Directed By Jean Arlea
July 12-31, 2004
Battle of the sexes meets pacifist movements in ancient Greece.
For the third installment of its summer Shakespeare Festival, HSC returns to the rich repertoire of Greek Theater. Having first explored the political and personal tragedy of Antigone in 2002, HSC presents a funnier, but darker fair, the story of Lysistrata and her move to extreme measures in order to stop an insane war. Seeing her friends die off one by one and their wives being widowed and children fatherless, she feels she must act and make an effective show. By storming the city's center, the Acropolis, seizing the war funds and commanding all of the women in her band from abstaining from making love to their husbands, she brings the city of Athens to a halt. While at first considered a joke by their civic fathers, the story takes a more serious turn as the women's resolve is shown and the men's desire for normalcy prevail. Aristophones was a playwright who had a great distaste for those in power at his time and how they used it. His plays often feature satirical jabs at those who command, but also those who power is thrust upon. He often had the protestor become the thing they were protesting and showing that a middle ground from both sides was the way to travel. Lysistrata finds a zeal for her cause and relishes having power for the first time in her life, but comes to realize when the game has gone too far.
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The female chorus (Chance Parker, Hannah Wolfe, and Doriane Swain) greet the audience at the top of the show with a little word about the PG-13 nature of the show. Hackensack Cultural Arts Center, Hackensack, NJ
A fired up Lysistrata (Andrea Biggs) arrives for her grand conspiratorial meeting and no one shows up on time. She then rails against women's priorities. Hackensack Cultural Arts Center, Hackensack, NJ
Fed up with the Peloponnesian War, the women of Athens, barricade themselves in the Akropolis. They orchestrate a sex strike in order to force their husbands to vote for peace with Sparta. The play’s action occurs on a street in Athens in front of a gate to the Akropolis, which looms in the background. As the play begins, Lysistrata, an Athenian woman, is pacing back and forth, waiting for the women of various Greek states to gather to form an alliance for peace. Finally Kleonike, another Athenian woman, arrives. The frustrated Lysistrata complains of the women’s tardiness. Eventually more women arrive including Lampito, a strapping Spartan woman; Ismenia, a pretty Boiotian girl; and a very large Korinthian woman. After greeting each other and inspecting each other’s differences, Lysistrata asks all the women if they would prefer their husbands and sons home rather than out fighting a war. She suggests a plan of sexual abstinence as a method of peaceful coercion. The women at first refuse, but Lysistrata convinces them and leads them in an oath of allegiance. As soon as the oath is completed, loud cries are heard in the distance, and Lysistrata reveals that a group of older women, under her orders, have taken over the Akropolis. Lysistrata sends Lampito to Sparta to spread the word of their feminine alliance. The rest of the women enter into the Akropolis to set up their command center. A chorus of old men enter carrying wooden logs, torches, and fire pots. The men move slowly and are weak from age, but they plan to storm the Akropolis and punish the women who plotted against them. A chorus of old women carrying pitchers of water then enters. They confront the old men and a verbal battle ensues, ending with the chorus of women dumping their pitchers of water over the men’s heads. The Commissioner of Public Safety enters and orders his policemen to force open the Akropolis’s gates. Once opened, Lysistrata is revealed accusing all men of having brawn and no brains when it comes to solving conflicts. The Commissioner orders the policemen to arrest her. One by one each policeman is dissuaded as the other women in the Akropolis come forward and threaten the men with various domestic weapons. Eventually a large battle ensues, and Lysistrata calls on an army of women who defeat the men using their household weapons. Beaten and disgruntled, the Commissioner requests that Lysistrata state her terms. She reveals a plan where the women will control the state budget and save the men from the war. The Commissioner angrily ridicules Lysistrata as she attempts to explain her plan. Lysistrata, aided by the other women, silences the Commissioner by wrapping him in her veil, transforming him into a figurative woman. The chorus of women dance and sing of their plans for peace. Lysistrata reveals a step-by-step approach to align the states of Greece and stop the war. The Commissioner tells the women they neither have rights nor any voice in decisions about the war.
