Anyone who has seen Saturday Night Live or any improv show knows the comedic value of spontaneity. Indeed, the audience of the Classics Department’s unrehearsed staged reading of Lysistrata benefited from spontaneity’s power on Wednesday night. With a bounty of wordplay and innuendos, the laughs bellowed incessantly through the Sunken Lounge in the Dining Center.
The Classics Department’s choice of Lysistrata (in past years, this annual performance/reading has included Virgil’s Aeneid and Aeschylus’ Oresteia) fit perfectly with the informal nature of the reading. Written by Aristophanes in 411 BCE, the play chronicles a sex strike orchestrated by a group of Greek women in protest of the Peloponnesian War. An Athenian woman named Lysistrata, played by Emma Mongoven ’14, convinces a group of women from both sides of the conflict to withhold sex from their husbands until the adversaries reach reconciliation. What follows is a raucous yet hilarious clash of the sexes.
Despite being entirely unrehearsed, the improvisational acting by many of the readers proved to be humorously engaging. In one instance, James Burvant ’15, who played the Councilor, comically mimed several innuendos with his hands eliciting uncontrollable giggles from the audience.
“I thought it went really well,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Classics Danielle La Londe, who also played the part of an old woman in the Chorus. “There were brave performances that captured all the humor in the play.”
Since 2006, the Classics Department has put on a yearly, unrehearsed reading by students and faculty. Their choice in readings runs the gamut too–from poetry (Ovid’s Metamorphoses) to philosophy (Plato’s Symposium)–and next year, they hope to add a novel to the list with Apuleius’s Golden Ass.
– Matt Fernandez ’14