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Student Theater Group Updates Greek Play With Powerful New Setting, Sounds And Images

January 18, 2000 -- Spectrum Theatre, a University of Virginia student group, will present a modern adaptation of the classic Greek play "Lysistrata" in the round this month. The performances will begin at 8 p.m. in the Student Activities Building on Jan. 20-22 and Jan. 26-29.

Aristophanes, a playwright in the fifth century B.C., created a play that he hoped would provoke a reassessment of the Peloponnesian War, which was raging at the time. He attempted this by illustrating, exaggerating and inverting traditional gender roles. Classical Greek society saw men as having a natural inclination toward aggression, which was often expressed in war. Women were often presented only as objects of lust or sexual aggression.

The classic play depicts the seizure of the Acropolis and Athens' treasury by the city's women who, at Lysistrata's instigation, have, together with all the women of Greece, declared a sex strike until men make peace. The women defy the men until peace is arranged, after which the wives are reunited with their husbands. The play is often described as a strange mixture of humor, indecency, gravity and farce.

Students in Spectrum Theatre will use the Vietnam War era as a backdrop for questioning cultural stereotypes in the modern world in their production of "Lysistrata."

"By appropriating the ethos of the Vietnam War era as our vehicle for shattering cultural stereotypes, we extend Aristophanes’ original project. The peace play becomes the theater of liberation," said Andrew Starner, the play's director.

"The terrain of the play is the human form. The evil in the world lies neither in men nor women, but in society which, although dominated by men, ‘objectifies’ both genders," assistant director Daniel Reid said.

To bridge the gap between the two versions, the play begins with Lysistrata in Greek raiment chanting the opening lines of the original text. She is soon swept away by an angry protest that ends abruptly with the arrival of government shock troops. Chaos ensues, with bodies dropping on an oversized American flag draped over a hill, which doubles as the Acropolis and the capital.

Students in Spectrum Theatre have created slides that will be shown between scenes. "To highlight the relevance of the play for contemporary society and to shock the audience in ways that would be impossible on the stage itself, we will augment the verbal material with projected slides. Each barrage of sounds and images creates a dream world that casts light on the scene which follows it, revealing subtext that Aristophanes himself could not have intended," said Kevin Neher, executive director of Spectrum Theatre.

Neher and another U.Va. student, Steven Shepard, created Spectrum Theatre in 1998 to stage works that involve and challenge audiences. They hope the group's staging of "Lysistrata" will create an atmosphere of constructive conversation about gender issues.

Tickets for the play cost $5 and can be purchased on the Lawn, at the Newcomb Hall Box Office and at the door of the Student Activities Building.

The students advise securing tickets early because there are only 325 seats available at each show.

For ticket information, contact the Newcomb Hall Box Office at (804) 924-8808.

For more information on the production, contact Kevin Neher at (804) 245-8865 or kvfn@virginia.edu.

Contact: Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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