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War protesters taking to the stage

NEW YORK (AP) — From the Brooklyn Academy of Music to the National Theatre of Iceland to a coffeehouse in Murphys actors are planning a day of international theater protest against a possible war with Iraq.

Tonight, in all 50 states and on six continents, participants will read ‘‘Lysistrata,'' Aristophanes' bawdy comedy of ancient Greece in which women withhold sex until men agree to outlaw war.

At last count, 919 readings were set in 56 countries, and the number was climbing, according to Kathryn Blume and Sharron Bower, two New York actresses who started the Lysistrata Project.

In Calaveras County, Murphys Creek Theatre will present a public reading at 7 p.m. at the Alchemy Market, 121 N. Main St. in Murphys. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted for EPIC (Education for Peace in Iraq).

The project began with Blume, who had been working on a modern adaptation of ‘‘Lysistrata'' as a screenplay. She had heard about a group called Theaters Against War that was urging theater companies to put an anti-war statement in their programs or make a curtain speech against war.

Blume thought she would do a reading of ‘‘Lysistrata'' as her contribution.

That same day in early January, Bower called suggesting they work together on something. ‘‘It was a magic moment in the history of politics and theater,'' Blume said. ‘‘It turned into something very large very fast.''

By the next night, the women had readings planned in two other cities, and the Lysistrata Project was born.

‘‘We put up a Web site, e-mailed everyone we knew and they e-mailed everyone they knew,'' Blume said. ‘‘Soon we were getting e-mails from all over the country and all over the world.''

Among those who responded were Michael Paulukonis, a volunteer at Artists for Art, a community-based, nonprofit arts organization in Scranton, Pa., and Stefan Baldursson, artistic director of the National Theatre of Iceland.

‘‘It struck a chord in me,'' said Paulukonis, who runs the performance series at AFA in Scranton. ‘‘I had been looking for some way that I could get more of my own voice out in the rush to war.''

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