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Globe and Mail Saturday, Mar. 1, 2003 Not tonight, I have a protest By Michael Posner What would Aristophanes have made of this? On Monday, in protest against the looming conflict in Iraq, actors in (at last count) 49 countries are staging readings of the Greek playwright's ribald, 2,400-year-old antiwar comedy Lysistrata. In the United States, as many as 1,000 separate productions are planned -- in all 50 American states -- 33 in Massachusetts and 18 in Chicago alone. In Canada, the durable chronicle of a group of angry Greek women who decide to withhold sex from their husbands in order to end the 28-year Peloponnesian War between Sparta and Athens will be recited in seven provinces, at more than two dozen venues and, of course, in two languages. On the same day, there will be readings in London, Paris, Berlin, Athens, Beirut -- indeed, almost every major world capital. Two readings are planned in Reykjavik, one in Damascus and nine in Aristophanes's homeland, Greece. There's even one in China, though neither the names of the participants nor the location are being revealed to avoid problems with political authorities. "Some of them will have to hold their readings in the privacy of their living rooms to avoid danger," says project organizer Kathryn Blume. "But they tell us it's worth the risk to be a part of this movement of hope." In New York City, theatrical luminaries Mercedes Ruehl, F. Murray Abraham, Kevin Bacon, Peter Boyle, Kathleen Chalfant, Delphi Harrington and Kyra Sedgwick are lending their names and voices to the chorus of protest. In Los Angeles, the lineup of stars includes Julie Christie, Alfre Woodard, Christine Lahti, Mary McDonnell, Barbara Williams, Eric Stoltz, Ed Begley Jr. and Jose Zuniga. Money raised by the event will be donated to peace and humanitarian-aid charities in the Middle East, though the principal objective is to rally opposition to the war. Like the recent wave of worldwide parades, naked sit-ins and demonstrations against the prospective war, the Lysistrata Project can thank the Internet for its exponential growth. "It's a totally viral situation," concedes Blume, a New York actor who conceived the idea last month. "It just took off." Last month, Blume was trying to adapt Lysistrata for the screen when she stumbled upon Theatre Artists Against War, which had already planned a March 2 protest against military adventure in Iraq. Blume mentioned it to another New York actress, Sharron Bower, e-mailed a few friends and, within days, they were launched, powered by the Web-site engine (http://www.lysistrataproject.com). In addition to the cost of the Net domain name ($30 U.S.), Blume says she's "maxxed out my credit card and invested about $2,000." Both men and women have been involved in organizing the event and Blume insists there is no campaign to actually get women to withhold sex. "That's not what the project is about, although if the wives of George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld want to do that, we won't object. It's about letting the rest of the world know George Bush doesn't speak for all Americans." Of course, it might also be about letting the world know that Saddam Hussein doesn't speak for all Iraqis, but so far there are no scheduled readings in Baghdad. The power of the Worldwide Web to mobilize public opinion on behalf of political causes seems to be growing. It certainly enabled organizers to enlist support for the antiglobalization demonstrations in Seattle, Genoa and elsewhere, as well as the Feb. 16 protests against the expected war against Iraq. The Lysistrata Project is a much smaller offshoot, but may represent the first time the Net has been harnessed by a global community of artists with such speed. Lara Goldenberg, a freelance stage manager and Montreal organizer of one of eight scheduled Lysistrata readings in Quebec -- at the Monument National -- says she stepped into the breach because everyone else was too busy. Alerted by an e-mail from a New York friend, Goldenberg persuaded local artistic directors (including Gordon McCall and Rachael Van Fossen) to perform as actors. "Everything has been donated, even though this is the week of deadlines for grant preparation. No one has said no to anything. But it's absolutely not about getting women to withhold sex. It's merely a comical way to denote that war is not the only answer." Proceeds from the Montreal reading will go to Médecins sans Frontières, which provides medical aid to populations in danger in more than 80 countries. Scholars are not sure exactly when Aristophanes (circa 447-circa 385 BC) wrote the play, but the updated translation (by Carolyn Feleppa Balducci) is certainly rich in provocative double-entendres. For example, when Lysistrata leads her friends in a closed-fist oath-swearing ceremony against sex, they resolve not to open their doors to lovers or husbands, though "he flaunts his battering ram . . . I will refuse to put on anything except something he would like to take off . . . I'll not raise my Persian slippers to the ceiling, nor play pouncing pussy. Both the front door and the back door will be locked." The Balducci text also contains contemporary references to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Axis of Evil. In the play, the women occupy the national treasury building, cutting off funding for the war. At first stunned and then angry, the men spar verbally and physically with the women but, starved for conjugal relations, eventually agree to suspend war and seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict. http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/ArticleNews/TPStory/LAC/20030301/RVLYSI/ /?query=posner _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk