Many group projects might include a presentation, but they don’t usually include musical numbers, sex strikes and elaborate phallic costumes. For Professor John Starks Jr.’s “Comedy In Ancient Performance” class, however, much of their work included exactly that, and culminated in a performance this past weekend.
In the short-yet-entertaining show “Lysistrata, No Sex in the City,” the class brought together ancient settings with some modern twists in order to create something that would resonate with a college audience.
The show opened with Starks speaking directly to the audience, giving the impression that he was delivering an explanation about what the audience was about to see. He described the cultural rivalry between Athens and Sparta and spoke about how the themes and plot lines of Lysistrata have been used in various productions in film and theatre, such as Spike Lee’s upcoming film “Chi-Raq” and the Off-Broadway production “Lysistrata Jones.” The show really began, however, when the main character, Lysistrata, came and pushed Starks off of the stage. And with that simple push, the women of the show took charge.
“Lysistrata, No Sex in the City” centers around the women of Athens and Sparta teaming up to pledge abstinence, refusing to sleep with their husbands until they end the war.
“Women of Athens unite, you have nothing to lose but a louse of a husband,” says Lysistrata, played by Christiana Metaxas, a senior double-majoring in French and linguistics.
The class was made up of both a performance component as well as an in-class, text-study performance.
“It was very interesting because it was combining theatre with history in a way that you had to get up and do the work,” said Tiana Camacho, a senior majoring in theatre who played Lysistrata’s next door neighbor, Kleonike.
“Lysistrata” had some meta moments and clever wordplay. During the performance, the students replaced certain ancient elements with more relevant topics, bringing out a box of Franzia when the script called for wine. This also contributed to the humor of the show, covering the comedy portion of the class.
“In Ancient Comedy in Performance students learn how comedy works from the inside out by performing the comedy,” Starks wrote in an email. “This adapted script of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata has provided the class a simple, but brilliant, satirical premise (a sex strike to stop a war) that still resonates with a college audience.”
And for the audience and the performers, the show definitely resonated, both on stage and in academics.
“It was something that you could learn in a book,” Camacho said. “But it was also something that you could also only learn if you were on your feet for it.”