The Goddess Tour by Carolyn Gage
Lights come up on the interior of Sheela's Inn, located on the west
coast of Ireland, on the Burren. The inn was originally a farmhouse
from the 18th century, but it has been renovated to allow for a wall
of windows facing the sea, framed by floor-length curtains. The walls
are still covered with thick lime whitewash, however, and the floors
are wooden. The room is decorated simply, with practical furniture.
There is a large sofa in front of the windows. It's a late afternoon
in early February.
There is a bookcase and a fireplace. Over the fireplace hangs an old
photograph of a mother with her daughter, a girl about five or six
Upstage right is door to the dining room, and up left are the stairs
leading to the bedrooms. Down right is the door to the kitchen, which
also leads to the back entrance into the house. Down left is the front
door to the inn, with a stone with a carving of Sheela-na-Gig on the
beam over the doorway.
BRIDIE enters from the kitchen. She is an Irish woman in her
mid-seventies, the owner of Sheela's Inn. Wearing the clothing of a
farmer, she enters carrying a wood box filled with logs. She drops the
box next to the fireplace and takes a few logs out of it to lay a
fire. Straightening up, her eye catches the photograph over the
fireplace. She looks at it for a moment, before slowly and carefully
lifting it from its hook. The photograph has apparently been hanging
in this location for many years, as the wall behind it is a different
color. BRIDIE exits with the portrait.
The sitting room is empty for a moment, and then a loud knock is heard
at the front door.
JILL: (Offstage.) Hello…! Hello…! We're here… Hello!
(The door opens and JILL pushes her way in. She is followed by her
partner JAN, who is struggling with the luggage for both of them.
JILL, an American, is a white therapist in her thirties. From a
wealthy family, she takes her privilege for granted. Her luggage and
her clothing are expensive.)
(JAN, also American, is a white woman in her thirties. A recovering
alcoholic, she is also recovering from post-traumatic stress syndrome,
a legacy of growing up in a violent, alcoholic family. She has been on
disability for the past three years, and at this point in her life,
she has taken on the role of "housewife" to JILL, and is
financially dependent on her. JAN is from a working-class background,
and her taste in clothing is simple, "butch," but also designer,
as JILL pays for everything.)
JILL: We're here Hello? (Turning to JAN.) The innkeeper should
be here, because I made a point of mailing her our itinerary two weeks
ago, when I made the plane reservations
JAN: Maybe she's not expecting us until later.
JILL: No (Checking her watch.) It's exactly four o'clock now,
and that is when I said we would be arriving.
JAN: But maybe she thought that was the arrival time for our flight
JILL: (Exasperated.) No, I was very clear. And when I calculated our
driving time from Shannon, I made allowances for the delays at the car
rental agency and the impossible condition of these carriage lanes
that pass for roads in this country-not to mention the directions
they sent us which might as well have been in Gaelic! (She sighs,
turning to JAN.) Well, honey Welcome to Ireland! (JAN,
uncomfortable, starts to respond, but JILL cuts her off.) At least the
leader of the tour is going to be a good, old American.
JAN: (Mortified.) Jill, keep your voice down! What if someone hears
JILL: What if they do? The Irish know how they are. They make jokes
about it themselves. Besides, I'm Irish. My grandfather came from
Ulster. Of course, he was Protestant, so we won't mention that while
we're here. (JAN has crossed to the windows.) What are you doing?
JAN: (In wonder.) Look at the ocean ! I've never seen it from
JILL: (Crossing behind JAN and putting her arm around her.) Well, it
looks the same.
JAN: No, it doesn't. It looks completely different.
JAN: Softer Wilder maybe. Like this was where it came from.
JILL: You're thinking of rivers. Oceans don't begin anywhere.
JAN: Look at this landscape No trees, no bushes-nothing but miles
of rock in every direction. It's like the end of the world.
JILL: It's the Burren. (JAN has taken out her guidebook.) Now what
are you doing?
JAN: I'm looking it up. (JILL is inspecting the room as JAN reads:)
"The name 'Burren' is derived from the Irish word
'Bhoireann' which means 'rock' or 'rock place.' It refers
to several hundred square miles of fissured limestone terraces on the
west coast of Ireland " (JILL has located the inn's guest
JILL: There haven't been any guests here since December.
JAN: (Not looking up.) It's just the end of January-still
JILL: According to the register, none of the other members of the tour
have checked in.
JAN: (Excited.) Listen to this: (Reading again.) "The limestone is
made from the skeletons of once-living beings. Four million years ago
a shallow sea covered the Burren. Sand and mud buried the remains of
billions of sea creatures and compressed them into limestone-layer
upon layer, over millions of years "
JILL: (Thumbing through the guest register.) Sheela's Inn doesn't
appear to do very much business even during the tourist season-
JAN: This whole place is built on skeletons! We're standing on
skeletons right now!
JILL: I find it strange that you can be so fascinated with the history
of a bunch of grey rocks-
JAN: (Correcting her.) It's a primal seabed.
JILL: " primal seabed," when I can't get you to read anything
about the primal goddesses of Ireland, which is the whole point of our
JAN: (Closing the guidebook.) This " Goddess Tour" thing was your
idea, Jill-not mine. I've spent ten years trying to deprogram
from Catholicism, and I'm not about to put God in a skirt and start
all over again.
JILL: The Goddess Tour is not about religion.
