Imagine you are the first lady, generally concerned with the social obligations of your position (gracefully entertaining dignitaries, sympathizing with storm victims, attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies), when you become acutely aware of global warming. How best to use your high-profile status to bring your president/ husband over to the urgency of the crisis? Launching a national sex strike complete with city bus advertisements and a PR campaign might just be the ticket.
This is the basis of Kathryn Blume’s one-woman show The Boycott, in which the main character is the U.S. president’s wife, Lyssa Stratton. The play is a contemporary incarnation of Aristophanes’ comedy Lysistrata, in which women from Athens and Sparta refuse to consort with their husbands until the men have stopped their warring. The twenty-four-hundred-year-old idea has been recently revived, and not only in dramatic form. In 1996, the women of Pergamon, Turkey, denied their husbands until a gold-mining company notorious for its cyanide-leaching techniques was ousted from their village. The women ultimately prevailed.
What’s so captivating about The Boycott, and the perhaps preposterous notion that the global warming movement uses it to garner momentum, is that it jettisons assumptions about what environmental activism should look like; door-to-door canvassing and marches on Washington appear passé in comparison. Indeed the play’s titillating leitmotif combined with its spot-on statistics may even eclipse Al Gore’s infamous PowerPoint presentation.
Ultimately, The Boycott is successful because it entertains and it lands its punches; one moment we are laughing at a giant phallus impeding proceedings in the U.S. Senate, and the next we are realizing our undeniable complicity as airplane travelers. What Blume reveals is just how much creativity, humor, and pathos it will take to move us beyond the global warming message and toward embodying the artistic license needed to do something about it.
The Boycott will be on tour in 2008.
See www.theboycottplay.com for dates.