Few themes and traditions that existed in the beginning of human civilization have carried over into present-day society. Many customs, traditions and even societies have disappeared. One theme, however, has lasted since the origins of human civilization: the battle of the sexes. Male dominance and female oppression. It is an everlasting battle over which sex is in control. Dating back to B.C., nations have dealt with this struggle of which sex could control the other. In Aristophanes’ play “Lysistrata,” this ongoing exertion is spotlighted, (no pun intended).
Elizabethtown College will put on its own production of “Lysistrata” over the next two weekends. As the earliest work of comedic play writing, “Lysistrata” focuses on women in the Athenian society during 411 B.C. and their effort to stop the war and make peace. Lysistrata, a woman living in Athens during the Peloponnesian War, decides to convince the women to abstain from having sexual encounters with their husbands in an effort to bring peace. This ancient anti-war comedy uses sexual humor and the desire for pleasure as a hilarious depiction of the more serious attempt to stop the war and keep the peace.
Dr. Michael Swanson, associate professor of theatre and director of theatre and dance at Etown, is excited for the upcoming play. He explained why he likes the challenge of this controversial play: “Anytime I choose a play, I say to myself, ‘Let’s see how it works and how can I make it entertaining while still getting the message across.’”
Swanson has directed ten plays at the College and over 70 plays throughout his career. However, this one may be one of his most challenging, not only for himself, but for the actors as well. “Any play that deals with sexual humor is always a challenge. The actors have done a great job of overcoming their initial silly reaction and have learned to do their role in a serious manner, while still making it entertaining and funny,” Swanson said. “It has been a great growing experience for these actors to deal with these types of acting situations.”
Swanson first read this play while in grad school during the Vietnam War era and liked the parallel between the anti-war effort that was going on then and in the play. Swanson went on to explain how the play is still relevant today. Swanson added, “I think the play is very timely. Right now a lot of the Republican political campaigns deal with the issues on whether or not to limit contraception and abortion. I think females see these efforts as being anti-women, and the play does a great job of tying the two time periods together.
“I hope the play sends a positive message to the audience,” Swanson said. “I believe war is ridiculous in almost all situations. I do believe, and the play suggests, that if there were diplomacy rather than battling that situations would be better resolved.”
Swanson went on to explain that the plot of the play also suggests that women have strengths that men don’t always appreciate and that we don’t always appreciate women for what they’re worth — a mindset that Swanson feels is still present today.
First-year Taylor Luckenbill stars in the play as Lysistrata and is eager to start the performance. “‘Lysistrata’ is first and foremost entertaining, but behind the entertainment comes a serious subject: war,” Luckenbill said. “This is an anti-war play unlike any other. It’s artistically pleasing, sensual and just downright hilarious!”
“I would recommend this show to anyone who loves a good story as well as a good laugh at what is known as the battle of the sexes. What could be better than the women of Greece taking over the Acropolis in the name of love and peace? The show was a lot of hard work, but in the end I think the audience will recognize the talent that this cast and crew has to offer. It was a pleasure working with Swanson and the rest of the cast and crew of ‘Lysistrata,’” Luckenbill said.
The entire cast and crew are very excited for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Senior Rachel Saul is also ready for the play to begin. “I am extremely excited for the opening of ‘Lysistrata’ next week. I think it’s a really important story about women taking control of their lives and can be applied in many ways to modern-day political issues,” Saul said. “It’s also hilarious — I hope the audience laughs as much as we’ve been laughing at rehearsals!”
The performances begin tonight at 8 p.m. in the Tempest Theater. There will be six shows over the next two weekends.