I mean. He-goat?

There’s another theory, that the root is actually trygos and we’re talking about grapes. The grape harvest. Wine. Everyone still gets drunk, and no one bothers to gender the grapes. Or… sex the grapes?

When you sex a goat, you’re looking to see if it has dangly bits? When you gender a goat, you’re like he’s such a good goat, let’s kill him to make Dionysus happy! And when you romance a goat…

So I guess people disagree about the word Tragedy. And the importance of dangly bits… But Aristotle says it’s the goat thing, not the grapes. And not as a prize or a sacrifice, but those nature spirits — Satyrs — half goat, half man. Some sort of fertility… More upright, than dangly. They always have these massive… It’s where we get the word satire. But that’s weird, right? Satire is comedy. Satyrs are comic?

Sorry. Sorry, can I see that program again? As herself, Miriam. So is it about me, then? Am I the protagonist? From pro, meaning first, and agōnistēs meaning actor, or competitor. The first actor? The primary actor?

[Dialogue - Miriam-Webster]

Josie: Hey! Miriam-Webster, you don’t have to —

Mia: You asked me for a prologue!

Josie: A prologue, not a glossary of terms!

Mia: Do you want to write this?

Josie: You’re doing great, and I support you!

Mia: Thank you.

[Mia - Thespis & Sappho]

According to Aristotle, the poet Thespis is considered the first first actor, or the inventor of tragedy. He’s where we get the word thespian. Like a theater person.

I used to be a theater person. Can you imagine? I mean, yeah, I am on stage. But I don’t really act. I’m not… This isn’t my job!

So I guess Thespis was the first poet to write for an actor, himself, performing in character. Or the first Greek? But Sappho was writing and performing in character a hundred years before that, so why doesn’t she count? She was famous for it! Performing as herself, Sappho.

The “lyric I” — that’s what they call it. Writing in first person. Lyric, as in accompanied by a lyre. No offense, Josie.

Homer and all the other boy poets were obsessed with epic battles, and divine heroes — Captain America, Superman, The Human Torch. Third person war stories, just writing down what happened, like a good journalist. But then Sappho comes along and makes it all personal, talking about her own experience. Her feelings. Eros — Passion, desire, and unfulfilled longing. She was, get this, “accused by some of being irregular in her ways and a woman-lover.”

[Mixed - Heroes & Extras]

Josie: I want that on my grave stone.

Mia: Right?

Josie: I’ll take lesbians over thespians any day.

Mia: Oh shit, do I have to pick one?

Ok, honestly? This is all just stuff that I found on Wikipedia. It’s not like I walk around knowing things about Greek tragedy, or “the lyric I.” Well, I didn’t before.

So Thespis invents tragedy. A one-man show. But then Aeschylus introduces dialogue, a second actor — and it’s been all downhill from there. Shakespeare will start you off with thunder, lightning, and three witches — I wish we had that kind of budget — but then, they’re basically nobody. It’s a play about some Scottish asshole, who goes around killing everyone. The witches are just… extra.

Josie: Hey!

Mia: There’s like 30 characters! Lords and ladies, soldiers, attendants, messengers, and murtherers. Why do you need extra murtherers in a show about a murtherer?

Josie: Why do you need an extra trans woman, in a show about a trans woman?

Mia: Are you just going to interrupt me all the time?

Josie: You said to comment on the action.

Mia: Well comment on it less. I’m trying to develop a rapport.

I mean it’s been, what? Four hundred years since Shakespeare? There’s a global pandemic, we’re finally back to live theater, but… It’s just me up here? With accompaniment, but still. Aristotle would not be impressed. There is a type of manly valor, he says, but valor in a woman, or unscrupulous cleverness is inappropriate.

And if you look up “Hero” — I know, I know, Miriam Webster, right? — a Hero is the chief male character in a book, play, or movie. And the first example is a war hero. Which… I was in a fight once. Like a physical… altercation. In middle school. A kid slapped me, and I fell down. Cried for a while. That’s the whole story, really.

But there is a thing — does this happen to you? When people hear I’m trans — see me on stage or whatever — they tell me that I’m brave. Like simply existing in public as a trans woman is some heroic feat. I know they mean well, but it’s weird, right?

Josie: I always hear that movie cliche: You’ve got a lot of nerve, showing your face after what you’ve done.

Mia: Or maybe they mean I’m sorry for what we’ll do to you. Like they see us already as a sacrifice — tragic, but unavoidable?

Josie: Wait, is this a show about being trans?

Mia: What? No… I hope not. I don’t want to tell that same old story, you know? “I was born in the wrong body, but I always felt like a girl" — whatever that means. Have you ever felt like a girl?

Josie: Only when men talk over me.

Mia: I just… I felt frustrated.

Josie: Girls do feel frustrated, sometimes.

Mia: That’s true. Oh, did I tell you, I ran into my ex?

Josie: Your ex-wife?

Mia: Yeah, she wanted to get together. So we did, but basically just so she could ask “is that why we didn’t work out?”

Josie: Because you’re trans?

Mia: Yeah.

Josie: Didn’t she, like, throw potted plants at your head, or hit you, or whatever?

Mia: Yeah. I don’t know… I mean, I guess so.

Josie: You guess so?

Mia: Well it’s like… The emotional stuff was… worse? Or harder to see? More… cutting. Thank god she hit me, so I could leave…

Josie: Yikes. So what did you say?

Mia: I think I just said… “It probably didn’t help?” I don’t know, tell yourself whatever you need, I guess. I’m not your therapist. I guess that’s the real tragedy, tho, isn’t it?

Josie: You should have been a therapist?

Mia: No. No, the transition. It’s a change of fortune, maybe? Brought on by… some flaw in my character? Once a married man, with valor — or valor potential — but over the next 90 minutes I’m revealed as… just this? Unscrupulous in my cleverness?

I mean, that story has everything, doesn’t it? Peripity and Pathos. A moment of recognition, a reversal of the situation, and then the “tragic act”! The blood letting. Oedipus stabs out his own eyes, but I’m like: raise the stakes! My ex once said that she wouldn’t be happy until I was dead or gay or castrated.

Josie: Two out of three ain’t bad.

