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Feb. 15, 2006
Contact: Charla Jenkins, University Theatre, (785) 864-2684.

Women rule: KU Theatre to stage new adaptation of Aristophanes comedy

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas Department of Theatre and Film is staging an adaptation of Aristophanes’ “Ecclesiazusae,” or “A Congress of Women,” at 7:30 p.m. March 9, 10, 14, 15, 16 and 17; 5 p.m. March 11 and 18 and 2:30 p.m. March 12 and 19. All performances are in the William Inge Memorial Theatre in Murphy Hall.

Dennis Christilles, associate professor of theatre and film who created the new adaptation and wrote music and lyrics for its six new songs, is also director and scenic designer for the production. Music director is Laura Fleming, senior music therapy major from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and choreographer is Meggi Sweeney, a junior dance major from Carrollton, Mo. Costume designer is Andrea Long, senior theatre design major from Shawnee, and lighting designer is Kelly Vogel, Lawrence second-year graduate student in scenography. Diction coach is Paul Meier, associate professor of theatre and film at KU.

Christilles said his adaptation grew out of his work with the KU Summer Theatre in Greece program. The cornerstone of the KU Study Abroad program is performances in the Ancient Theatre of Oiniades, performed by KU students in English and Greek.

“This is an adaptation not a translation,” Christilles said. “I have taken the framework of Aristophanes’ play and used its firm foundation to construct a contemporary script.”

Aristophanes’ play is a broad, but amusing, look at what happens in a society when people refuse to become involved. The play points out how often a political solution isn’t really an answer but just a repackaging of the previous situation, Christilles said.

Like Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata,” “Ecclesiazusae” is a picture of women ascending to power and the many amusing difficulties that arise inevitably from this new state of affairs. The women of Athens, under the leadership of the wise Praxagora, resolve to reform the constitution. To accomplish this, they don men’s clothes and, taking seats in the Assembly, command a majority of votes to carry a series of revolutionary proposals — that the government be vested in a committee of women and that property and women be henceforth held in common. The comedy deals with the community of women demanding special safeguards to secure the rights of the less attractive members of the sex to the service of the younger and handsomer men.

Christilles said a chorus was a major feature in ancient Greek plays, singing and dancing throughout the production. Wanting his chorus to sing and dance as well, Christilles composed six songs, believing this approach, although it incorporates modern music structures, is closer to the spirit of ancient tragedy and comedy.

Christilles is also interested in the parabasis, a feature of Aristophanes’ “Old Comedies,” a section of the play where the dramatic action stops and a member of the chorus steps forward to address the audience directly.

“Usually the parabasis was an opportunity for the playwright himself to speak directly to the audience,” he said. “Although the ‘Ecclesiazusae,’ as it has come down through time, does not have its own parabasis, my adaptation has attempted to return Aristophanes’ voice to him by providing a parabasis.

“Aristophanes was an avid critic of his world. He used comedy as a sharp sword to expose foolishness and hypocrisy. However, many of his jokes have outlived their targets. So, in the spirit of Aristophanes, I have repointed his sword in hopes it finds its new targets.”

General admission tickets for “A Congress of Women” are on sale in the KU ticket offices: University Theatre, 864-3982, Lied Center, 864-ARTS, and online at kutheatre.com. Tickets are $12 for the public, $10 for students and $11 for senior citizens and KU faculty and staff. VISA and Mastercard are accepted for phone and online orders.

Members of the cast for the production include (listed by name, class and major, parents’ names, high school and role):

BUTLER COUNTY
From Augusta
Aubree Bowen, junior creative writing and theatre major, daughter of Paul and Gail Bowen and Lynda and Mike Medlock, Augusta High School; Artemisia.

JOHNSON COUNTY
From Leawood
Colleen VanBuskirk, freshman education major, daughter of Molly and John VanBuskirk, Saint Teresas Academy; Cascadia.

From Olathe
Lynzee Ford, senior theatre and journalism major, daughter of Earl and Lynda Ford, Olathe South High School; Stefania.

From Overland Park
Julie Bayliff, freshman theatre education major, daughter of Jim and Chery Bayliff, Shawnee Mission West High School; Panayiota.
Lara C. Thomas, sophomore theatre, English and Spanish major, daughter of Jay and Mary Cay Thomas, Blue Valley Northwest High School; Lena.

From Shawnee
Hilary Kelman, sophomore theatre major, daughter of Stephanie Kelman and Steven Kelman, Shawnee Mission North High School; Ephimia.

LABETTE COUNTY
From Parsons
Lavinia Roberts, sophomore theatre and English major, daughter of Mary and Richard T. Roberts, Parsons High School; Praxagora.

LEAVENWORTH COUNTY
From Lansing
Lawrence P. Henderson, junior theatre major, son of Terri Harris, Lansing High School; Blepyros.

From Leavenworth
Jon Matteson, sophomore, theatre and film major, son of Matt and Christine Matteson, Leavenworth High School; Chremes.

RENO COUNTY
From Hutchinson
Brady Blevins, sophomore theatre major, son of Curt and Cindy Blevins, Hutchinson High School; Thanasis.

RILEY COUNTY
From Manhattan
Dale Buchheister, senior theatre major, son of James and Carol Buchheister, Manhattan High School; Aristophanes.

SCOTT COUNTY
From Scott City
Heather Hill, freshman theatre major, daughter of Kent and Jilinda, Scott Community High School; Theodora.

SHAWNEE COUNTY
From Topeka
Wendy Lynn Casebier, senior education major, daughter of Terry and Denise Casebier, Shawnee Heights High School; Dionysia.
Catie Provost, junior theatre major, daughter of Janice Provost, Hayden High School; Evgenia

WYANDOTTE COUNTY
From Kansas City
Erin Jevons-Lee, junior theatre major, daughter of Dr. Robert Jevons and Dr. Sharon Lee; Aristhea.

TEXAS
From Missouri City
Kari Gillespie, sophomore applied behavioral science major, daughter of Marty and Nancy Gillespie; Evangelia.

BRAZIL
From Rio de Janeiro
Julia Melim, junior theatre and film and art major, daughter of Mirian Melim, Bainense High School; Soteria.

GREECE
From Preveza
Carol Malakasis, freshman theatre voice major, daughter of John and Diana Malakasis, Ast Preveza High School; Spiridoula.

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