An afternoon at IU Southeast with Lysistrata, a timeless play by Aristophanes.

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Borrowed from an IU Southeast cast member.

Lysistrata is a comedy written 2,428 years ago by the Greek playwright Aristophanes. The final performance of Lysistrata by the IUS Theatre Department was Sunday afternoon at the Ogle Center, and we richly enjoyed it.

It’s 411 BCE and Athens is locked in the grip of a terrible war with Sparta. Although the war has been going on for years, things have recently taken a bad turn for Athens: they suffered a serious defeat in Sicily just two years before.

Peace is starting to look real good.

That, at least, is the opinion of Lysistrata, a middle-class housewife from Athens. The play begins on the day of a meeting organized by Lysistrata. In attendance at the meeting are women from Athens and other cities, including Sparta. At the meeting, Lysistrata announces her plan: the women should all refuse to have sex with their husbands until their husbands end the war. To make sure the sex-strike is effective, they will doll themselves up with makeup and put on their skimpiest clothes, to drive their husbands wild with desire.

The comedy Lysistrata was first performed in Athens in 411 BCE, and is still performed today to laughs, tears, and applause.

In director Ashley Wallace’s program notes, the theme of resistance in Lysistrata is brought up to the present with the 2017 Women’s March, then back-dated to the Vietnam War-era, and satiric political performances by the San Francisco Mime Troupe (1959 – present).

The San Francisco Mime Troupe does not do silent pantomime. We mean ‘mime’ in the ancient sense: to mimic. We talk, we sing, we make a lot of noise. We are satirists, seeking to make you laugh at the absurdities of contemporary life and at the same time, see their causes. We’ve done shows about most of the burning issues of our time, generally shows that debunked the official story. We perform everywhere from public parks to palaces of culture, aiming to reach the broadest possible audience.

Last summer, I posted YouTube links to a wonderful three-part documentary about theater in ancient Greece. Alas, the links are deceased, but if you can find these episodes, it’s time well spent.

Ancient Greece: The Greatest Show on Earth

Classicist Dr. Michael Scott presents a three-part series looking at the power, influence and history of Ancient Greece, particularly Athens, through the prism of one of its most important cultural spaces – the theatre.

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