Mia: But it’s a tragedy, right? Let’s go for the hat trick! See if it makes her happy!

Josie: We do want her to be happy! Did I tell you, I found my ex on Instagram?

Mia: Oh no…

Josie: She’s engaged now. Big ring on her finger. Some cis girl. A graphic designer whose name starts with a ‘J’.

Mia: Oh shit, I guess she has a type! My ex married a farm boy…

Sorry, where were we? Oh, a “Hero” is also a submarine sandwich, right? Have you eaten? We should order something.

Josie: I’d crush a sando. Does your audience want anything?

Mia: Oh, I forgot to… ask. This is really bright, in my eyes here. I can’t really see. Are you all doing ok? Are you comfortable? If you need a bathroom, it’s to your… my right is your left… It’s where you came in, just through that curtain.

Josie: Maybe finish your prologue, and we can eat when they leave?

[Mia - Words, Words, Words]

Mia: Yeah ok. Sorry, am I talking too much? It feels like a lot. How long is a prologue supposed to be? Are you timing this, Josie? I hate it when theater is just like words words words, you know? People want action! Spectacle! Helicopters landing on stage!

[Mia tries something awkward? She concludes talking is better for now.]

I guess I’m just too close to it. If I could see it from out there… But then would you be up here…? Would you play me? People talk about that all the time, right? Who would play you in a movie? Or… Does Jamie Clayton do theater?

Josie: Does Michelle Hendley?

I feel like there should be auditions, tho. Maybe we still can? If any of you are actors… or you know someone… I guess the program’s already printed, but we can make an insert? Or just announce it before the show, like: For tonight’s performance, the role of Miriam will be played by an understudy. Something like that. It’s not hard to play me. Just, you know, cheat out? Project? Otherwise… Act natural or whatever? You do you.

Chorus: In-Authentic/Fuck it, I’m a Ghost

[Dialogue - Authenticity]

Josie: Live your truth.

Mia: Live your authentic life.

[Josie starts a song, but is cut off]

Mia: What are you doing?

Josie: That was my cue! I said Live your truth, and you said Live your authentic life. I was following along in the script here and it says, uh… “Josie starts a song, TBD"

Mia: There’s a script?!

Josie: Yeah, it was right here, with all my lines highlighted. But it doesn’t say what song to play, just TBD, like we’ll come back to it?

Mia: Well I’m not going to write your songs for you. I want the songs to be authentic Josie.

Josie: Bullshit. I looked ahead. There’s a whole Sappho poem just copied and pasted into the script, like you don’t trust me to write lyrics at all.

Mia: Well it’s theater, so it can’t be authentic authentic. We’re making art. It’s a curated authenticity.

Josie: I think they just call that in-authentic.

Mia: It’s collaborative! I set you up, and then you come in like yes, AND here’s a beautiful song I wrote.

Josie: Ok, sure. But your setup is just a list of definitions and philosophers. How am I supposed to write songs about that? You know my style is more… raw and honest. Where do I fit in?


Mia: Can I see the script?

Josie: Can I play my song?

Mia: Fine.

[Song - Fuck It, I’m a Ghost]

Josie: Yes, and… here’s a beautiful song I wrote. [sings]

It all just seemed so overwhelming
Staring at that empty page
Is every rhyme I write out trite
Is every melody the same

Is there anything I have to say That has not been said before In a million better ways. From people who… (what’s a word that rhymes with before?) *In reality the line is “Maybe ones that mean more”

Tears are forming in my eyes "What do they expect from me?" My pain on main, my pound of flesh Maybe some transexual symphony? The Ugly Organ about a surgery? Tru-trans soul rebel in a minor key?"

And none of that’s authentic anyway At some point should I just Throw up my hands and walk away Or fade away into rust

Maybe there is no better day than today To slowly fade away Maybe there is no better day than today To slowly fade away Maybe there is no better day than today To slowly fade away

[Dialogue - ReWrite The Past]

Josie: How was that?

Mia: Wow that’s… I love where you’re going with that. I wonder if we should move it earlier? Like here? We can cut… most of that prologue… Move your song up to the top, basically? And then… Let’s cut this next bit. It doesn’t make sense any more. Move this up… Here we go… Episode 2, The Three Deaths of Agraulos. Oh wow, we’re telling that story?

Josie: Don’t look at me. You wrote it.

Episode: The Three Deaths of Agraulos

[Mia - Introducing Agraulos]

Mia: Ok so, according to this script — and I’m just skimming here, I didn’t have time to rehearse or anything… [flipping through] How do actors memorize all these lines?

Whatever, I’ll just tell you what I know about Agraulos. Aglauros? Aglaulus? I don’t know how you say it. Different translations just swap out letters… It means Country Woman, I think. Agraulos… like Agriculture? Or maybe Clear Water?

I’ve been trying to write about her since… 2010? But I’m not sure how she fits in here. I grew up on a farm. Are we going for a country woman connection? But she’s from Athens, the eldest daughter of the king — a princess, not a farm girl! She’s one of three “virgin sisters”.

I don’t know why that’s important? Virginity isn’t even… Like, I get that some things are sex, and some things are not sex. But then there’s all this stuff with like hands and… [various gestures]

Anyway, these three sisters, they’re all just dripping with water names. Agraulos, clear water. And then her younger sister — middle sister — Pandrosas, all-dewy. And the youngest is called Herse — Herse? Herse? Herse just means the dew. Clear water, all dewey, the dew.

There’s also a butterfly common to the southern states, Texas and Florida. It’s called the gulf fritillary, or the passion butterfly, or (get this) Agraulis vanillae. I can’t find anything about how it got that name, but they’re beautiful creatures. Form a sort of shell, where they become gelatinousclear water, maybe? — and eventually emerge with long narrow wings. Deep orange, with spots of black — like dew on wet ink…

For context, this is all Greek mythology, which predates Greece — and then, it’s also Roman? Because the Romans come along, and just, like… take all the same stories. The same people. Give them new names, a new context… It’s a whole different language. Is it still the same story if you take out all the words, and put in new words? I guess that’s just translation, right? But what’s the story, if it’s not the words?

