Asheville’s Magnetic Theatre is presenting a thought-provoking, contemporary take on the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades. “KORE” is a world premiere, written by Gabrielle Orcha and directed by Jessica Johnson.
In the play, Persephone, a broke, unemployed 29-year-old woman, loves her mother, but says she needs “space.” After an encounter in a bar, Persephone falls in love with a bad boy, Hades, and runs away with him on his motorcycle.
There is no spoiler alert about the conclusion of the play; people who know the myth of Persephone know how it ends.
In ancient mythology, Persephone was the daughter of Demeter, goddess of nature.
Hades, god of the underworld, and on one visit to Earth, falls in love with Persephone and kidnaps her.
Demeter becomes distraught, searching for her daughter and enlists the help of Hecate, goddess of dark places.
While in the underworld, Persephone ate pomegranate seeds from the underworld and was condemned to live there.
In mythology, eating the fruit of a captor meant that person would have to return to that captor, so Persephone was doomed to the underworld.
However, a compromise was reached and Persephone was allowed to live on Earth for six months each year, spending the rest of the year in the underworld with Hades.
The myth of Persephone is linked to the coming of spring and winter. When Persephone is above ground on Earth, it’s springtime, but when she descends to Hades, it’s winter.
The Myth Retold
It sounds like a dark story, but Orcha gives the characters dimension and has written a play about thoughtful approaches to life choices. Audiences will enjoy several comic moments.
“Gabrielle Orcha has written a timely and resonant piece, finding nuance in long-held archetypes,” said Katie Jones, Magnetic Theatre’s artistic director.
In this contemporary twist on the myth, Persephone is a single 29-year-old woman, who recently lost her job, and is living with her mother, Demeter.
Demeter repeatedly calls her daughter Kore, but Persephone corrects it each time: “It’s Persephone.”
On a night out, Persephone wanders into a bar and strikes up a conversation with Hades, a man at the bar. At this point, she has no idea Hades is a bad choice.
He tries to drug her drink, but the two depart the bar on his motorcycle and descend into the underworld.
Demeter becomes obsessed with trying to find Persephone and finally locates her in the underworld with a GPS device given to her by Hecate.
A tug of war ensues between Demeter and Hades over where Persephone should remain.
Persephone is happy in the darkness of the underworld and offers to make dinner for Hades. While preparing the food, she eats three pomegranate seeds.
Hades sees her do this and admonishes her to spit out the seeds, because to consume food from the underworld means one must stay there.
Persephone is distraught, thinking she can never be with her mother again. But Hades finds a clause in the “Book of the Dead and of Rules & Codes” — a “love clause,” stating that mothers and daughters are an exception. He tells Persephone it’s up to her to decide for herself in which realm she wants to remain.
Persephone, perplexed on the choice, gets a visit from Hecate, who tells her there may be a non-binary solution.
“It’s OK to grow in two directions,” Hecate said.
Following the myth, Persephone chooses six months on Earth and six months in the underworld.
“People should come see ‘KORE’ because it’s funny, quirky and speaks to any of us who are trying to find ourselves, to love another person or to accept the inevitability of life’s changes,” Jones said.
Three veteran actors guide theatergoers through Persephone’s search for happiness and her eventual decision.
Heather Bronson deftly and brightly portrays Persephone, a young woman searching for answers in this world and pondering life choices.
“Heather is a well-loved local actor, known for her comic timing, stage presence and surprising cutting edge, underneath all that sweetness,” Jones said.
“I want to be queen of my life,” Bronson says as her character wrestles with the decision of where to reside, how to choose between one’s mother and an exciting love interest.
Hades is portrayed by Zak Hamrick, who brings a dashing presence to the lord of the underworld, feeling he has “ruled alone for too long.”
“Zak has a gift for language and a careful, believable approach to acting,” Jones said. “He brings a masculine sensitivity to Hades that you wouldn’t normally find.”
A little levity is brought by Katie Langwell, portraying Demeter and Hecate.
“Katie is a local comedian, playwright and performer,” Jones said. “She nails the multiple mother archetypes brought forth in this production, as well as the zany, but wise, Hecate. She interacts with the audience with a confident, playful presence, and is an absolute delight to watch.”
“KORE” is being presented through July 24 at The Magnetic Theatre, 375 Depot St., in Asheville’s River Arts District.
Tickets are $23 general admission;$20 for members. Attendees are asked to bring proof of COVID vaccination to watch the play without masks; those who are unvaccinated are asked to wear masks while viewing the production.
For more information, visit www.themagnetictheatre.org/.