“Lysistrata” Opens in the University Theatre April 18
The California State University, Dominguez Hills Department of Theatre Arts will present “Lysistrata,” which will run April 18-27 in the University Theatre. The classic Greek comedy, which was originally written in 411 B.C. by Aristophanes, is an antiwar satire that tells the story of women in ancient Athens and Sparta who join together to go on strike, withholding sexual favors to their men until they agree to stop a senseless war.
Director Marla Gam-Hudson (Class of ’91, B.A., theatre arts) says of bringing the ancient play to the Dominguez Hills stage, “No matter what time period, it’s obvious we’re striving for peace, we’re just not going about it in the same way. The message these women are giving is, ‘Stop fighting. Make love, not war.’”
Of the decision to set the plot of “Lysistrata” in 1960s Las Vegas, Gam-Hudson says that, “The antiwar music from the 1960s is still popular with contemporary audiences and strikes a bigger chord than today’s antiwar music in that it reaches across all the generations. Also, the setting of Caesar’s Palace still has that Greek-Roman [backdrop] of the original play.”
Mallory Kerwin, who plays one of the war-protesting women, says the director involved the entire cast in the arduous task of bringing the action of “Lysistrata” to the United States in the 20th century.
“Setting it during the Vietnam War in the 1960s as opposed to the Peloponnesian War in [ancient] Greece makes it a lot more relatable to its audience,” she says. “One of the good things is that [the 1960s] is an era that’s really well documented. We still talk about it and so much of it is still prevalent in today’s society. You rarely meet a 20-year-old who doesn’t listen to Bob Dylan or the Beatles or Jimi Hendrix.”
Amber Jackson, who plays the title role, says that “Lysistrata” portrays the classic battle of the sexes, admitting that her character “is a little self-righteous. She’s had her husband taken by the war and decides... ‘The war took my husband, so, I’m going to take [sex] from the men who are perpetrating the war, I’m going to get all these women to band together and cut their men off.’
“In the play, it’s not so much that anyone clearly wins, it’s that everyone comes to an agreement,” she points out. “Ultimately, the women get the men to sign a treaty and stop the war, but from that point, everyone gets along.”
Glen Jimenez, who plays Lysistrata’s nemesis, the Magistrate, holds a unique perspective on the play. Next month, the Air Force master sergeant will be deployed to the Middle East for a four-month mission.
“As a husband and a soldier, I look at this play in two different ways,” he says. “As the magistrate, I have to give in at the end and agree to an armistice, knowing that I’m going to get on a plane a few days later and do a job that I have no idea about until I get my boots on the ground.
“My wife is trying not to worry about me,” Jimenez continues. “Mostly, she’s in the moment right now, making sure that all the time we spend is quality time,” he says. “[I’m] making sure that I’m taking care of my ‘Honey, do’ list before I leave to make sure she feels taken care of at home so when I’m gone, she doesn’t have to worry about me. Because when I’m there, I don’t want to have to worry about her. I want to be able to focus on my job, complete my mission, and come home, not trying to make up for lost time, but picking up from that point forward.”
Jackson states the difference between being opposed to a war in any era and still supporting those who fight it, saying of the women who take action in the play, “I don’t think they’re necessarily not supporting the troops, they’re trying to end the war. One of my lines is, ‘We’re going to save you from yourself.’ The comedy is in the manner that the women go about it. It’s not like they’re rioting or marching on Capitol Hill. They’re using their God-given talents, what women use every single day to get what they want.”
Regardless of an audience member’s stance on the current conflict, the director and cast of “Lysistrata” have hopes that the production affords a new perspective for those who see it.
“I come from a perspective of not necessarily being anti-war, but pro-peace,” says Gam-Hudson. “I’m hoping that’s what our production will bring about, to make people think a little bit more and to make them more politically attuned to what’s happening and that there are lots of options available to them to bring about peace.”
Jackson sees “Lysistrata” as having another mission: to expose novice theatergoers to the range of offerings at CSU Dominguez Hills.
“This is a great show for people who aren’t used to going to the theatre to come and see, because of the fact that we’ve made it so over the top with the comedy,” she says. “They’re going to walk away with a sense of joy, saying, ‘Wow, that was a lot of fun, I wonder what else I can go see next.'”
The cast of “Lysistrata” includes students Jackson, Kerwin, Jimenez, LaNeisha McKnight, Ashley Ferguson, Geraldine Gomez, Percy Arcibal, Corey Cohen, Taka Miki, Tabitha Ayou, Candice Bouttie, Hollie Jagen, Erin Adams, Juanita Aaron, Mauricio Amaral, and Chrisgen Whitfield. Performances will take place two weekends only, April 18 and 19 and April 25-27, with Friday and Saturday shows at 8 p.m. The Sunday, April 27, show will be at 2 p.m.
Individual ticket prices are $12 or $10 for students and senior citizens. Special group rates are available for groups of 10 or more. Tickets may be purchased by calling the box office at (310) 243-3589. Online ticket purchasing is also available at www.zaptix.com (browse “California”). For more information, call (310) 243-3588.
- Joanie Harmon
Photo above: Marla Gam-Hudson (Class of '91, B.A., theatre arts) returns to her alma mater to direct "Lysistrata". Photo by Joanie Harmon