So Agraulos shows up in a bunch of these myths, but she’s always a bit part. She just appears here and there, to fill in some plot holes. And then… she dies. Every time. Over and over. I mean, it’s fiction, right? So she can die as often as she needs to. But she’s supposed to be the same person every time — same parents and siblings, same name. Is that what it means to be the same person? I’ve had several names.

It’s just… None of her stories actually fit together! Like she’s only there so that she can be killed? Some kind of… tragic utility player? I think that’s a sports thing. Like she can play in the outfield, but then she’s a linebacker, and then… I don’t know sports. I guess, either way she’s gonna die?

One time she’s thrown from the cliffs, a villain; or she’s turned to stone by a god; or she jumps from the Acropolis, a martyr; or she’s driven to suicide by the furries. (Furies? Furies!)

Sorry, content warnings, I guess. For suicide, and other tragic… This is a tragedy. Also, probably, sexual violence, because it’s Greek Mythology, and… What do they call it in movies? Language, Violence, and Thematic Elements. I don’t know what that is, Thematic Elements. But I’m sure we have it. We should add that to the program. Are you taking notes?

[Dialogue - Warning, The Content is Scripted]

Josie: No. Am I supposed to?

Mia: Well how are we going to remember?

Josie: There’s a script…

Mia: But we could still change it, right?

Josie [reading from the script]: I don’t know, Mia. Are you going to change it?

Mia/Josie [Josie reading along as Mia says it]: I might! You don’t know. Poop. Poop. Walnuts! Fine. I get it. Stop!

[Mia - Why Agraulos?]

Mia: So, Aglauros, right? Who is she? Daughter, sister, princess, country woman? Clear water? There’s just some gravity, pulling her down… Falling, turned to stone, and falling again. There’s a pathos to her. Sorry that’s Greek again. Pathos, it’s like… emotions, but… spicier? Pain and suffering. Pity and fear. [to Josie] I think and sounds better. Pity and Fear.

Maybe that’s her connection, though, right? Tragedy? Pathos? Pity & Fear? Maybe she can tie this all together? Her three deaths? We can make this show about her? I’m into that. Maybe we can lay her story out, all the pieces — fit them back together, and see the whole picture?

Is that what Aristotle means? Make her story serious, and complete, and of a certain magnitude — so you can take it all in, and understand it? Find the truth in it? Coax truth out of her well, and into the light?

[Dialogue - Truth Emerging from Her Well]

Mia [to Josie]: Have you seen that painting?

Josie: Which painting?

Mia: It was going around online. You should look it up! It was called something like… Truth coming out of her well, armed with her whip, to chastise all mankind. I love that title.

Josie: Oh sure, I’ve seen that. It’s in the program. I think it’s on the website too? Basically all the marketing. We’ve all seen it.

Mia: What?! Wait, really? You’ve all seen it? Can I… Yeah, there she is, just naked.

Erin thinks she looks like me. That’s funny, right? Erin’s my partner. One of my partners. That was before I cut my hair. The naked truth, that’s a phrase. Oh, shit! That’s private! You don’t need to see me like that. Gross. It’s not that kind of a show.

Josie: Maybe Erin just thinks you’re angry all the time?

Mia: Yeah, maybe. Grrrrrrrr. I need a whip, though. Who’s doing props? We should find someone for that. Oh, also nudity. Add that to the program.

[Mia - Killed by Liars & Actors]

My ex used to say that all theater is pornography. And not in a good way, she was not getting off to it! I mean, I think she liked theater fine, when I wasn’t doing it? But then I’d be at rehearsal late, with other women, you know… Actors, right? You can’t trust them!

Oh, that same guy, the painter, he has another one where Truth is dead at the bottom of her well, having been killed by liars and actors! Plato has a whole thing about that too, how actors are just trained to lie all the time. Not me, though. I’m not an actor. I’m… just Miriam, but on a stage.

[A spell: Inhale. Weight, Falling. Recover.]

I used to do theater, ran a company, but it’s been… years now? When that fell apart I had a real crisis, you know. Who am I, if I don’t do theater anymore? A writer? Web developer? Multimedia artist just sounds pretentious. And poet’s not any better.

Plato was a poet, before he became obsessed with Pure Reason, and just… burned all his old poems — all his notebooks from high-school, his emo phase — and became a philosopher instead. He starts teaching, and writes this book — The Republic — which is supposed to be a utopia, but it sounds miserable. First off, philosophers are in charge, which is lucky for Plato I guess. But then the rest of us… are either soldiers or farmers, basically.

And I think it’s generational? A caste system? Like I grew up on a farm, so I guess that’s where I belong? I also grew up Mennonite — a pacifist — so, I’m not gonna be a soldier.

You’re probably thinking of the Amish, or like old-order Mennonites? Head coverings, buggies, whatever? It wasn’t like that. It was pretty normal, I guess, just with four part harmony before every meal.

They started together — the Amish and Mennonites. But then the church just split every couple years. Right from the start they were fighting over who’s in and who’s out. The church is the body of Christ — or maybe the bride — either way it has to remain perfect! In the world, but not of it, they say. And, I guess that’s what happens with purity movements. No one can agree what perfection looks like, so they splinter off into these different fragments of church, different sects.

Chorus: Sects with Goats/Can I buy you Taco Paintbrush?

[Dialogue - Different Sects]

Josie: Different Sex?

Mia: Sects. Sects. Like religious SeCts.

Josie: Right, like Tantric sex.

Mia: SeCts!

Josie: That’s what I said. SeCts. SeCts.

Mia: Anabaptist sects! Mennonite and Amish sects!

Josie: So, like, farm sects. Sects With Goats. There’s your title.

Mia: A Mennonite tragedy in one act of lust.

Josie: Oh wait, I’ve got a song that fits here.

Mia: Of course you do!

[Song - Can I buy you Taco Paintbrush?]

Josie [sings]:

All I need is an Autumn breeze
Lazy evenings in a field of green
You twirl your hair and stare up at me
Like some Gen Z horse-girl fantasy
With your kiltie boots and your broomstick skirt
Is that mullet of yours meant to subvert?
Your grace and charm all come naturally
All without a trace of vanity

And what country girl seduces wits In a country dress and a can of Schlitz? No hubris, no glam no glitz Not knowing to pull the cloth from your ankles

You tell me that your looks aren’t that inviting But maybe that is what I find exciting Oh, Darlin’, You might not be Aphrodite But I want you to suffer in myself with me.

