A "great, ancient story" is about to be told alongside unique visuals such as fake Tommy guns, pin-striped suits and more in Fort Smith, said one official.
The Theatre@UAFS group will perform "Lysistrata" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Feb. 25 and Feb. 27-28 in the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith's Breedlove Auditorium, 5210 Grand Ave. Set in Chicago during the 1920s, the show is recommended for audience members who are 16 and older due to the presence of "sex jokes" and other themes, said Bob Stevenson, Theatre@UAFS director.
"The show is an anomaly; it's a 2,400-year-old show, yet we still produce it today," he said. "Actually, the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville also is producing 'Lysistrata,' so there's this 'Lysistrata' war going on over the chasm of Fort Smith and Fayetteville. Who knew that two university groups would be producing the same show within 60 miles of each other?"
Part of the UAFS Season of Entertainment 36 schedule, "Lysistrata" is directed by UAFS senior David Harris. Harris' involvement in the production marks a first for UAFS, Stevenson said.
"This is the first time we've had a student fully direct a main-stage production," he said. "We've had students direct before, but it was always for (productions) with smaller cast sizes and smaller budgets.
"David is doing a fantastic job," Stevenson added. "He's a directing major, so him directing this production was a necessary thing. David wants to be a professional director, and this is a good way to get something listed on his resume to help him on that path."
"Lysistrata" will provide area residents and visitors an opportunity to experience something rare, said the 26-year-old Harris.
"In western Arkansas, it's been a long time since we've seen any Greek theater," he said. "That's really exciting, and I'm excited to direct. It's my first chance to direct a full-length play. I've done a couple shorts, but this is an entirely different beast.
"And because of that, it's incredibly rewarding," added Harris, a long-time fan of Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese and John Huston who hopes to find a career that balances film-making and live theater. "It's fun and it's challenging at the same time."
For Stevenson, watching Harris lead the cast has been an inspiring experience.
"I'm taking notes and handing them to David, and he can decide what recommendations he wants to use," he said. "He's doing a good job.
"And to have 25 people in the cast who are relatively young actors and doing comedy, which is the hardest to direct because of comedy's precision, it doesn't hurt to have one other person there to say, 'Hey, try this. This might be funny,'" Stevenson added.
Stevenson predicted that audience members will embrace the production's memorable dialogue and action.
"It's one of those shows that it's so universal in its message," he said. "Things have changed — geography, technology — but this part of humanity hasn't changed.
"Everyone likes sex, and we still make movies about it some 2,400 years later," Stevenson said with a laugh. "We are telling the exact same story on how grumpy people get when they don't get what they want."
Stevenson said he's glad that Harris, the cast and the crew members put their own spin on the story by selecting the 1920s as the setting.
"It's based on the story about the Chicago gangster wives who got tired of rival gangs killing their husbands and others," he said. "Those wives withheld sex from their husbands until they stopped killing women and children."
According to Stevenson, the "flapper era" was the perfect choice for a visual and thematic backdrop.
"We have such a strong idea of the 1920s in our heads as Americans," he said. "There are certain time periods of the 20th century that stand out like that, like the 1960s with the hippie culture, The Beatles and Andy Warhol.
"And you have World War II, with the only other time period that stands out like that is the 1920s," Stevenson added. "There were the fedoras and the pin-striped suits. There was a very particular look to the 1920s, and the ska culture and swing-era revival of the late 20th century brought that look back."
Unlike some other productions, "Lysistrata" has a pace that moves remarkably fast, Stevenson said.
"The show is about 85 minutes, with no intermission," he said. "It's designed to be eaten in one setting. It's a pretty quick ride."