JAN: Not about religion? The woman leading it is some kind of world
authority on ancient goddess cults, and she's going to be taking us
to all these old worship sites, and then she's going to lead us all
JILL: (Wearily.) It's about cultural heritage, Jan.
JAN: The only heritage I got from my dear old Irish-Catholic family
was racism, homophobia, wife-beating, and drinking yourself to death
before you're forty.
JILL: All right, but that's why we're here to learn an
alternative to that heritage. Ireland has a very rich Celtic and
Pre-Celtic history filled with pagan nature-based ritual and all kinds
of icons of female empowerment. (JAN says nothing. She is looking at
the ocean.) How can we adopt a child from another culture and expect
to honor her traditions, if we don't even honor our own?
JAN: Maybe we're not ready to adopt.
JILL: How could we be "not ready?" I've got one of the most
successful practices of any therapist in Chicago, we've just bought
a new house-with an extra bedroom, and you're still on disability,
so we don't even need to hire a nanny. It's perfect
JAN: But maybe we're not ready as a couple.
JILL: We've been together almost three years, we've been through
JAN: (Cutting her off.) Maybe I'm not ready.
JILL: Everybody who adopts feels that way. It's part of the process.
Come on, let's go up and look at the rooms.
JAN: I think we should wait for the innkeeper-
JILL: Come on-bring the bags.
JAN: (Turning to pick up the bags, she sees the statue of Sheela over
the door.) Oh, my god! (She reacts with the exaggerated startle
response characteristic of post-traumatic stress syndrome.)
JAN: The gargoyle over the door.
JILL: (Laughing.) That's not a gargoyle. That's our first
JAN: That's a goddess? It looks like an ugly, little, bald-headed
JILL: It's female See? She's holding her labia open.
JAN: (Staring.) No way!
JILL: That's her vulva She's called "Sheela-na-gig."
She's a fertility goddess. There are statues of her all over
Ireland. (JAN, who has been staring at it, suddenly becomes very
JAN: Jill, this is not going to work.
JAN: (Attempting to control her voice.) This is not going to work. I
don't feel good about being here-
JAN: (Escalating.) No, I mean it. I don't belong here. I don't
belong over here in a foreign country. My own country is foreign
enough. I have to leave I have to leave now! (JAN is in the middle
of an authentic, full-blown panic attack. She starts to pick up a
JILL: (Grabbing her arm.) Jan-wait a minute! Breathe!
JAN: (Throwing her off.) No, I mean it. This goddess stuff is creeping
JILL: Jan, wait! Listen to me! This is your disability-
JAN: (Raising her voice.) No, it's not!
JILL: You're having a panic attack. (She takes her hand and speaks
to her very firmly.) You're having a panic attack. I want you to
breathe. (JAN freezes. Slowly, she begins to breathe in response to
JILL's prompts.) That's right-Breathe! Hold it Take another
one Don't say anything-just breathe And listen to me
You've just come off a ten-hour flight. You've been up all night.
You've been driving for hours in a car with the steering wheel on
the wrong side. We're out here on the west coast of Ireland, where
there aren't any trees and everything looks strange. We're at an
inn where we've never stayed before, and nobody is here to greet us.
It's normal to feel disoriented. Everything is unfamiliar-but
there's nothing to be afraid of. You're uncomfortable, but you are
not in any danger. (She releases JAN's hand and looks at her.) Do
you want to take one of your pills?
JAN: (Slowly.) No
JILL: Are you sure?
JAN: Yeah I'm sorry-I just lost it.
JILL: It's okay, honey. It's normal with post-traumatic syndrome.
JAN: More of my lovely heritage from my lovely family.
JILL: You're going to have a wonderful, relaxing vacation.
JILL: Let's go up and look at the rooms.
JAN: I told you I think we ought to wait for the innkeeper.
JILL: Well, she's not here, and, besides, they don't always tell
you about the best rooms. You have to go look for yourself.
JAN: I don't like being pushy.
JILL: It's not about being pushy. It's about getting what you
JAN: (Shaking her head.) Getting what you want can kill you.
JILL: Well, I wanted you and I got you, and that hasn't killed me
(She smiles at JAN.) so far! Watch the luggage!
(JILL exits up the stairs. JAN turns to inspect the statue of Sheela.
She has just reached out to touch it, when suddenly the door swings
open. JAN jumps, as OYA makes an aggressive entrance. OYA is an
African American woman in her forties. She has a visible scar over one
eye. She is well-dressed in clothing with African motifs.)
OYA: Is this the Goddess Tour? The one being led by Dr. Lorraine
JAN: (Recovering.) You surprised me.
OYA: (Insistent.) Is this the Goddess Tour?
OYA: Good. (She hauls her luggage across the threshold.)
JAN: I'm Jan Ryan-from Chicago.
OYA: Oya-from New York. I'm not officially registered My
schedule didn't open up until the last minute. Do you know if the
tour is full?
JAN: I don't know. I don't know anything about the tour. In fact,
I don't know anything about goddesses. The whole thing was my
partner's idea. I'm just along for the ride.
OYA: Pretty upscale hitch-hiking.
JAN: (Embarrassed.) Well, we had to come overseas anyway. We're on
our way to China to pick up our daughter.
OYA: Your daughter lives in China?
JAN: We're adopting
OYA: You're adopting a Chinese baby?
JAN: Would you like to see her picture? The agency sent one
OYA: (Cutting her off.) Have you met the birth mother?
JAN: She hasn't got one.
OYA: Oh? Immaculate conception?
[End of Extract]