Hurricane Diane will be performed at the New York Theater Workshop from February 6-March 10, 2019. Tickets are available for purchase here.
With a great wind, the god appears.
I have returned, and it begins.
DIANE is a butch charm factory, with that combination of swagger and stillness particular to masculine women. She moves easily, casually, but she’s garbed in the robes of an ancient deity.
Recognize me? No? God of agriculture, wine and song? It’s cool, it’s been a while.
I am called by many names–Bacchus, Bromius, Dionysus. I was born many thousands of years ago–sprang fully formed from my father’s thigh, crossed the foamy seas of the Aegean to Asia Minor, then traveled on foot down into Thrace, hunting and reveling and bringing ruin to those who doubted me. I was huge back then! My name was on the lips and tongue of every frustrated housewife in the greater Mediterranean. How I worked my mysteries is: I would ride into town on a leopard, or a bull, or a leopard/bull hybrid if they had one handy, my rose-gold curls billowing out behind me, and I’d call out: Women! My women! Come to me! And they always came. I never had a problem with them coming. I always had one hundred percent participation. Then I’d draw them out, my Bacchae, down the village streets, past the city walls, out into the fragrant wilderness beyond. There they’d taste my honey, gulp my wine, thrash and writhe and weep and dance and stroke animals and lie with animals and tear animals limb from limb and become animals and cry out my name, over and over. This is in my heyday I’m talking about.
And then–it was so weird. They forgot about me. It happened gradually. At first they all still knew my name, but it started to have, like, a quaint ring to it? Or like, air quotes around it? Oh, you know, “Dionysus.” Then it devolved into an adjective, something any impostor could be: “Dionysian.” As if I wasn’t the one, the one and only one, who could bring you to that very particular ecstasy. Then–I mean, you know your own story. You started to settle for ecstasy knock-offs: Creature comforts. Customer satisfaction. And at a certain point, I just stopped putting myself out there.
But gods don’t die, they just change form. We’re still with you, all of us. I mean, they don’t care about you, those other guys. Hermes? Apollo? I haven’t heard from those assholes in centuries.
But I stayed close to you. I couldn’t walk away. I don’t know why, maybe because I was born of a mortal woman? I’ve kept busy, I’ve done a million different things over the years, I mean, sailor, stripper, rock star, mayor. Most recently I’ve been living outside of Burlington, Vermont–I had my own landscaping business up there with a focus on sustainability and small-scale permaculture, there’s a pretty good market for that kind of thing up there. And I’ve been happy. I mean, Vermont? Is a fucking paradise! Great hiking trails, curbside compost collection, I was living off the grid with a bunch of lesbian separatists in consensus-based community–I had every intention of staying forever.
But you’ve been busy, too, haven’t you. Mining and stripping and slashing and burning and generally despoiling the green earth that gave you life. It’s not like I haven’t been aware of your misdeeds, I’ve been watching you fuck shit up for hundreds of years. And I’ve been objecting, through all the usual channels. I’ve signed the petitions. I’ve marched in the marches. But it’s like you’re in some kind of trance. No matter how loud I shout, I can’t seem to wake you up.
I’m looking at you and– (DIANE peers at us, shakes her head) you don’t know. You don’t know what time it is on the cosmic clock. How could you, with your bird lives, your fruit fly lives, hatching and feeding and breeding and dying, all in the blink of a god’s eye? So let me tell you what time it is. It’s eleven fucking forty-five. If I let you keep on with your wicked ways, the glaciers are gonna melt and the permafrost is gonna thaw and the plagues will start and the waters will rise and fast-forward a hundred years and there won’t be a single human left on the planet to worship me! And that’s not gonna work for me, okay? You’re mine, you stupidheads, and I am yours. You ever tried to get a cockroach to do a ritual for you? You ever tried to inspire a newt to sing your name? My options are dwindling, and the last thing I need is to have to fuck off back to Mount Olympus, the dullest place in the universe, to chill for all time by the Flame of Eternal Boredom with Apollo calling me fag every time I get up to get a drink.
So it’s time for bold action! If I can get a critical mass of you to worship me again, I think I can actually move the needle on climate change. I am the one, the one and only one, who can reignite your connection to the living planet! I’m the one who can make you see the wild world, make you know that you are of this earth, not just put here to plunder it till it implodes. Still, people can get weird about pagan ecstasy rituals, so I’m not gonna come in guns a-blazing, full Greek. My plan is to slide in on the DL, hit em with the landscaping design angle, and then, when I’m all the way in, pull out the stops.
DIANE throws off her god robes to reveal her gardening outfit: work vest, longshorts, Smartwools, boots.
What do you think? (grin) I’d hire me.
Now the minimum number I need to start up a mystery cult is four: two ladies on my right side, two ladies on my left. It’s a balance thing, I never understood it exactly but believe me, you don’t want to try to pull off the ritual dances–let alone the sacrifice–with fewer than four acolytes. For my kick-off spot, I need someplace that’s trembling on the edge of civilization–not total wilderness but not inside the city-state walls. So I’m looking here at… (she consults the map on her phone) Monmouth County, New Jersey. I see a nice little circular street with four ladies all lined up for me in a row. One, two, three, four. Boom.
Once my first unit is activated, I’ll take off like wildfire. My new priestesses will clear the way for me and I’ll move out into the heartland, down into the Southeast, out across the prairies, the fruited plains. Bringing live, frenzied, Bacchic realness to Main Street, America. Before you know it, we’ll be knocking at your door.
Nervous? Don’t be. It’s going to be okay. It’s going to feel amazing to save the world.
Madeleine George is an award-winning playwright and author. Her plays include Hurricane Diane, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence, Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England, Precious Little, and The Zero Hour, and have been produced across the country. She was a founding member of 13P (Thirteen Playwrights, Inc.), the Obie-winning playwright’s collective, and is a resident playwright at New Dramatists. She won the 2016 Whiting Award and was a finalist for the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.