In at least three different locations in the Elm City alone, New Haven residents and Yale students joined the world in a theatrical protest for peace in Iraq.
In 59 countries, there were over 1,000 readings of Aristophanes’ anti-war play Lysistrata, and participants ranged from people who had never acted before to high-profile celebrities such as Eric Stoltz and Kevin Bacon. The event was organized as a creative way to voice opposition to the Bush administration’s policy on military involvement in the Middle East.
“At least for the record of history we have to let it be known that millions and millions opposed this war,” said actress Julie Christie in a press release. Christie gained fame co-starring in 1965’s “Dr. Zhivago.”
The readings were done as part of the Lysistrata Project, the brainchild of New York actresses Kathryn Blume and Sharron Bower, who came up with the idea only about six weeks ago.
“Before we started Lysistrata Project, we could do nothing but sit and watch in horror as the Bush administration drove us toward a unilateral attack on Iraq,” Blume said in a press release. “So we emailed all our friends and put up a web site. The response has been enormous.”
Lysistrata is the story of women from opposing city-states who are fed up with war and decide to use whatever means necessary to achieve peace. In a society where they have little power, they use the best tool available to them: withholding sex from their husbands. At the end of the bawdy comedy, the women are ultimately successful in their task.
“It’s not a play that answers every question. It’s a timeless satire about how people re-think their values in wartime” said Christopher Arnott, organizer of one reading at Neverending Books. “It’s a chance to have an amusing rally for the cause, we should try to make it funny.”
The project allowed anyone who was interested to participate some way. Arnott wrote a one-page version of the play, which he said allowed many people to do a performance.
“I’m not exactly proud about doing the ‘Cliff’s Notes’ version,” he said. “But it does allow more people to participate. I’ve been getting zillions of emails about people doing the short version.”
Arnott is also a reporter for the New Haven Advocate.
Besides the humor involved with the readings, there were serious subjects addressed. After one reading in a State Street apartment, the floor was opened up for a discussion session about the play and the current situation in Iraq.
“I felt that most people don’t understand what the conflict is,” said Meredith Lynsey, who produced a version of the play at California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, Calif. “Most people, especially students, are in their own world. Theater is an important way to express ourselves.”
Lynsey added that she wanted her readings to serve not only as a protest of U.S. military involvement in Iraq, but as a discussion of ideas not necessarily related to war.
The number of participants at the readings will eventually be tallied for a grand total to show the level of support the project received. Thus far, the response has been quite powerful.
“Many people have e-mailed us to say they now feel empowered to do something, and foster dialogue in their own communities about the dangers of this war,” Bower said in a press release. “Our purpose is to make it very clear that President Bush does not speak for all Americans. Our message is simple: If you oppose this war, then speak up!”
The proceeds of many of the readings are slated to go to non-profit organizations working for peace and humanitarian aid in Iraq.