Your Halloween head in my lap, a horror movie, take a nap. Some curs-ed YouTube videos. You looked so peaceful in repose. Your roommates’ humor speaks in tongues. Are those bedroom eyes or sleepy ones? Some morning I will buy you brunch, Will I see you in another month?

What would a cowgirl ever see in a middle-aged professional like me? Is my hair queer enough, Is my spirit free? Can I provide you with stability?

And what country girl seduces wits In a country dress and a can of Schlitz? No hubris, no glam no glitz Not knowing to pull the cloth from your ankles

You tell me that your looks aren’t that inviting But maybe that is what I find exciting Oh, Darlin’, You might not be Aphrodite But I want you to suffer in myself with me.

[Dialogue - Authentic Research]

Mia: Nice. That’s hot.

Josie: Thanks, it’s from a Sappho fragment [air quotes?] “that I happened to come across” as part of my “authentic research?”

Mia: Oh my, what a coincidence! (What’s next? What does the script say?)

Josie: You were talking about Mennonites?

Mia: Before that?

Josie [looking at the script]: Plato?

Episode: The Really Real & The Performative Act

[Mia - The Benefit of Real Chairs]

Mia: Oh, right! So Plato doesn’t like art. Well he enjoys it, but he says it’s bad for us. Art is just a poor imitation of life — a parody… a travesty! From the Latin transvestire — to cross-dress. But he also thinks that life itself is just a poor imitation, a shadow of… something… else. Like on a cave wall, or whatever.

Plato thinks this physical world — flesh and blood and broken bones — is too unreliable to be really real. It’s not rational enough! Things change too much. Entropy and whatever. So there must be some more real reality, somewhere else.

Sorry, that’s a bit abstract. Like, ok: if you are sitting in a chair, and you are also sitting in a chair, but they’re not the same chair…? They don’t even look the same! Then what do we even mean by that word: chair? It doesn’t refer to anything. Or do we just mean that, at this moment, they are both chair-like?

But to say these blue monstrosities are like something else — then that something else must actually exist, right? Somewhere we can’t see, can’t touch. We can only reason about them. Pure Reason, right? And he calls that the Realm of Forms. It’s like an Amazon warehouse somewhere, full of Ideals. Hidden truths. The platonic Truth emerging from her platonic well, with a platonic whip.

It’s why truth has to be naked! Otherwise she’s probably hiding something under her skirt! Or are things more true when they’re hidden? If not under our clothes, then maybe between our ears? Does that make a truth more extra real? More pure and immaculate — free from any contamination of the body.

Bodies are messy… All these desires. Fluids… blood and…

[A spell: Inhale. Turn Back, Home, Weight. Recover.]

Bodies ruin everything. They’re fickle & temporary. Irrational. In order to be real, Plato needs everything to be reliable! Insistent, persistent, and consistent. The facts can’t possibly care about your feelings!

Don’t even get Plato started on feelings. That’s another problem. Poetry makes you feel all these emotions, like pity & fear — Plato mentions those specifically. Poets love to wallow in these emotions. But then they’re just, you know, bad emotions. And as an audience, you get… pleasure from that experience?

And anyway! Poets aren’t experts, what do they know? Poets will just say whatever they want, and get it wrong all the time. You’ve read poems, right? Were they true? Hell, I just look shit up on the internet, and then put it in my show, without a fact-check, or a rhyme scheme, or anything! This show could have been a single email, with a couple links to Wikipedia, and a joke about sects with goats.

Josie: It’s a good joke, though.

Mia: But Plato’s not happy about that conclusion. He likes poetry, so at the end of the book he challenges anyone who’s not a fucking poet, to prove him wrong. For it will be clear gain for us if it can be shown that [poetry] bestows not only pleasure but a benefit. And Aristotle is a student at Plato’s academy, so he accepts this challenge — to defend poetry!

Josie: I guess the best offense of poetry, is a good defense of poetry?

Mia: And at the time, poetry is mostly performed as either theater or song. So both Sappho and Thespis are on the chopping block, unless Aristotle can prove (in prose without meter) that all their shitty performance art is not only a pleasure, but a benefit! And that’s the whole book. Aristotle’s Poetics.

But in order to prove that something has a benefit, you need to define it — give it clear boundaries. You need a way to quantify all poetry, and rank it from least to most beneficial. Most perfect! Something for us all to work towards — that one perfect poem, perfect play, perfect song.

[Dialogue - The Best Words]

Josie: My strategy — writing lyrics I mean — is just to take all the best words, and put them in the best order.

Mia: But are lyrics even poetry? How do we know?

[Mia - Catharsis]

The definition Aristotle lands on, the purpose of all poetry, is catharsis. But he never defines that word. It’s usually, like, a cleansing? But what kind, exactly? Is it like religious atonement? Blood is purified through blood. Or is it therapeutic? Can you be cured of these emotions? Or maybe it’s educational? Are you going to learn from watching me suffer? Or does he mean it in the medical sense? That’s the only other time he uses that word, catharsis — the evacuation of menstrual fluid and reproductive material.

All we know is that a cleansing is required, and tragedy does it best. Better than comedy — better than epic, better than all the other poetic forms. Tragedy is perfect already, and everyone else can go jump off a cliff with their love poems or whatever — Sappho.

And so this supposed “defense” of poetry — by attempting to define it — becomes, in reality, a defense of only some poetry, and a weapon against the rest. Tragedy does this thing. Through words, it doesn’t just express an idea, but it performs some action that no other art can perform.

So Tragedy is not a mere reflection of the shadows cast by Plato’s Ideal Forms — one step farther from Plato’s hidden truth — but it’s active. Creating a new reality. Cleansed of your filthy emotions. Purified in a tide of blood.

[A spell: Inhale. Turn Back, Home, Weight, Falling, Cleanse. Recover.]

Chorus: Introducing Josie, The Real Buskin

[Dialogue - Depression Sucks]

Mia: Sorry, I haven’t really introduced Josie, have I? She’s great, plays guitar — you already know that. Uh, what else? She’s a great friend, and maybe the most… sensitive? person you could ever meet. That’s not an insult, sensitive.

Josie: Why would they think it’s an insult?

Mia: I don’t know. I feel like… Maybe it is sometimes? Or, I thought it was… before? But you know what I mean. She’s all heart & exposed nerve endings. Raw. I think it’s inspiring.

Josie: It’s a terrible way to live, exposed. You can die of exposure.

Mia: You have an endless ability to feel, and express.

Josie: I have depression.

Mia: The songs she writes. There’s so much pain and terror, but also humor and beauty in that sound!

Josie: Sometimes I just want it all to stop, you know? So I bang my head against the wall. But then people freak out. It’s a whole thing.

Mia: I mean sometimes she lashes out, sure. And it can be brutal. But she doesn’t expect you to sympathize. It’s like she knows she’s not the chief character in any story. She’s not looking for glory, or respectability, or heroics.

Josie: What are you even talking about? Of course I want sympathy. Of course I’m the main fucking character. You can’t just make me be whoever you want, just because you wrote the script. You’re so full of shit.

Mia: Well, I didn’t write that.

Josie: Please stop digging, and just let me play a song?

[Song - “Warm, Cool, & French - The 3 genders”]

Josie [sings]:

We’ve been classified since we were young
Guitarist, artist, intellectual, son
And all those piles seem so binary
When all my heroes were cementing that divide in me
Cause bad is always bad and good is always good
And caricatures of both are found in your neighborhood
Nuance is hard in screamed out rhyming stanzas
with few expansive narrative extravaganzas

But what life actually turn out that way People telling me who I am and what I outta say And what I’ll like and what I’ll hate, no land bet-ween the coasts Branded for life in column A, Column B is full of ghosts

Did evil somehow lead the good astray Is the hero always worthy of our praise Is it set for life or can your story change Everyone is living day-to-day Somewhere in the shades of grey

No Coasts to bring us down, no borders wall us in. No interest all-consuming, all defining, full of sin No ability to hide the magnitude contained within Not all labels tell us who we are, no pasts can tell us who we’ve been.

Who you are is what they can’t take away. No one to tell me who I am and what I outta say And what I’ll like and what I’ll hate, or much I oughta weigh I’ll be the mess I wanna be, that mess is fucking great.

Did evil somehow lead the good astray Is the hero always worthy of our praise Is it set for life or can your story change Everyone is living day-to-day Somewhere in the shades of grey

[Dialogue - Make it a Concert]

Mia: Maybe we should make it a concert. Instead of a tragedy?

Josie: Don’t put this mess on me.

Mia: Sorry, ok.

Josie: I thought you were going to tell us about Agraulos? What happens with Agraulos?

Mia: She dies. Three times.

Josie: Yeah, but… why? How? Tell us the stories.

Episode: Nosce Te Ipsum (Know Thyself)

[Mia - The Oracle at Delphi]

Mia: Ok. Death number one, the first death of Agraulos. Well, the first one tonight. Doesn’t matter where you start, she’s gonna die in the end, right? Aren’t we all?

Athens has been at war, and it’s dragging on for years. The city is under siege, and they’re losing. So they call on the Oracle at Delphi. The temple of Apollo.

The Oracle is just some woman, a priestess, sitting on a three-legged stool over a chasm. The inner sanctum of the temple. Fumes rise up beneath her seat, supposedly a decomposing python — killed by Apollo himself. And she would fall into a trance, intoxicated by these vapors, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. And the result is some nonsense experimental poetry — she’s tripping on fumes, right? But then it’s translated by the priests into elegant, if cryptic, hexameters. Prophesies.

Which is great. Greek Tragedies often start with like: Oedipus is going to kill his father and marry his mother, all in the next 80 minutes! We’ve got father killing and mother fucking! Just sit back and enjoy! I guess Macbeth starts with a prophesy, too, right? That’s what the witches are for? All that toil and trouble?

[Dialogue - A Prophesy]

I wish I had a prophesy. That’s how we should start the show! You could be the witches, and tell me what’s gonna happen?

Josie: You will stand on a stage and talk a lot. [Evil witch laugh]

Mia: Thanks, I guess? Prophesies are great, because it’s a story just waiting for you to come along and step into the lead role. And the rest is scripted, right? Destiny, fate, whatever. Without that, I’m just… I mean, I don’t know. It’s complicated. I’m not even sure what genre this is.

Josie: You mean, this show?

Mia: Or… life? Like we’re all just making it up as we go? Searching for some hidden truth along the way? But then, sometimes the story just… shifts, without warning?

[A spell: Inhale. Freedom, Trauma, Turn Back, Home. Recover.]

How am I supposed to build a narrative out of that — serious, complete, and certain?

[Mia - A Scale of Being]

When my mom was pregnant for the first time, she had a dream that the child would be a boy — and he was… or is. That’s my brother. But when mom was pregnant with her second child (that’s me) she had no such premonitions. No prophesy, no oracle, no ultrasound clues… So she bought a beautiful little dress, on the off-chance, she tells me. And picked out my name, Miriam Suzanne. After I was born, they gave it all away. The dress, the name, the narrative.

But the Oracle at Delphi, you can just go there and ask, you know: who am I, really? Why am I here? Or, how do I end this goddamn war? And then the oracle goes through the whole process — shitty first draft, and a round of edits — to get you some beautiful aphorism, like… you are what you eat or step on a crack or all that we are, is the result of what we have thought. I got that one from a fortune cookie.

Or also like the one inscribed on the forecourt of the temple — whatever that is. I guess you see it when you enter? It says gnōthi seauton. Know thyself!

Which probably just meant know your place before the gods. Stay humble. But then Socrates says that a man should look himself in the mouth, the same way he would a horse for sale (but not a gift horse, that’s rude). It becomes a self-help trend. Know your strengths, your weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Your Meyers Briggs. Your Enneagram, and Dianetics. Whatever it takes! But starting with your teeth. Teeth are important.

