A spirit of playfulness infuses Lydia Diamond’s modern take on Aristophanes’ racy Greek comedy classic Lysistrata, originally written between 427 and 387 B.C. It’s partly the subject matter — Lysistrata is about a group of women who stage a sex strike to end the Peloponnesian War — but also the project’s pacing, which had Diamond still writing the play, titled Lizzie Stranton, even as rehearsals were under way.
“It was faster than most projects ever happen in theater,” says Diamond, a College of Fine Arts assistant professor of playwriting. “It was a challenge, artistically, writing something in four months. But it was so wonderful collaborating with student designers, stage management who were students, professional theater makers and educators, who were all totally on board with the spirit of, ‘The play isn’t even done and we’re going into rehearsals.’ It was all very laid-back and fun.”
In Lizzie Stranton — which opens at the Wimberly Theatre on Thursday, December 11 — Lizzie Stranton is an African-American woman living in a fictional America-like country in 2016, led by a black president and first lady. The economy is in chaos and the world embroiled in war. As in the original, Lizzie organizes a sex strike to try and force an end to the fighting. “There’s something disturbing and wonderful about the timeliness of the play,” Diamond says. “Things are so precarious right now. It’s sometimes easier to acknowledge and process that through comedy.”
The production is part of the school of theatre’s New Play Initiative, a program that connects CFA faculty and students with professional theaters such as Boston University’s Huntington Theatre Company, the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minn., the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, D.C., and the Olney Theatre in Maryland.
While Lizzie Stranton is a brand-new play, it is “unabashedly based on the Lysistrata story,” says Diamond, who several years ago adapted the Toni Morrison novel The Bluest Eye to much acclaim. “It was a really good lesson in creativity. There was a certain level of letting go and trusting that made it a successful project. The process of making it fits the telling of the piece.”
Elaine Vaan Hogue, a CFA assistant professor of acting and directing and the director of Lizzie Stranton, says that war and sex cut across all time and cultural barriers and keep a play like Lysistrata relevant today.
“Lizzie’s plan, as outlandish as it seems, is actually a very practical and doable thing,” Vaan Hogue says. “I hope that our audiences laugh and have outrageous fun. I don’t believe in message theater. I invite our audiences to enter into Lizzie’s world, to engage a unique perspective on war and sex, and to take away what has meaning and resonance for them personally.”
Lizzie Stranton runs December 11 through 20 at the BCA Calderwood Pavilion’s Wimberly Theatre, 527 Tremont St., Boston. Tickets are $12 for the general public; $10 for students, senior citizens, BU alumni, Huntington Theatre Company subscribers, and WGBH members; one free ticket for the BU community, with BU ID, at the door on the day of the performance, subject to availability. Vaan Hogue, Diamond, and dramaturg Ilana Brownstein, a CFA lecturer, will host a postperformance talk on Thursday, December 11. The performance on Thursday, December 18, will be ASL interpreted.
Click here for performance dates and times.
Caleb Daniloff can be reached email@example.com.