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Published: Saturday, 3/1/2003

A play for peace

BY TAHREE LANE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Lysistrata, a bawdy 2,400-year-old comedy, will be read Monday in 50 countries at more than 800 locations, including Toledo and Bowling Green, as part of an international peace project.

The hour-long play by Aristophanes was written following years of battle in the Peloponnesian War. It's the tale of women from opposing states in ancient Greece who are determined to stop the endless cycle of fighting, death, and destruction.

They meet and decide to withhold sex from their men until they stop fighting. In desperation, the soldiers finally agree to construct peace.

The Lysistrata Project is being billed as “a theatrical act of dissent” against the United States' threatened war on Iraq.

The idea was developed by two New York actresses and spread like lightning through cyberspace. Kathryn Blume and Sharron Bower suggested the project in e-mails to actors and directors they knew, who e-mailed others, said Blume, one of the creators. She had been inspired by Theaters Against the War.

A week after a Jan. 16 interview aired on National Public Radio, scores of participants began signing up every day for the project, said Blume, 35. The concept touched a nerve, she said. And a slick Web site instantly put information in the hands of people around the world.

“It's made it possible,” she said, adding that the model for the project was provided by Eve Ensler's phenomenally popular The Vagina Monologues.

Participants are invited to use any of several versions of the play and to do full stagings or simple readings. Groups in Toledo and Bowling Green are using a popular contemporary script by Drue Robinson Hagan, which rhymes in a saucy Dr. Seuss way, and includes a character who speaks in limericks.

In New York the play will be read by professional actors including Mercedes Ruehl, Kevin Bacon, and F. Murray Abraham. The Los Angeles cast includes Julie Christie, Christine Lahti, Eric Stoltz, and Ed Begley.

Blume said she has heard it will be produced in church halls, school gyms, subway platforms, a Wisconsin library, and at the bedside of a San Francisco woman suffering from breast cancer.

In Toledo, Sue Carter heard about the radio report and began calling people she thought might participate. Carter, president of the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union and a social worker, found support from Jennifer Rockwood, a University of Toledo theater department lecturer who will direct the reading, and Sue Ott Rowlands, chairman of UT's theater department.

The Toledo reading will feature 23 women handling female and male roles. “We decided turn-about was fair play,” said Carter, noting that in Aristophanes' day, women's roles were portrayed by men. There are 10 to 15 more people working behind the scenes.

In Toledo, the reading will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the First Unitarian Church, 2210 Collingwood Blvd. It will be followed by live music.

In Bowling Green the reading will be at 8 p.m. in the Chapman Community Room 210-E in Bowling Green State University's Harshman Quadrangle, Wooster and Mercer streets. Organizer Meredith Flynn, an instructor in the Chapman Learning Community at BGSU, said the reading would include women and men from the community and the university. It will be preceded by a drum circle.

Donations will be accepted at both events.



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