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Last Updated:  Monday, 3 March, 2003, 15:04 GMT
Actors' global war protest
Richard Wilson (centre) was among the protesters
About 300 people held a "masked chorus of disapproval" in London
Stage actors across the globe are holding an international protest against a possible war with Iraq.

A series of readings of Aristophanes' anti-war comedy Lysistrata is being held in more than 900 venues in 56 countries on Monday, say the organisers.

Richard Wilson, Joseph Fiennes and Lindsay Duncan were among 300 people who wore Greek-style masks to stage a three-minute silence in London's Parliament Square, before reading an extract from the play.

Aristophanes set the work in ancient Greece, where women withhold sex until the men agree to outlaw war.

'Magic moment'

Organisers have described the Lysistrata Project as the biggest act of dissent ever made in the theatre world.

It was first thought of in New York in early January by two actresses, Kathryn Blume and Sharron Bower.

Blume was working on a modern adaptation of Lysistrata as a screenplay, when she heard about a group called Theaters Against War.

They were urging theatre companies to put an anti-war statement in their programmes or make a curtain speech against war.

Some of the best actors in Iceland - more than 20 - will take part
Stefan Baldursson
National Theatre of Iceland
Blume considered doing a reading of Lysistrata as her contribution and then Bower called to suggest they work together on something.

Blume said: "It was a magic moment in the history of politics and theatre.

"It turned into something very large, very fast."

After they set up a website, e-mails began arriving from all over the world.

Parliament chorus

They say the latest count was heading beyond 919 readings in 56 countries, including Venezuela, China, India and Honduras.

Stefan Baldursson, artistic director of the National Theatre of Iceland, said: "Everyone wants peace and I thought it was good to take part in this.

"Some of the best actors in Iceland - more than 20 - will take part.

Anti-war demonstration in London in February 2003
There have been mass protests against possible war
"It's a very good and funny translation, too, made directly form the original Greek."

In London, stars such as Susannah York and Sheila Hancock also joined in what organisers described as a "masked chorus of disapproval" in Parliament Square.

A public reading of a version of the Aristophanes comedy is being held at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington later on Monday.

Blume and Bower will be involved behind the scenes at a celebrity-filled production in New York, which includes F Murray Abraham and Kevin Bacon.

A reading in Los Angeles is led by Julie Christie and Eric Stoltz.

It seems now that pretty much everyone knows who we are - they just haven't seen our faces or know our work
Kathryn Blume
In Paloma Blanca Coffeehouse in Questa, New Mexico, the organiser Anne Constanza said: "There is no director. Each reader will bring to the reading whatever they want, in terms of preparedness, props and costumes."

Blume and Bower say they have spent a couple of thousand dollars on the project.

"Sharron and I will both tell you that we came to New York to become megastars.

"That has not happened in the theatrical realm, although it seems now that pretty much everyone knows who we are - they just haven't seen our faces or know our work."

The protest follows similar pleas made by individuals in Hollywood.

Movie stars Kevin Spacey, George Clooney and Sean Penn are among those to speak out against the policy of their president.

Sex boycott urged over war
03 Mar 03 |  Europe
Spacey appeals for peace
02 Mar 03 |  Film
Musical stars' anti-war protest
14 Feb 03 |  Showbiz
Redgrave's Iraq war warning
11 Feb 03 |  UK Politics

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