Operation No Penetration
Lysistrata 97! An outrageous comedy about sex and war
December 23, 1997
I enjoy the kind of theater that stirs the audience. That excites the participant intellectually and emotionally as it entertains.
To me, it's important for the play to "have something to say." With "Operation No Penetration," which was perfomred in San Francisco in November 1997, I've tried to bring the play closer to a contemporary audience by making it about "us." "It's a far fetched story, it will never work," people might say. But that's what it's all about.
War and peace are not very complicated issues. Most people will agree, I believe, that life and procreation is preferable to death and destruction. That's what the play is about. I come from a mixed background and my work reflects that.
Although my work is focused on the Middle East, I believe in sharing and benefiting from the collective experience of living in today's world with all of its comforts, complications and paradoxes.
I prefer to work in English, although I will continue to do Persian pieces, in order to reach a wider audience. We have so much that we can share with others, our stories, poems, music. This is what I'd like to be a part of.
In fact my next project, "Behind the Glass Window," has a very paradoxical story. A young Iranian man falls in love with a mannequin. To him, the mannequin represents the ultimate woman: beautiful and silent. I cannot reveal the unexpected turn of events but those who have read Sadegh Hedayat's "Aroosak-e Posht-e Pardeh" would be familiar with the story.
At this point I would like to invite anyone and everyone who is in any shape or form interested in theater to contact me ([email protected]). Our newly established theater company, Golden Thread Productions, is always looking to recruit energetic and motivated people, experience not required.
THE ORGINAL PLAY
Produced in 411 BC, Aristophanes' "Lysistrata" is one of the most popular of the extant Greek comedies. It followed shortly on a disastrous phase of Athens's war with Sparta. In the original play, Lysistrata of Athens unifies women from various Greek city states, including Sparta the main enemy, to engage in a sex strike in order to force men to stop war.
Many of Aristophanes' plays use a utopian premise to criticize war. Lysistrata addresses the politics of its time in a variety of ways. Lampooning the politicians of the time and Athens's expansionist policies on the one hand, and utilizing the social inferiority of the women in Athens as a comic ploy, on the other hand.
Aristophanes was a master at highlighting social hypocrisies. But at the same time the play is by no means "feminist" in its approach. Aristophanes pleads for peace and advocates family values of his own time, seeing women as child bearers and home makers with sexuality being their only weapon.
To fully reap the sows of Aristophanes political commentary, a contemporary adaptation needs to address the politics of its own time. Certainly the role of women in our society has changed, albeit slightly(!), from Aristophanes' era. This cannot be ignored.
War remains, but the players are different. The United States may be the Athens of today; the global leader, economically and militarily. This adaptation focuses on the relationship between the U.S. and the Middle East. Islamic Fundamentalism is currently being thrown around as the one remaining enemy, the force that threatens "democracy" in the world today.
In this production Iran is being presented as a background player, with Palestine and Israel as the main warring parties. The play is really designed to speak directly to its audience, however. And since it is being produced in the U.S., it seems important to set the play in the U.S. as well.
In this production, the Jewish-American Lysistrata along with the Palestinian-American Kalonike, unite women from around the world, including the Iranian Lampito, to join in on a global sex strike in order to force men to stop war and sign the World Peace treaty. The play attempts to emphasize the global nature of war in our time and the need for a global peace settlement.
Torange Yeghiazarian, an Iranian-born San Francisco Bay Area artist and San Francisco State Theater Arts alumnus, has directed her adaptation of Kenneth McLiesh's lively translation of Aristophanes' "Lysistrata".
Torange's directorial debut was in 1994 with WAVES which premiered at the San Francisco Fringe Festival to sold out audiences and received favorable reviews from Bay Area critics.
Torange has had the pleasure of collaborating with the San Francisco Mime Troupe in writing "Torch," a play about Proposition 187 and anti-immigrant sentiments in California. At San Francisco State University, Torange directed Albert Camus' "Caligula" and Sadegh Hedayat's "Behind the Glass Window".
Her performances in Persian include Farhad Ayeesh's "Last Supper Comedy" staged at the Darvag Theater in Berkeley in October 1997 and "A Woman Alone," a one woman play by Dario Fo, at the Live Oak Theater in Berkeley.