Athenian women go on sex strike in Greek play ‘Lysistrata’

Alyssa Sparacino

Oversized sex organs, homosexuality and strong women’s roles aren’t usually words used in the context of traditional Greek theater, said Eric van Baars, assistant professor and director of “Lysistrata”.

“Lysistrata”, the first play of the season produced by the School of Theatre and Dance, is an exception.

The play, opening tonight at 8 p.m. in E. Turner Stump Theatre, is an exaggerated presentation with large silhouettes and dramatic costume designs, van Baars said.

“There’s big hair, big shoulder pads, big breasts, big sex organs,” he said.

“Lysistrata” is a period piece from 411 B.C. that deals with women of ancient Greece and their pursuit to stop the war in Athens. These women, led by Lysistrata, an Athenian woman responsible for the movement, begin a sex strike.

They hope their abstinence will not only frustrate their husbands, but also put an end to the “baby-making machine,” or the act of having sex, that produces soldiers, van Baars said.

Political references and spoofs abound, van Baars said “Lysistrata” is really “all about the funny.”

“If it’s not funny, it’s not a political satire,” van Baars said. “The number one rule is ‘bring on the funny,’ and that’s what I hope we’re doing with this piece.”

A classic Greek comedy hasn’t been produced at Kent State for several years, and the school wanted its students to be exposed to different genres and styles of theater, van Baars said.

And, with its large cast, the play offers many acting opportunities for students, he said.

The school is working with an adaptation of the comedy from the 1970s, in which some contemporary elements in the plot are brought into the spotlight.

Christopher Richards, junior musical theater major, plays Clistenes, a homosexual male who participates in the sex strike with the women.

“We live in a tolerantly conservative world, and this role just offers another interpretation to who’s left at home after the war,” van Baars said.

Richards said he has been working with the role, attempting to find a way to become something he’s not.

“I’m flattered to be given the challenge,” he said. “I want to be convincing. I hope to make people come up to me after the show and ask if I’m really gay.”

Clistenes is a silly and mischievous character who sympathizes with the women, Richards said.

“He wants to have sex too, but he knows what needs to be done,” he said.

One role of Clistenes is to enforce the sex strike and back up Lysistrata.

Nicole Perrone, graduate acting student who plays Lysistrata, said her role was also challenging.

“I’m much more comfortable in the role of the funny best friend,” Perrone said.

Perrone is excited about the challenge and said she hopes the audience will side with Lysistrata and want to see her succeed.

However, as van Baars said previously, “it is all about the funny,” and that is what he and the actors are focusing on.

“Funny is what’s crucial,” Richards said.

The comedy, van Baars said, is “very much in your face.”

Perrone describes the play as outlandish, and said the actors are “just here to do a funny show, and a 4-foot-long penis is always funny.”

Tickets are available now at the box office in the Music and Speech Center. Kent State students can purchase a ticket for $8 with a valid ID. The play will run until Oct. 14.

Contact performing arts reporter Alyssa Sparacino at [email protected].