Shakespeare makes it about personal authenticity: To thine own self be true. But then, eventually Carl Linnaeus — the father of modern taxonomy — he’s putting all life into categories. And it’s a messy process, working from notes, sketches, fragments — trying to piece together traits that seem related, or relevant. Warm blood, hairy bodies, four limbs, live birth, and… What the fuck is a platypus?

We can’t even agree on what it means to be alive, let alone mammalian. People were furious when he tried to call us quadrupeds, and as a doctor he’s obsessed with breast feeding, so here we are. What, you don’t all have milk-producing mammary glands? All you need are the right hormones! And so our whole class, what makes us animal, mammalia, is feminine. But what makes us unique from the other hairy warm-bloods, what makes us Human? Homo sapiens is masculine. It means wise and knowledgeable men, which is debatable. And then, below that, as a description, he uses the same phrase in Latin: Nosce te ipsum. Know thyself.

And this is still our favorite way to sort and rank life. Size everything up by it’s knowledge of self. Make a dog look in the mirror, but there’s something on its nose. Does it understand that nose as connected to a self? Reflected back? Does it try to brush something off?

What is this infinite feedback loop of experience… memory… story… experience… memory… that leaves us mesmerized by our own reflections in the pool, but also… makes us feel so alone. Are we alone? Are we the only ones who do this? Are we, the best animals ever?

Maybe! Carl’s work builds directly on Aristotle: the father of biology — who did all his research (by the way) on the Isle of Lesbos! And Aristotle has already arranged the world into a fixed scale of perfectionthe great chain of being! With cold, dry minerals at the bottom, up thru (tepid, moist) plants and animals, to humans who — like the air of Lesbos — are hot and wet.

Josie: Wet Hot Lesbian Summer!

Mia: But all these categories, genres, species… Why do we always come back to a single essential condition. A hidden truth? A single path to perfection, to poetry, gender, humanity? Are some of us more human than others? More sapien, more self-aware? Obviously, some of us are more homo…

Anyway, Agraulos. The prophesy for Athens — the Oracle at Delphi — is something like a sacrifice of one, to save the city. A personal sacrifice will end this ongoing war. What Athens needs is a martyr.

[A spell: Inhale. Freedom, Trauma, Turn Back, Home, Weight, Falling, Cleanse. Recover.]

[Dialogue - The Bloody Theater]

The Mennonites have this big thick book, called The Martyr’s Mirror (or) The Bloody Theater.

Josie: Now that’s a good title.

Mia: Gets right to the point for a tragedy.

Josie: Or a punk band.

Mia: It’s like a memorial of Christian martyrs. Names and dates and stories — anyone who was killed for their faith. Starting with Jesus, up through the early Mennonites. Like this one guy, Dirk something — fleeing the god police across a frozen river. But then he stops, and turns back to pull them out, when they fall through the ice behind him. And, of course, they kill him anyway. He’s in this book, he’s a martyr.

But then that story helps define the whole community. Not just faith but action — pure and selfless action. What could be more Christ-like, than self-sacrifice? And I think, do all communities have stories like this? Maybe not always so bloody? But stories that tell us what it means to be a part of the group? Stories that inspire, and stories we can try to live into? Not conditions, but aspirations?

Chorus: Groundhog Day, for Trauma

[Story/Song - Turn Back on the Ice/Groundhog Day, but for Trauma]

I don’t know. My ex had her whole life planned out. Married early. Two kids by the age of thirty. She was on track until… I ruined it all.

Josie [sings]:

I snooped on your Instagram to find
A new girl is taking up your time
A ring on your finger A fox on the box.
I’m glad that you’re happy, so am I

Mia: At some point, I’m sitting alone in couples therapy — such a classic trope in movies. And I tell the counselor, I don’t know what to do. How many times am I going to replace the broken remote, after it hits the wall behind me? How do I…

Josie [sings]:

But If I was happy why look back
Was I just hoping to find you sad
Why seek you out? Why twist that knife?
Try to find out what you thought I lacked

Mia: And the counselor says, like it’s obvious… You know you don’t have to go home, right? And I… What? I’m in free-fall… So I drive to a friends house, move into the basement. But we stay in counseling another 6 months. Try to make this work? Somehow… Turn back onto the ice.

Josie [sings]:

Why do we do this to ourselves
We promise that we will not just dwell
But here we are wallowing in pain
and dragging ourselves through this Hell.

Mia: And somewhere in all of it, I start painting my nails. It’s relaxing. Until my wife asks if I’m having an identity crisis. I’m not, I think. Or I am, but, that’s what a divorce is, right? Divorce is an identity crisis. These are just colors that make me smile. Distract me from…

Josie [sings]:

So I’m here torturing myself, over and over
Rather than trying to get some closure
Like picking at a scab things are gonna get grosser
But I don’t know how to stop myself from scratching

Mia: Still, it’s a small town, small Mennonite college. And divorce is… Everyone has an opinion, has to choose a side. She can’t really hurt you, can she? Dad pulls out the DSM 4 to read me the definition of abuse. Reasonable people would find some middle ground, the problem is a lack of patience on my part. I need to try harder… Turn back onto the ice.

Josie [sings]:

4 billion girls in this universe
But I’m hung up on you like it’s some kinda curse
I’m cursed to never stop returning
And doing so only makes things worse
So I'm here torturing myself, over and over

Mia: Everyone wants an explanation. This tragedy of a marriage and divorce is too messy, too complicated. Was the love real, or was it a lie all along?

Josie [sings]:

So I'm here torturing myself, over and over

Mia: They demand a re-write, to make the pieces fit. And slowly, over time – with telling and re-telling – the story becomes almost complete, with a magnitude that is almost certain.

Josie [sings]:

So I'm here torturing myself, over and over
Rather than trying to get some closure

Mia: But it’s clear that I’m being cross-examined. Asked to prove (in prose without meter) that this divorce would provide not only a pleasure but a benefit.

[Mia - Kekropodai]

Agraulos and her sisters are sometimes called the Kekropodai — daughters of Kekrops — which is also the genus of cicadas, I think? Because women and cicadas both crop up every once in while, or fall from the trees and the cliffs, screaming — for reasons you might not understand. Because sometimes nothing changes until you climb to the top of the Acropolis, and give yourself over to the wind. To the cliffs. To the will of the gods. Which is what Agraulos does.

