UCSC literature professor links Santa Cruz to international theater event for peace

On March 3, Santa Cruz will join hundreds of cities around the world in hosting a staged reading of Aristophanes' ancient Greek antiwar comedy Lysistrata. The local play reading is part of the international Lysistrata Project, the first-ever worldwide theater event for peace. As of mid-February, 380 readings have been scheduled in 31 countries to protest against a possible war with Iraq.

The Santa Cruz reading will take place on Monday, March 3, at 7 p.m. at the Louden Nelson Center, 301 Center Street, in downtown Santa Cruz. The local event is being organized by UC Santa Cruz assistant professor of literature Jody Greene. Admission is free.

"I heard about it on NPR and I decided I wanted to do it here," Greene explained. "They're doing it in Iceland, Tel Aviv, Athens, Juneau, Alaska--they're doing it all over the world. They're even having simultaneous readings on the web."

The ancient Greek play tells the story of women from opposing states who come together to end a war by refusing to sleep with their husbands. Desperate for intimacy, the men eventually agree to lay down their swords and achieve peace through diplomacy.

The cast of 22 at the Santa Cruz reading will include six UCSC faculty including Deanna Shemek, associate professor of Italian & Comparative literature; Rob Wilson, professor of literature; Jennifer Gonzalez, assistant professor of art history; Farnaz Fatemi, lecture in writing; Carla Freccero, professor of literature; and K. Silem Mohammed, visiting assistant professor of literature. It will also feature graduate students and undergraduates from Greene's UCSC class "Reading the Traditional Canon," as well as a local high school student in the title role.

"We are putting on the play not to advocate a sex strike, but to suggest that we need to get more creative in response to the threat of going to war," Greene said. "Really, it's a call for creativity. Because marching through the streets with placards is not working. It's a playful way to get people thinking of how to communicate their vision of a better future."

"It's also about using alliances--really unlikely alliances--and getting together groups that don't usually align together to protest, such as isolationists and people on the left," Greene added. "That's absolutely crucial."

The Lysistrata Project was founded by New York actors Kathryn Blume and Sharron Bower, who originally e-mailed their friends and put up a web site to voice opposition to a war in Iraq. The response was enormous and soon evolved into an international grassroots peace movement, uniting theater artists throughout the world.

In addition to readings in cities such as London, Paris, Beirut, Berlin, and Jerusalem, groups from nearly every state in the U.S. are planning events in this groundbreaking, worldwide theatrical act of dissent. In New York City alone, dozens of teams of actors and directors will stage readings in public spaces throughout the day, culminating in an evening reading by an all-star cast. Greene noted that San Francisco also has six different readings scheduled to take place throughout the city.

At the Santa Cruz reading, the audience will be given the opportunity to donate funds to benefit the School for Peace in the small Israeli village of Neve Shalom/Wahat Al Salam. Located halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the village is a place where Israeli Palestinians and Jews have chosen to live together as an integrated binational and bilingual community.

Additional information about the Lysistrata Project is available on the web at www.lysistrataproject.com.