This is a play for anyone generally frustrated by everything.
For our titular heroine Lysistrata, her frustration stems from the interminable civil war between Sparta and Athens.
Director Machele Miller Dill, who also teaches musical theater history and literature at the University of Tulsa, says she chose Aristophanes’ Greek comedy because it’s classic, but also political—and even feminist.
“Lysistrata” opens with a woman fed up, and she knows she won’t be able to cook or sew her way out of this one. So, she convinces all the women of Athens to take a holy oath to withhold sex from their husbands until the war ends. It’s not a “gentle” play, but it is hilarious.
“It’s tough for comedy to get the respect it deserves, but comedy can make you think just has hard as drama can,” said Dill. She plans to bring 70s and 80s punk rock aesthetics into the production, with key fashion inspiration coming from Debbie Harry, Joan Jett, and Chrissie Hynde.
Dill believes theater can be a vehicle for social change. She doesn’t want people to leave her production and forget what they just saw. “I really do believe that theater can change the world.”
And there are plenty of modern examples of women pulling a Lysistrata to negotiate for change: In 2002, women for the Liberian Mass Action for Peace went on a sex strike that helped, along with other nonviolent demonstrations, to end a 14-year-long civil war. A similar strike played out in Togo in 2012. In Turkey, women stopped sleeping with their husbands until clean water became available. “They won’t be able to get into our bedrooms until the water actually runs through the taps,” one village woman said in 2001, according to CNN.
Because it’s all about power: who has power, and who really has power.
Dill weaves a sort of linear thread when it comes to war, sex, and power: the war is about gaining power, but sex is about power too, and the women prove to be more powerful when they leverage it to ultimately stop the war.
Can we call Aristophanes a feminist? It can be problematic to assign such words to authors based on their work. What’s clear: “Lysistrata” is about women claiming and utilizing their sexuality. Though, much internal conflict comes from other women in her cabal unhappy about also not getting laid. If there is a lesson, I like to think it’s that everyone has a power within. The struggle is figuring out how to organize and harness whatever that power may be.
Of course, the “Lysistrata” scheme doesn’t truss out in 2017. But for a play older than Christ, it’s pretty radical. Add to that some ripped fishnets and dramatic eyeliner—shit, I’m excited.
If you plan to attend “Lysistrata,” keep in mind that this play, while not exactly shocking, is intended to be provoking. – KATHRYN PARKMAN
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