And I wonder, when she heard that prophesy — “a sacrifice of one to save the city” — and she’s able to see herself in that story, in that role, the martyr. Was she confident about her choice? A destiny buried deep inside, or was she simply willing to risk it all, and hope for the best?

We’ll never know, and maybe it doesn’t matter. Either way, she throws herself off the ledge, over the cliff. And she dies on the rocks below.

[Dialogue - Success]

Josie: Does it work?

Mia: I mean, she’s dead. There’s a temple for her there, where she fell.

Josie: So it worked, then? She saved the city?

Mia: Well, I guess they won the war. I mean, Athens is still there right?

Josie: Because she was willing to sacrifice herself?

Mia: I don’t know. Maybe?

Josie: Ok, so that’s one story. How does Agraulos die next?

Episode: Athena & Ericthonius

Mia: This story starts with Athena — Ms Minerva, if you’re Nasty (or Roman). She’s the goddess of wisdom and war (which is an interesting combination). She’s in need of new weapons, and new armor. Which is wise, I think, if you’re going to war. So she goes to her half-brother, the blacksmithing god Hephaestus. But he decides, instead of making anything at all he’s going to… pursue Athena, his sister. Sexually. Against her will.

And Athena hasn’t got time for this! She’s the goddess of wisdom and war, a goddamn feminist icon! She has places to be. Or according to some authors, she’s just determined to maintain her virginity — not like, determined to not be fucking raped, by her fucking brother, for fucks sake! So she pulls away from him, and he (like some Louis CK motherfucker), just shoots his shot — his all-dewey, clear water — just like, in her general direction, as she’s walking away?

The text isn’t clear about their exact movements, or relation in space, but Athena is a fucking warrior goddess, unscrupulous in her cleverness — and she dodges her brother’s divine prick, and just, like, brushes the dew from her leg with a piece of wool, which she tosses to the ground.

And ok. I warned you about sexual violence, but when Ovid gets here in his telling, he just… moves on. And I don’t know… That’s too… Easy? But also… I get it? Not all violence stops you. In the moment, at least? There’s no explosions, no blood. Rape isn’t always a fucking car crash. Sometimes it’s not even…

It’s foggy, and I… his hands… gentle, like a lover, but… I don’t know him. All I can do is… step out? Leave this body. Become stone. But then, eventually, you… I… stand up, and wash off, maybe. Go back to work? Back to class? Because… what? There’s no time to… Or your heart just isn’t… You still need new weapons, and new armor!

Even the rape of a goddess is only one moment in a life full of moments. Divine moments of wisdom and war! The violence of it is just too… human?

But for Athena — or maybe all of us — the story doesn’t end there. The gods are virile, and the earth is fertile, and at some point, that trauma — that wet wool thrown to the ground — produces a son. Ericthonius, the serpent child. Cherub up top, but snake down below. Two-shaped, a monster.

And so this goddess, just another divine day, picks up the child, and walks away. She puts him in a box, and closes the lid, and locks him up… For safe keeping? His or hers, I’m not… And she gives that box to (who else), to the three sisters, the daughters of the king, the dew carriers — and she instructs them never to look inside. Just never open the box.

Does the child need to be fed? Can you do that without opening the lid? Ovid doesn’t say. And he never asks, what’s that like? To be two-shaped, and uncertain. Locked away for safe keeping? What kind of a life…

The younger sisters are not sure what to do, but Agraulos just opens the box — without so much as a trigger warning. And there they behold the serpent child. And either they are driven mad at the sight (I don’t think that’s a real diagnosis). Or Athena, angry, sends the furies to punish their treason. Either way, they throw themselves from the cliffs, and fall to their death on the rocks below.

Chorus: Truth-Shaped (Uncertain)

[Story/Song - Two-Shaped, Uncertain/A Little Truth in the Well]

I remember her — boy Miriam. Two-shaped and uncertain. She’s fuzzy and distant, a shadow that disappears when I turn and look. It’s just me, it always has been. But these two pasts that converge in a single body. Is that what it means to be the same person — to have a memory?

Josie [sings]:

The axe forgets but the tree remembers
The things we think we know for sure are just the pieces we’ve put together.
All colored by internal biases.
What’s real is probably somewhere in between

Mia: Biology isn’t a static event, but a process that spans a lifetime — a serpent eating its tail. I discover as I grow — desires, passions, and unfulfilled longing. I make choices! Not always consistent or persistent, complete or certain. But alive!

Josie [sings]:

The things a person chooses to conceal
I’m always careful of the things that I choose to reveal
Like all the ways that art can makes us feel
Are any of our feelings even real?

Here comes the truth, here comes the truth in a nutshell “Of truth, we all know nothing, because truth is in a well”

Mia: And then I’m digging through an old box in the attic. This is a metaphor, it takes years, and it happens in a moment. Something catches my eye. So I reach in and pull, and… It’s a name, discarded since birth. I try it on…

Josie [sings]:

Here comes the truth, here comes the truth in a nutshell
“Of truth, we all know nothing, because truth is in a well”

Mia: And nothing changes, but everything is new. This one moment ripples out. The past should be safe, but even what’s done won’t stay put. And I’m looking back at my life like a comic book author. What can be salvaged, a retroactive continuity — and what will get left behind, no longer canon?

Is this a truth, revealed, more perfect than the last? Or can I know myself and still change – change again – take out all my words and replace them? Does it matter? Can I keep it? Is this how it feels to come home?

[Mia - A Sea of Bitterness]

Now I’m here, on stage. There’s a violence just in choosing what to say, and what to leave out? Who am I protecting, and who will be cast as a villain? I’m so scared to say anything real, that I spend all my time hiding behind Aristotle, Plato, Agraulos, and Sappho.

They say hindsight is 20/20, but they also say that the winner writes the history book. And, either way… I am the one on stage, telling the story, aren’t I? I never promised the truth! But I am here. Flesh and blood. Miriam, on stage. Scripted and wearing this… But is that any less real than who I am at home, or at the grocery store?

