Diana deified is a huntress. Brought to Italy’s Lake Nemi by Orestes as he fled, an exile, after avenging his father’s death, Diana was given a temple near Aricia. The place became known as a sanctuary for fugitives, with Orestes as the first. In this story, which may be called Sanctuary (at the Oak Grove), Diana herself is the exile, returning from her long, worldwide hunt to the vestal virgins, her best friends, Minerva and Vesta. Diana is a loner, she eschews vulnerability, those she knows most intimately are in awe of her, meaning that in fact those she loves most barely know her at all. In keeping with the tradition of scholarship on Diana, she is poorly understood, even by her closest friends. To speak of the Roman Diana is to speak of the multitudes which she contains. In addition to the virgins, she is part of a triad of gods, the nymph Egeria and the satyr Virbius. Sister to Apollo, daughter to Jupiter and Leona, she has never quite lived up to their expectations for her, succumbing to being worshipped as the goddess of birthing mothers alone. However, this Diana is the resurrection of the huntress, who gives sanctuary to escaped and fleeing slaves in her oak grove, who holds the collective memories of a shared past in which kings are only kings until slain by a slave. The Roman Diana is both the goddess worshipped in her temple in Rome, and the Diana worshiped at Lake Nemi, the cult of Diana that practiced the barbaric rituals of the Rex Nemorensis. This is the Diana for Sanctuary (at the Oak Grove).

For play Sanctuary at the Oak Grove, Libby Emmons began with a simple idea about friendship and liberation from those desires that enslave people. However, between the initial proposal and when the writing began in earnest, the author experienced the loss of an old friend, a lauded genius, an artist, a mystery, a kindred heart. As such, the character of Diana morphed. No longer a playful, eccentric woman attempting to craft a lifestyle on the edge of polite society, Diana has become the huntress, and the hunted, the haunted. She has traveled far and wide in search of the modern prey– relevancy, fame, fortune, passion, fulfillment. After rumors of her death, she has been drawn back to the home of the vestal virgins, her best friends, Minerva and Vesta. She barely fits in with them anymore, she doesn’t know how she got there, or where she was before. Through research into the ancient rituals, traditions, and barbarisms, the author recreates the magic of Lake Nemi, and Diana’s journey from woman to deity. The play will be in three, 20 minute acts, interspersed with interludes of the Rex Nemorensis, holding his fearful court over the kingdom of the oak grove. The language between the four main characters– Diana, Minerva, Vesta and Virbius– is intimate. They have a deep history and it shows in their interactions, secrets, and intentions. Beauty is a guiding force in this play, as are the ancient rituals such as tree worship, sacrifice, and the unpenetrable mystery of the natural world.

Directed by Stuart Bousel
Staged Reading on October 20, 2018 at the EXIT Theatre

Erika Bakse (Vesta)

Ellen Dunphy (Stage Directions)

Mikl Em (Rex)

Gary Hughes (Numa)

James McGarry (Virbius)

Sarah Negrón (Diana)

Renee Rogoff (Minerva)

Lauren Yellow (Egeria)

Libby Emmons grew up in every major metrop on the northeast coast, and has never lived anywhere else. When she got caught writing obscene stories in jr. high, her parents forbade her from writing lest she be overtaken by the devil. She knew then that writing was all she wanted to do. She is an award-winning playwright, has published with Smith & Krause, Applause Books, New York Theatre Review, Narratively, The Federalist, Spill, Liberty Island, and blogs semi-regularly at li88yinc.com. She is founder of the Sticky short play series, currently running in Normal, IL and New York’s Hudson Valley. Her latest obsession is futurism from a feminist perspective, and anything about sex-bots. Current projects include Hippopotamus (in development at The Actors Studio), Emmy Archer and the Mad Secrets (a novel for young adults), #SubscriptionBoxLife (a devised work with her own Puss&Puss Collective), and Sanctuary at the Oak Grove (a commission on the goddess Diana for SF Olympians). Libby lives half in Brooklyn, and half in stories.

The image of Diana was created by Liz Conley.