Kleonike (Laura Malone), Lysistrata's neighbor, regales an annoyed Lysistrata (Andrea Biggs) with her take on rich women's fashions instead of her urgent plan for peace. Ellsworth Park, Union City, NJ
Myrrhine (Jean Arlea, left), Lysistrata (Andrea Biggs) and Kleonike (Laura Malone) discuss the "silly" idea of the women of Athens trying to do something to stop the fighting between their city and Sparta.
The women attack him and then retreat into the Akropolis leaving the male chorus to address the audience. The male chorus leader commands the men to ready for war and then attacks his female counterpart. Lysistrata enters, interrupts the battle, and announces that many of the women in the Akropolis are trying to escape. She stops a number of women in their departure who use weak excuses of domestic duty rather than admitting they simply want to return to their husbands for sex. Lysistrata convinces the women to return to the Akropolis by espousing a prophecy that describes their victory if they remain chaste. The male chorus tells a story of a mighty hunter known for his celibacy and misogynous behavior. Both choruses exchange insults and fight for a second time. They are interrupted by Lysistrata who spies a man approaching the Akropolis. Myrrhine, a young Athenian woman, recognizes the man as her husband Kinesias. Lysistrata tells Myrrhine to use her womanly wiles to seduce and coerce him, but warns her to know when to stop. Kinesias arrives in a frustrated state, and Lysistrata teases him relentlessly. Kinesias, in obvious physical distress, tries many tactics to convince Myrrhine to come home. Myrrhine appears to succumb, suggesting that they make love immediately. Kinesias eagerly agrees. Myrrhine offers bed, mattress, and pillow, running back and forth between Kinesias and the Akropolis. She provides all that is necessary without an ounce of sexual contact. This teasing game escalates Kinesias’s frustrated desire, so that when they are finally lying together and Myrrhine asks for his vote for peace, Kinesias cries out, “I’ll think it over!” and Myrrhine runs off, and Kinesias delivers a tragic soliloquy, accompanied by the male chorus. The downcast men exit, agreeing to convince their separate senates of an armistice. The male chorus chastises the female chorus, but the female chorus returns their verbal attacks with kind offers and a gentle kiss to the male chorus leader who proclaims, “Life with women is hell. Life without women is hell, too.” The two choruses unite and address the audience with an invitation to a conjoined feast of peace. Two groups of men enter, one from Athens and one from Sparta. They plead for peace at any cost and call upon Lysistrata to help them resolve the conflict. Lysistrata points out to each party how the other had come to their neighbor’s aid in past wars and chastises them for treating each other so badly. The men guiltily agree and attempt to plan a treaty. Lysistrata stops them and urges them to leave and purify themselves so that they may return and enter the Akropolis for a peace ceremony. She promises a home-cooked feast, concluding with the men taking their wives home.
The remaining women arrive fashionably late. The cover girl (Hannah Wolfe, dancing), the girl next door Myrhinne (Jean Arlea, center), the warrior Lampito of Sparta (Tyleen Kelly, with shield left), the policewoman (Cathy Hirsch), the mother (Doriane Swain, far left) and the socialite (Chance Parker, second left). David Brearly Middle School, Kenilworth, NJ
Now that she has gathered her "troops", Lysistrata craftily announces her plan to make peace. Ignore, and ill treat their husbands and most of all stop all acts of making love. Ellsworth Park, Union City, NJ
A shocked Lysistrata (Andrea Biggs) rushes to keep everyone from leaving, finding her idea of no sex has not gone over that well. Hamilton Park, Jersey City, NJ
About the playwright
Of all the writers of "Old Comedy", only one remains. Lost forever are the works of Chionides, Magnes, Ecphantides, Cratinus, Crates, and Eupolis. All the extant comedies of the fifth century B.C. belong to one man--Aristophanes. On his shoulders alone rests the reputation of an entire age of comedy. Fortunately, by most accounts Aristophanes was the greatest comic writer of his day. By the time Aristophanes began to write his comedies, democracy had already begun to sour for the Athenians. The people were increasingly demoralized by the ongoing conflicts of the Peloponnesian War and the loss of their greatest hero, Pericles, had been taken from them and replaced by unscrupulous politicians such as Cleon and Hyperbolus. It is little wonder, therefore, that Aristophanes laughter is tinged, even from the beginning, with tones of apprehension and grief.