I also understand the One Rule for making queer art. The more pain I suffer, the more applause I get for my honesty. Authenticity. The classic role for a trans woman on stage, to evoke either pity or fear so that you might be cleansed… of what? Your own discomfort? About my body? My trauma? My joy? My gender?

I remember talking to my aunt after the divorce, and she says you’ll know you’re ready to start dating again once the stories you tell every day don’t involve your ex. Which is awkward. Here I am 15 years later, on stage talking about her again. But there’s something I love about that. The stories that I tell about myself reflect something about who I am, who I want to be. And as I live new material, I shape it into these stories, and the stories also shape me, what I do next. Like pointing a camera at its own image, or standing between mirrors. Like my center of gravity. It doesn’t exist anywhere, but it describes something real… pulling me down…

The origin of the name Miriam isn’t known for certain, but there are several theories, like sea of bitterness, or beloved, or wished-for child.

[Dialogue: Irregular In Her Ways, and A Woman-Lover]

That has a certain ring, right? Wistful, desired maybe, but also sad…

Josie: A tragic pathos, you mean?

Mia: I can’t be tragic. I’m wearing socks. You’re the one… buskin.

Josie: Oh, I assumed you were the straight person, and I’m your comic foil.

Mia: Did you call me straight?

Josie: Sorry. Pansexual.

Mia: Sure. Pan. Bi. Lesbian. Queer. I guess I’m not picky. Tags not folders, right?

Josie: I think it’s well established that I’m irregular in my ways and a woman-lover.

Mia: Another lesbian poetess, in a proud tradition going back to the original poetess of Lesbos. Of course, all we know about her comes from fragments of papyrus — the songs she wrote, and thing men wrote about her, but never first-hand. After her death, she becomes a stock character — the eternal slut. It’s a great job if you can get it. Some say had a husband, but then his name is Kerkylas of AndrosPenis All-Cock, from Man Island!

Josie: Dick Johnson. Classic.

Mia: Others say she was rejected by a ferryman — and throws herself from the cliffs! A familiar death! More recently, to avoid scandal, she’s been recast as a school teacher — the women in her songs, not lovers but students.

Josie: Just gals being pals.

Mia: And of course, there’s no evidence for any of that! She seems to be… just another woman from the isle of Lesbos, writing songs about women who she loved. Songs of longing and desire. Sapphic. Lesbian… Sorry, where were we?

Josie: Does Agraulos have to die again? One more time?

Episode: Hermes & Herse

Mia: Yes, she does. This one starts with The Festival of the Dew Carriers. It’s a time when many young women are out in the streets, including our three dewy sisters. But also Hermes, a god on winged sandals — floating above, watching the festivities below.

The women would gather, and a priestess would place baskets with unknown contents on each of their heads. A secret, carried across town for the goddess Athena. It’s a reenactment of sorts. The serpent child in a box.

And I like the physical strain of it. Sometimes you don’t know the secrets you carry, but you can feel their weight in your body. Suddenly you’re crying in the shower, thirty-two years and it all feels wrong. Or you catch a glimpse of who you could be, in a thrift store on South Broadway.

All these fathers of philosophy, taxonomy, biology insisting it’s our thoughts that make us real. Pure reason that makes us human. In the world, but not of it. But some things have to be lived to be understood. Felt in our bloodstream, and in the dew between our legs. The body has little regard for theory. Not a mind trapped by a carcass, but a body that carries a story. I feel, therefore I can be free. Audre Lorde said that.

But as the women carry their secrets across town, Hermes is circling above, and fixes his attention on the youngest, Herse. And so, of course, he follows her home — where Agraulos is there to greet him, standing in the door, blocking his way. Which is a mistake, of course! Hermes turns her to stone, a statue. The end.

Agraulos is dead for the last time. Or the first, if you tell these stories the other way around. It still won’t make any sense. How can Agraulos die at a yearly festival that reenacts her own story? The other story, where she also died, after opening a box full of secrets.

It doesn’t matter how many times she dies, she’ll never be tragic. Never serious or complete. Always uncertain.

Anyway, this Festival of the Dew Carriers is still honored on 3rd of Skirophorion, which is June or maybe July. It’s a day to finish unfinished projects, and to clear away debris – what is no longer needed – to make room for the new.

Choral Epode: We Can Do Better

Mia [looking around]: I’m not sure if any of this debris is needed. But I’m not sure how to finish the project.

Josie: What were you working on when I came in?

Mia: Oh yeah, I was fixing this… Do you have what you need to work on some music?

Josie: Yeah, I had some ideas for an ending. Big final number. Maybe even, reveal a full band behind the curtain?

Mia: Oh that’s fun. Would they have to wait back there the whole show? What if we did something with a ‘helicopter landing on stage’? But small, like a radio controlled thing? It lands on the altar, and it’s carrying… A fortune cookie maybe? Some message from the gods? A prophesy!

Josie: It’s a bit Deus Ex Machina. God from a literal machine?

Mia: That’s fair… We just need something that brings this all together.

Josie: I mean, it’s a tragedy… Someone has to die, right?

Mia: Well, I’m not gonna kill you! And that just leaves…

Josie: I thought I’d be dead by page 35.

Mia: There’s also a french phrase — La petit mort? — which means the little death.

Josie: How can you be a little dead?

Mia: I don’t know, something about moments of change. The death of one story…

Josie: Or maybe, death of the author?

Mia: Ok, yeah, but as authors of self, right? Make it personal?

Josie: Oh sure. You’re happy to write all my lines for me, but then I mention death of the author, and suddenly we’re all in it together?

Mia: What’s the script say?

Josie [reading]: It ends with that line about clearing away debris.

Mia: Seems a bit on the nose. Can you give me some light here?

[Lights change. Miriam is working on something stage-business. Josie is working on a guitar part. The lights continue to change. The music swells. Light from water, a sense of falling, a magical moment. Maybe there’s a chorus at the end of a build. And then everything is back how it was. They look at each other.]

Josie: That’s the ending. Right? Something like that?

Mia: Yeah, but like flesh it out — really make it magical?

Josie [noticing the audience]: We should have gone to black after that chorus.

Mia: Oh yeah, like slow fade to back with the music still going?

Josie: Yeah, that could work. Or just, like —

[lights out. the end.]