By Martin Michalek
Read the whole article here

With another polar vortex probably on the way, take comfort in the knowledge that metro Detroit’s theater lights are heating up. The 2015-16 theater season has a little of everything: sex-withholding feminists, a world premiere by Jeff Daniels, and that play about gentrification you’ve been waiting for.

Lysistrata by Drue Robinson (adapted from the comedy by Aristophanes)

Playwrights have adapted Lysistrata as a condemnation of war and patriarchy numerous times since its debut in 411 B.C. However, Drue Robinson’s version is notably different: One, this version of Lysistrata is by a woman — not a 2,400-year-old man with opinions about women. Two, Robinson’s Lysistrata is the only modern adaptation written entirely in rhyme.

Here’s the gist: Lysistrata is an Athenian woman with the poise and command of Nicki Minaj. Fed up with the Peloponnesian War, she organizes the women of Greece into a sex strike. The message is simple: “No peace? No nooky!” Then, in a move reminiscent of Occupy Wall Street, the women seize the treasury and demand a farewell to arms. It’s an irreverent and timely spin on feminism and pacifism — or as the kids say, perfect fodder for your next Tumblr post!

Runs Oct. 9-18 at Bonstelle Theatre; 3424 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313- 577-2972;bonstelle1.com; tickets $15 and up.

Review from “The South End” written by Anjelica Dudek. This review features interviews with the students involved in the production. Read the whole article here. 

“The first scene opens up with the protagonist, Lysistrata, performing a solo burlesque to a sultry feminine cover of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” She eventually “strips” down to a sparkly magenta bra and matching bow tie and hat underneath a black suit coat and dress pants. She is the only character in the show who is contemporarily dressed, which represents her strong leadership skills and her modern viewpoints on society.”

“With the burlesque theme going hand in hand with the idea of a sex strike, we explore sexual agency as well,” said Hannah Butcher, who plays Lysistrata in the play, “because the women ultimately are in charge over how much of their bodies are exposed and when and how they use their sexuality. When they say no, they mean no, and this answer is respected — a huge subject for modern times.”

“Throughout the entire show, the audience is constantly exposed to verbal and physical carnal, which created an abundance of laughter, hoots and whistles–something that Ewing and the cast themselves all encouraged. This show may draw viewers in with its raw sex appeal and energy, but they will leave remembering the often forgotten voices of women, elders and trans-persons everywhere.”

BONSTELLE THEATRE TO OPEN SEASON WITH LYSISTRATA: A WOMAN’S TRANSLATION

“Aristophanes’ classic comedy has been reimagined into Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation by Drue Robinson. The Bonstelle Theatre is excited to kick off their season with this bawdy and hilarious translation, playing October 9 through October 18, 2015. Tickets for Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation range from $10-$20 and are available by calling the Bonstelle Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2960, online at Bonstelle.com, or by visiting the Hilberry Theatre box office at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock Street.

Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation is the only modern adaption of Aristophanes’ classic comedy written entirely in rhyme. This lascivious translation revitalizes a timeless classic while offering a message of female empowerment. When the women of Sparta and Greece become fed up with their husbands always being away at war, they decide to take matters into their own hands or, their legs. Led by Lysistrata, the women join forces to unanimously deny their men any carnal release until they stop fighting. Tensions will rise – among other things – but will the women succeed at stopping the war?

Written by, directed by and starring women, the Bonstelle Theatre’s production of Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation is an uncouth, fast-paced celebration of womanhood. While remaining true to the themes of the original text, Robinson’s refreshing look at a classic brings the exploration of rhythm and feminine wiles to a new level. Director, Amanda GraceEwing, brings these characters to life through a playful and erotic voice.

Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation contains strong language and sexual references that may not be suitable for all audiences.

The Bonstelle Theatre

The Bonstelle Theatre is a Broadway-style house with a 1,034-seat auditorium featuring a balcony and much of the original Beaux-Arts architecture. The Theatre was built as Temple Beth-El in 1902 and converted to the Bonstelle Playhouse in 1922.

The Bonstelle Theatre Company includes BA and BFA actors, designers, and stage managers in the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance at Wayne State University. Here, future stars of theatre, film, and television follow in the footsteps of successful alumni like Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning S. Epatha Merkerson (NBC’s Law and Order, Lackawanna Blues), David Ramset (CW’s Arrow, NBC’ Blue Bloods), Lily Tomlin (9 to 5, Grace and Frankie, ABC’s Desperate Housewives), and Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters, NBC’s Heroes). For box office hours and information on performances, tickets, group discounts, and corporate packages, please call the box office at 313-577-2960 or visit the theatre’s website at http://www.bonstelle.com.

Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to over 26,000 students.

Cast
Alexis Barrera, Hartland (Myrrhine); Hannah Butcher, Taylor (Lysistrata); Veronica Estigoy, Livonia (Ismenia/Phoebe); Jordan Allen Fritz, Detroit (Magistrate); Shannon Grant, Livonia (Old Woman); Bonnie Holmes, St. Clair Shores (Lampito/Alexis); Jada Johnson, Gwinnett, GA (Old Woman); Kayla LeFebrve, Roseville (Old Woman); Caitlyn Macuga Westland (Theola/Herald/Spartan Delegation); Monica Mingo, Farmington Hills (Calonice); Bailey Morin Grosse Ile (Old Man); Jared Morin Warren (Old Man); Maria Ochoa, Clawson (Old Woman); Patrick Roache, Detroit (Men’s Leader); Kristian Shauntee Detroit (Athenian Delegation); Rachel Smith, Detroit (Women’s Leader); Nicole Sparks Detroit (Policewoman); Paige Stefanski, Warren (Old Woman); Kevin Talanges, Dearborn (Woman from Corinth/Reconciliation); Graham Todd, Shelby Township (Old Man); Nigel Tutt, Detroit (Herald/Spartan Delegation); Michael Vultaggio, Centerline (Old Man); Allen Wiseman, Roseville (Athenian Delegation/Cinesias).

Production Team:
Amanda Grace Ewing (Director); Delaney O’Brien (Stage Manager);

McKenna Voss (Asst. Stage Manager); Michael Sabourin (Scenic Design);

Sammi Geppert (Costume Designer); Thomas Schrader (Lighting Design);

Brian Dambacher (Technical Director); Peter Lawrence (Sound Designer);

April Thomson (Properties Master); Jason Goldman (Publicist).”

I just wanted to take a moment to say how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to work with Wayne State University undergraduate students on this exciting translation of Lysistrata. They opened the show last night – I am so proud of the energy and excitement they brought to their work.

Congratulations, team! Have a great run!

“Lysistrata: A Woman’s Translation” at the Bonstelle Theatre. 2015

For the past five weeks I have been working with Wayne State University students on Lysistrata. Below is my program note for the show – explaining the reasoning behind choosing burlesque as the concept for this translation of Lysistrata.

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“Burlesque is a private joke between you and the audience that slowly reveals itself as the clothes hit the floor.” – Tanya Cheex

The performance history of Lysistrata is rife with feminist productions of this classic battle of the sexes. From more traditional productions, to musicals, to abstracted performances – the gender politics at the heart of Lysistrata have earned it the auspicious title of the “first feminist play in history.”

I experience feminism as a type of humanism – a striving for equality focused around gender parity. When I first read this translation of Lysistrata, I knew that burlesque was my way into this story about war, gender politics, and sex. Both Lysistrata and burlesque actively perform an exaggerated version of femininity, and challenge gender roles and sexual politics. Both use sex as a tool to accomplish another task. Both taunt social taboos. And both are ridiculously fun.

At its core, burlesque is a type of humor that hangs on the absurd – a parody often heightened by a striptease. Burlesque, like most art, has had several reincarnations. It first exploded into American popular culture in the mid-1800s thanks to Lydia Hiller’s British Blondes. These women scandalously wore pants and portrayed men on stage in their spoofing of the Greek story of Ixion. From these early comedic roots burlesque can be found in the history of Follies, cabaret, vaudeville, Fosse, and the Broadway musical.

In the early 1990s a group of sentimental performers revived this rich American and European tradition. Neo-burlesque, as it has been coined, is a conscious act of agency – displaying only what the performer wants to display in an act not curated by, or seeking validation from, men. It is a genre of performance that embraces sexuality, femininity, masculinity, and self-expression. Neo-burlesque features women (and more than a few men) of all shapes, sizes, and races challenging gender norms and taking ownership over one’s own sexual power.

Our production of Lysistrata takes you back to Athens through the veil of neo-burlesque. Very sexy, powerful, and a lot of fun, we encourage you to hoot, holler, whistle, and gasp – and please, enjoy the show.

– Amanda Grace Ewing, Director