Aristophanes' first two comedies, The Banqueters and The Babylonians have been lost. His first surviving play, The Acharnians, was written in the sixth year of the War and, coincidentally, happens to be the world's first anti-war comedy. Inspired by the suffering of the rural population of Attica, the area surrounding Athens which was exposed to continual invasions, the poet built his plot around a hard headed farmer who, tired of the hostilities, determines to make a private peace with the Spartans. Denounced as a traitor by his fellow citizens and forced to plead for his life, Dicaeopolis turns to the tragic poet Euripides who lends him a whole assortment of tragic stage effects. His collection depleted, Euripides complains, "You miserable man! You are robbing me of an entire tragedy!" In his next play Aristophanes turned his satirical powers on Cleon, the demagogue who had succeeded Pericles. However, the dictator's power was so great that no actor dared impersonate him, and legend has it that the poet played the role himself, his face smeared with wine dregs in mockery of Cleon's bloated and alcoholic countenance. The people of Athens were quick to recognize their tyrannical leader as the Paphlagonian tanner in The Knights, and although the play had no real political effect, it took first prize at the festival. Aristophanes barbs, however, were not reserved exclusively for political figures. In fact, he often saved his sharpest attacks for other cultural figures. In The Clouds, he turns his attentions to the great thinker of the day--Socrates. The story revolves around an old man named Strepsiades. Deeply in debt because of his son's gambling and desperate to preserve his fortune, he enrolls in Socrates' Thinking Shop in order to learn how to confute his creditors with logic. What he finds on the first day of training, however, is the great thinker suspended in a basket and contemplating the sun. Only confused by this first lesson, Strepsiades determines to have his son educated instead. The young man responds quickly to Socrates' teachings and is soon able to prove, after beating his father, that he was morally justified in doing so.
Convincing them to stay as the only way to end the war and get their husbands and sons back, the women commit to plan and to seal the deal, Lysistrata insists on a sacrifice and an oath.
As the women take hold of the acropolis and the city's treasury, the men of Athens (Jon Ciccarelli, center and Jason Bonthron, right) arrive to take back the capital lead by the Commissioner of Public Safety (Matt Woods.) The men ask the city's patron goddess Athena for victory over the women. Van Vorst Park, Jersey City, NJ
The men attempt to smoke out the women, but the fire proves to be more of a hazard to them. Van Vorst Park, Jersey City, NJ
In The Wasps, Aristophanes returned to his favorite theme--the deterioration of Athens. In this satire of an overzealous legal system, Philocleon ("Lover of Cleon") becomes so addicted to the courtroom drama that he has to be confined to his house by his son. Desperate to return to the Tribunal where cases are being tried, the old man becomes more and more extravagant in his attempts to escape. At one point, he tries to squeeze through the chimney pretending to be "only smoke". In the end, he is rescued by his fellow jurors who appear, appropriately enough, as a swarm of wasps.
Aristophanes favorite target, however, was another literary figure--the tragic poet Euripides. Already satirized in The Acharnians, Euripides was later to became the subject of two more plays: Thesmophoriazusae (Women at the Festival of Demeter) and The Frogs. In the second of these--set sometime after Euripides' death--Dionysus has become annoyed at the absence of a major dramatist on the stage and resolves to bring Euripides back from the dead. Dressed as Hercules, he braves the underworld, pleading with Pluto to allow Euripides to return with him to Athens. However, there are three tragic poets stuck in Hades, and the great warrior-poet Aeschylus is not convinced that the upstart Euripides is the best choice to return to the world of the living. The literary duel that follows is perhaps one of the most remarkable parodies in dramatic literature.
