The rival Greek city states of Athens and Sparta have been fighting each other for two decades. The men go off to battle, leaving lonely wives and children at home and young women with little opportunity to find husbands. No peace is in sight until one woman comes up with a simple plan she knows will work.
“The women of Greece, led by Lysistrata, are tired of the Peloponnesian War and decide to withhold sex from their men until they negotiate peace,” said Dr. Richard Groetzinger, director of theatre at East Central University.
“They succeed,” he said with a smile.
He will direct Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday [APRIL 19-21] in the Chalmers Herman Theatre in the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center.
The comedy, written in 411 B.C., is for mature audiences, Groetzinger said.
ECU Theatre’s plays this season either were written or popular during the 1960s or 1970s. “Lysistrata” was a popular production during the Vietnam war because of anti-war sentiment during that time.
Following that theme, the ECU production’s set and costumes will be from the late 1960s-early 1970s, with peace signs and bellbottom pants as well as Greek tunics. It incorporates folk and protest songs, popular dances, music by the Beatles and Cat Stephens. The Spartans even dance to an eastern European version of the bagpipes from Macedonia.
“Don’t expect a traditionally dressed Greek chorus,” Groetzinger said. “People will see some things they might recognize, modern dress with touches of Greek dress to remind people this happened about 2,500 years ago, even though the themes seem more contemporary.”
The men’s chorus will resemble retired golfers, and the women’s chorus will use walkers and be dressed in housecoats.
The two choruses meet up during a skirmish at the Acropolis. The women have taken it over so they can control the treasury and prevent the release of funds for the war. The young men, of course, are off fighting the war and the young women are having trouble keeping their oath of having nothing to do with their husbands or lovers when they return.
Actors will wear masks as did Aristophanes’ original actors. Some are Halloween masks, and two are caricatures of Richard Nixon and Austin Powers, more ties to the 1960s and 1970s.
Groetzinger is using a translation that has the Spartans speak with Russian accents, “so there’s a Cold War thing going on as well as the Greek war,” Groetzinger explained.
Aristophanes’ 11 surviving plays are examples of a genre of comic drama known as Old Comedy. In addition to crude jokes, it emphasizes real people and local issues of the time, and that can make the plays hard to understand. Groetzinger will include notes in the program to explain the myths and names that appear in the play.
“There are references to the war history of Sparta and Athens,” the director said. “Without knowing some of the history, it goes over peoples’ heads.”
JamieLee Beuchat will play Lysistrata. Playing the other main characters are Caitlin Giles as Kalonike, Barbara Tiry as Myrrhine and Amber Huffman as Lampito. Giles and Huffman also will portray two of the wives and older women.
The Men’s Chorus includes Jared Scofield, the leader, Chad Woods and Domineque Carey. Woods also will play a gatekeeper. The Women’s Chorus includes Kimberly Wren, the leader, and Deanna Baker and Jeff Bush. Wren also plays one of the older women.
Other actors with multiple roles are Douglass Idlett, a Skythian girl, Kinesias’ baby and an Athenian ambassador; Chris Scoles, the magistrate and Kinesias; Corey Scott, a policeman and Spartan ambassador; and Sam Baker, a policeman, Spartan herald and Athenian Ambassador.
The actors will perform in the round, or in the middle of arena-style seating. Only 112 seats will be available each night.
Season ticket holders should contact the box office to reserve seats for a specific performance. Tickets are $10 or $9 for senior citizens, ECU alumni and non-ECU students, and $8 for senior citizen alumni. Patrons must show a valid ID at pickup to purchase discounted tickets. ECU faculty, staff and student tickets are free at the box office with valid IDs.
Tickets may be purchased online at tickets.ecok.edu or reserved by calling the theatre’s box office at 580-559-5751 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Reserved tickets may be picked up at the will call window the night of the performance or at the fine arts center’s box office between 2 and 4 p.m. on weekdays.