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Make Love, Not War

The Lysistrata Project was created less than a month ago in reaction to the impending war in Iraq, and now readings in every state in the United States and more than 60 countries worldwide are planned for March 3—including two in Saratoga Springs. From San Francisco to Israel to Caffe Lena, the two-millennia-old play will be presented in protest to war.

The project originated in New York City, where Kathryn Blume and Sharron Bower, in collaboration with the group Theatres Against War, planned a reading of the comedy Lysistrata. The group came up with the idea of the Lysistrata Project, a coordinated effort of worldwide readings in protest to the looming war in Iraq. Days later, readings were scheduled across the country. In a little more than a week a Web site had been created, and the project took off globally.

James Yeara, an English and drama teacher at Bethlehem High School and freelance writer for Metroland, is organizing the project in Saratoga.

“It’s not just a cliché, ‘Think globally, act locally,’” says Yeara. “We’re doing it literally.”

Yeara, with organizers Caffe Lena and Bethlehem High School Students for Peace and Survival, are bringing together the theater groups Wit&Will Improv Theatre and Zuzu’s Wonderful Warehouse, along with artists Sue Caputo and Eileen Schuyler, for the reading.

The Greek comedy, by playwright Aristophanes, has offered up seductive antiwar imagery for more than 2,400 years. The play’s heroine, Lysistrata—Greek for ‘releaser of war’—brings together women from warring states to protest the country’s civil war. Her plan is to join these women together to seduce the soldiers and diplomats, while at the same time withholding sex from their husbands. The chorus interjects, “The situation swells to greater tension. Something will explode soon!”

Yes, they say sex is a weapon, but for as far back as 410 B.C., it has been a motivation for peace.

“A play written 2,400 years ago that bemoans the waste of money and lives on war, that zeroes in on money as the prime motivator for war . . . demonstrates that it’s stood the test of time,” Yeara says.

The play was actually banned some years after its creation, says Yeara: “[It] was banned by the Athenian government around 407 B.C. because the powers that be couldn’t tolerate the ridicule of their actions and the illumination of their hypocrisy; has government changed?”

The play’s political implications have caused some to shy away from the reading. Four people have dropped out because, Yeara explains, “they felt uncomfortable with the Lysistrata Project and couldn’t support it.”

Still, those involved are looking forward to the reading.

“The play itself is a tremendous work of art. [It] deserves performance,” says Yeara, “[It is] an actually funny, humane classic where no one dies, yet people change.”

The staged readings will be offered at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs on March 3 at 7 and 9 PM. There is a $5 suggested donation to benefit the Saratoga Peace Alliance. For more information on the worldwide effort, you can check out the Web site at: www.pecosdesign.com/lys/index.
html. For more information on the local reading, contact Caffe Lena at 583-0022.

—John Gallagher

 

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