Stage Door News
Stratford: Local actors will perform Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” on October 2 in support of abortion rights
Saturday, September 17, 2022
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, a group of actors is using a modern adaptation of the Ancient Greek comedy, Lysistrata, to point out the absurdity of the decision and raise both support and money for abortion rights in Canada and the U.S.
Rachel Jones, who performed in both Hamlet and Death and the King’s Horseman this year in her debut season at the Stratford Festival, has adapted the play, a comic account of a woman’s mission to end the Peloponnesian War by denying the men of the land any sex, for a staged reading in the Tom Patterson Theatre’s Lazaridis Hall starting at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2.
“When Roe v. Wade was overturned, I saw a lot of women so angry that they were like, ‘Well, if men are going to tell us what we’re going to do with our bodies if we get pregnant, then we’re just not going to have sex with men,’ ” Jones said. “Then I was like, ‘There’s a play about that.’ At the time it was written, it was about a sex strike in order to get the different warring nations of Greece to stop fighting, and this is basically the same thing.”
Initially, Jones thought about producing a staged reading of Lysistrata in its original text to raise money and support for abortion rights in Canada and the U.S., but instead, she decided to write a modern adaptation of the play that deals directly with recent restrictions to abortion rights following the U.S Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade in June.
“We’re going to do a staged reading, which means it’s not going to be fully blocked, it’s not going to be a full play, but we’re going to read the play in an active way,” Jones said, noting that the 23 actors involved in the reading from Stratford, London and elsewhere will be up and moving around the hall, and will use some limited props and costumes throughout the performance.
“It’s just going to be really, really silly, really funny and extremely rude because the play itself, Lysistrata, is raunchy as all get out. So this is in modern language and it’s not the Ancient Greek play. It’s adapted to be specifically about Roe v. Wade, so it takes place in the U.S. now.”
Among those actors performing the reading are a number of local favourites, including Marion Adler, Sean Arbuckle, Seana McKenna, Monique Lund, Scott Wentworth, Rose Tuong, Amaka Umeh, and Beck Lloyd, the latter of whom will take on the title role of Lysistrata herself.
“Rachel’s done so much work. … She’s gone through the whole play and replaced the entire thing with things that are hilarious, rude, effective and makes sense. It’s just amazing,” Lloyd said. “I’m playing Lysistrata, so let’s call her the brain behind it. It’s interesting what’s happened to the character. It’s kind of a twist because she’s asking women to do something that (is much more of a sacrifice than it is) for her.
” … So there’s a convincing that has to go down and a monitoring of the events … and then it takes off and you’re watching these characters try and succeed, and it just had me laughing. It’s this idea of, ‘Let’s ask these women not to sleep with their husbands so we can make change.’ ”
Though money raised through this reading will go to support the National Abortion Federations in the U.S. and Canada as well as the Indigenous Women Rising abortion fund in both countries, Jones said representatives from Huron Perth Mutual Aid for Choice, a mutual-aid fund that provides people in Huron and Perth County with money to pay for transportation to and from their abortion appointments, will also be on hand Oct. 2 to share information about the support they offer local women.
While in the U.S., the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the longstanding constitutional right to abortion and eliminate federal standards on abortion access has and will continue to impact the health and safety of women in states where abortion protections have been abandoned, in Canada, where abortion is legal, there are many living in rural, northern and Indigenous communities who simply do not have access to local abortion clinics and services.
In Stratford, for example, the nearest clinic that offers abortion services is in Kitchener, which means women in need of those services have to arrange transportation to and from their appointments which, up until just a few years ago when regional-bus and Go Train service began in the city, meant paying for a taxi, owning a car or asking someone for a ride.
“When people come to this, they’re going to come away with awareness, they’re going to come away with the feeling that they contributed, but they’re also going to have a really freaking good time,” Jones said of the staged reading. “It’s funny and the bar is open at 6:45 p.m. There’s a little audience participation in it too, so it’s going to be fun.
” … There are serious moments, certainly, but in general it’s just a really good time.”
For more information about Lysistrata, Roe v. Wade Edition, and to reserve tickets, which are by donation, visit www.eventbrite.ca. The show runs for 90 minutes and is supported by the Stratford Festival, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 357, the Abortion Right Coalition of Canada and the Canadian Actors Equity Association.
By Galen Simmons for www.stratfordbeaconherald.com.
Photo: Beck Lloyd as Lysistrata. © 2022 Galen Simmons.