The female souls swim through a cosmic cloud beyond time and space, waiting to be born.
But first, they need to learn to fight.
That's the premise of the one-act play Athena's Self-Defence for Girls-to-Be, starring North Vancouver resident Jennifer Huva as the titular goddess.
The former cadet and army reservist took up karate three years ago, learning the footwork and philosophy of the Japanese martial art from North Vancouver playwright Michael Doherty.
After letting his idea germinate for more than a year, Doherty approached his actress pupil about the prospect of her starring in his play on the off chance he was chosen by the Fringe Festival.
"You can't really say 'no' when somebody writes you a play, especially if it's your karate sensei," Huva says. "So not having ever read it even, I said, 'Yes, sensei, I will do this.'" Having lived in Los Angeles while attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Huva has crossed paths with a number of self-described writers.
"Lots of people say they write plays and they write screenplays, and you kind of go, 'Good for you,' but a lot of the time it doesn't turn out so great," she says.
To her relief, Doherty hadn't written one of those plays where the dialogue is wooden enough to float.
"Thankfully the play was fantastic," Huva says.
The 30-minute piece is a covert martial arts class with mythological overtones and existential undertones, Huva explains.
"Athena has secreted away a bunch of new souls right before their first incarnation, and she thinks it's kind of unfair that new souls are just chucked into bodies and left to figure everything out for themselves," she says.
While sharing the stage with her co-star, a martial arts dummy named Bob, the immortal educates the souls in the ways of unarmed combat.
Athena's five principles of unarmed combat include how to strike your opponent, where to strike your opponent, and her fairly liberal definition of 'unarmed' combat.
The goddess also explains why many humans may feel adrift in a godless universe.
"I'm talking about my other gods and some of the things we've done both to each other and to the humans over the years, but also what the humans have been using the gods to do," she says. "The gods are starting to look away more, and in the show she explains why."
Asked how she goes about playing a goddess, Huva replies: "Talking to my mom helps. She's always a confidence booster."
In terms of physicality, the roots of the role may stem from the dojo.
Discussing the connection of karate and acting, Huva is quick to point out the similarities.
"You just have to be so in control of every part of your body and aware of what you're doing at all times," she says.
When playing the daughter of Zeus, physical presence is important.
"You just have to say, 'This is my kingdom,'" Huva says.
Asked about the play's intended audience, Huva says the show is for everyone.
"Maybe it would be slightly more inspirational for girls to see. Maybe you can inspire someone, maybe you can empower someone.. .. Obviously on a more selfish note I'd love for some big ol' movie casting directors to see it," she adds with a laugh.
Huva is scheduled to take the stage at Studio 16 in Vancouver on Saturday at 12:55 p.m. and on Sunday at 8:20 p.m.
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