The Numerous Adaptations of Lysistrata

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Post by Bruce Burwell

Odyssey Theatre’s production for 2018 is inspired by Aristophanes’ Greek classic Lysistrata, a play that has inspired quite a few productions over the last century. In fact it comes from a very long and extremely diverse line of adaptations. The ‘sex strike’ theme is common to all of them and its usually the specific motivation for the sex strike and its overall setting that change. Here are a few of the adaptations that stand out from the pack :

The Second Greatest Sex: this is a 1955 musical comedy film set in the Old West. Instead of Lysistrata, the heroine is called  ‘Liza’ (get it?). The tipping point comes when Liza’s new husband rushes off on his wedding night to chase bad guys who have stolen a safe. She plots with her fellow women (including friend Cassie-Casandra) to withhold sex from the men until they prove themselves worthy.

The Girls (Flickorna): a Swedish classic feminist film from 1968. It’s sort of a “play within a film” story about three actresses who are performing in a touring version of the Lysistrata. They find that the audiences don’t connect with the story, and as they tour the show they find start to find parallels with their own lives and the play and have various negative interactions with men. The play ends with one of the girls saying that she wants to get a divorce.

Lysistrata Jones: more recently, a lively musical called Lysistrata Jones by Douglas Carter Beane and Lewis Flinn was premiered on Broadway in 2011. In this one the sex strike of cheerleaders is motivated by a losing basketball team and there are songs with titles like “Change The World” and “No More Giving It Up.” No sex until you finally win a game boys! It got good reviews and is still being performed in various places.  Check out the Broadway trailer here:


Chi-raq: In 2015 Spike Jones directed this movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and Wesley Snipes among other well-knowns. The name derives from a nickname for Chicago that hints that Chicago is as dangerous as Iraq. In this version a local sex-strike among a gang’s girlfriends escalates into a national and then an international sex strike! The film attracted some controversy when it was released. Some argued that it was profiting off of deaths in Chicago’s ERs.

Is That A Gun In Your Pocket?: the most recent movie version of the story is the story of a Texas town where the women try to get men to give up their guns by staging a sex strike. Well at least the NRA couldn’t intervene on that one!

But popular (and unpopular) movies and Broadway plays haven’t been the only target for the theme. It’s been adapted into operettas, musicals and ballets. Picasso and Aubrey Beardsley have illustrated printed editions of the play. It’s been an Oscar-nominated animated short movie. It’s been adapted into an Indonesian shadow-puppet theatre piece (Wayang). In the 1980s It was turned into a comic strip satirizing LGBT mores. It was even used as the core material for a peace project. In 2003 a peace protest was held where multiple readings of the play were staged around the world.

So Odyssey’s version of the story comes from a very long and illustrious line of adaptations. Motivations for the sex strike have included violence, guns, and basketball losses! But Odyssey’s is the first to add the environmental twist to the story. Lysistrata and the Temple of Gaia features a sex strike to save Mother Earth. Give it up to control climate change and pollution!


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