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Greek play Lysistrata updated for UI theater

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | OCTOBER 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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In the quiet confines of Theatre B, the Mission Impossible theme song plays throughout the room as actors crouch, creep, and crawl down the center aisle stairs to the stage.

A complex game of red light, green light then begins if the actors slightly move from their frozen positions.

"It's theater magic," said director Matt Hawkins.

A simple childhood game, accompanied by contemporary music, is just a few of the adaptations UI graduate student Hawkins made to the ancient Greek play Lysistrata.

The production will d├ębut at 8 p.m. today in the Theatre Building's Theatre B. Evening shows will continue through Saturday, and at 2 p.m. Oct. 23, there will be a matinee performance. Admission is free for UI students with valid IDs, $5 for the general public.

The story, based on the classic 411 B.C.E. play by Aristophanes, is about a woman named Lysistrata who wants the 10-year-old war in her country to end. She takes it upon herself to gather all the women from Greece and other countries to tell her plan of action to end the conflict.

She tells them to go on a sex strike in which they withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers until the men have made a peace treaty.

UI senior Julie Daniels says she is honored to play the role of Lysistrata. She describes the character as a strong woman who isn't afraid to take the initiative to stop the war.

The driving force behind Lysistrata's motives and the goals she sets for herself are some of the reasons Daniels can relate to her character.

"When you take on a role, a lot of the role is putting yourself in those circumstances," she said. "I'm trying to be very connected with her, because she is like every woman, but she is also me in a way."

When Hawkins had to choose a classical piece for his program, he said, he wanted to chose a play that would cover themes and ideas that most college students would want to watch.

"I'm taking the opportunity to actually entertain the demographic of the patrons that attend plays here, because the target audience is undergraduate students," he said. "But it's also a ridiculous and good stupid time."

To make this contemporary version even more appealing to the student population, Hawkins also wanted to incorporate some kind of music and dance in the play.

Such songs as "Cat Daddy" and Britney Spears' "Hold It Against Me" are in a hip-hop routine that is meant to connect students to the show.

"It seems like most of the population here loves to go to Summit and Brothers, and [students] love hip-hop dancing, so I thought why not put that on stage," Hawkins said. "But on a story level, when Lysistrata gets the women together, they also use dance to help bait and seduce their men.

Hawkins is attending the UI to earn an M.F.A. in directing, but he isn't new to the theater: He worked in Chicago for 10 years as an actor, fight choreographer, and director.

His experiences have not only been essential on a creative level, they help the UI student-actors to learn.

UI junior Kate Chindlund, who plays the role of Calonice, the neighbor and best friend of Lysistrata, said she likes that Hawkins has a good sense of leadership but is also open to the cast's creative suggestions.

"He is really good at paying attention to detail and giving us specific things to work on," she said. "Because it's such a great cast, he's been good at showing what the younger students should do. He really has a great vision."

Both Chindlund and Daniels look forward to the reaction of the audience, because at every performance, the crowd will interact with the characters.

"It's a sex comedy that is fed off of the audiences' reactions," Daniels said. "I feel really happy with the product, and I hope it will be entertaining for everyone else."


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