As the men ask for divine assistance the members of the female chorus (Doriane Swain, Hannah Wolfe, and Chance Parker) rush down to see what all the smoke is about. Meadowland Park, South Orange, NJ
As the two groups spout smoke and water, General Lysistrata calls forward her troops of career bargain hunters. David Brearly Middle School, Kenilworth, NJ
Aristophanes would return to his political theme of pacifism in Lysistrata. Written twenty-one years into the Peloponnesian War, the play revolves around the women of Athens who finally tire of losing their sons on the battlefield and conspire to deny their husbands sexual intercourse until they make peace with the Spartans. Lysistrata, who leads the revolt, is one of Aristophanes' most completely realized characters. Although the play is light-hearted, it was written out of the poet's grief over the thousands of Athenians who had recently lost their lives in the terrible defeat at Syracuse. After Lysistrata, Aristophanes seems to have given up on politics. It would be nineteen years before he would again devote an entire play to a political issue, and by that time it had become far too dangerous to launch a direct attack on state policies. Athens had long since been crushed by the Spartans and its liberties had decreased significantly. It was during this turbulent period that Socrates was put to death. Thus Ecclesiazusae (Women in Parliament) and Plutus are far less pointed than the poet's earlier works in their call for a new utopian society. Mercifully, however, Aristophanes would not have to hold his tongue for long. Three years after the production of Plutus, the comic poet passed away, leaving behind approximately forty plays--eleven of which have survived to this day.
The battle lines are drawn as the men laughingly cringe in fear at being threatened with weapons of household items. Lovell Room, Stratford Library, Stratford, CT.
Fighting ensues but the men don't know what they're in for as each member is dispatched more strangely than the first with the Commissioner taking the brunt of the abuse. Meadowland Park, South Orange, NJ
Having captured the commissioner, Lysistrata and the women force him to listen to each of their grievances while undergoing pinch torture. Sinatra Park, Hoboken, NJ
and a very interesting makeover. David Brearly Middle School, Kenilworth, NJ
As she relishes her first victory, Lysistrata must deal with her own troop problems. Her women trying to sneak out back to their husbands to make love. Pier A Park, Hoboken, NJ
One of the women (Chance Parker) tries a spontaneous pregnancy and taking a midwife (Doriane Swain) along to try and escape. Pier A Park, Hoboken, NJ
Lysistrata (Andrea Biggs) has more pressing problems as a man approaches their sacred precinct. Myrhinne (Jean Arlea) is alarmed that its her husband, Both wonder in vain what to do about the apporaching fired up male. On the other hand, Kleonike (Laura Malone, center) wonder what she'd like to do to the approaching man. Van Vorst Park, Jersey City, NJ
Kinesias (Jonathan Brown), rather in sorry physical state from not having his wife around, is met at the gates of the temple by Lysistrata who tells him he is not allowed in. After some coaxing, she has Myrhinne come to him. Lovell Room, Stratford Library, Stratford, CT.
Kinesias (Jonathan Brown) tries in vain to get his wife to come home, but settles for taking care of his loving needs right where they are. In a series of teases, Myhrinne (Jean Arlea) brings ever more elaborate place settings for their coupling act. Pier A Park, Hoboken, NJ
Thinking she is finally finished bringing items, Myrhinne blindfolds Kinesias for his big reward...David Brearly Middle School, Kenilworth, NJ
However, she instead just leaves him high and dry. Sinatra Park, Hoboken, NJ
The men try one last stand against their wives position, but it proves too painful. Van Vorst Park, Jersey City, NJ
As the Spartan ambassador (Jon Ciccarelli, in green) arrives, Lysistrata is called to broker a peace between the warring sides. Van Vorst Park, Jersey City, NJ
The Commissioner (Matt Woods) and the Spartan ambassador (Jon Ciccarelli) are joined together with a women (Hannah Wolfe) representing peace. Lovell Room, Stratford Library, Stratford, CT.
Though forged from mutual discomfort, the men quickly take to peace with feasting and drinking, David Brearly Middle School, Kenilworth, NJ
Everyone celebrates the end of the war and a return to normalcy. David Brearly Middle School, Kenilworth, NJ
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