He lived to age 94, wrote 63 plays, won an Oscar and a Nobel Prize, shocked Victorian sensibilities, has a major Canadian theatre festival named in his honour, and inspired the adjective "Shavian."
And this year, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) becomes the twelfth dramatist celebrated at the Master Playwright Festival
, sponsored annually by the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. Sixteen participating companies will present ten full productions, three readings, a film screening, radio plays, and a comedy roast during the festival.
So what's the appeal in ShawFest? Here are three reasons to check it out:1. It will be shocking.
Okay, perhaps a bit less for us than for the
Victorian audiences Shaw initially wrote for. We shouldn't expect the
cast of MTC's festival entry, Mrs. Warren's
Profession, to be arrested
for "offending against public decency" (as the cast of a 1905 New York
performance were). Still, the debate about prostitution as a viable
career option remains provocative.
Shaw was nothing if not a
writer who tackled big ideas, including arms profiteering and charity
(as in Major Barbara
, presented by Winnipeg Mennonite Theatre), or the
battle of the sexes (as in Candida
, presented by Tara Players; or Caesar
, courtesy of Nomadic Players, who delivered a fantastic
production of a more modern battle of the sexes - David Mamet's Oleanna
at the Fringe in 2010).2. There will be laughs.
The last couple
of Master Playwright Festivals (2011's StrindbergFest and 2010's
ChurchillFest) have been noticeably light on humour. This year, there
are genuine comedies like Arms and the Man
(courtesy of the U of M's
Black Hole Theatre Company), Augustus Does His Bit
Productions), and the love-triangle comedy How He Lied to Her Husband
(Resonator Theatrical). There'll even be a "roast" of GBS to close off
the festival (starring former CBC host Ron Robinson as George Bernard
3. There will be new work
Doreen Brownstone in "My Affair with George Bernard" (Leif Norman)
. Just because Shaw's been
dead for more than 60 years doesn't mean we won't see anything new at
ShawFest. Two new locally-written plays look at Shaw's love life: Talia
Pura's Queen of My Heart
(in which she'll perform along with Brian
Richardson as Shaw), and My Affair With George Bernard
, starring the
fabulous Doreen Brownstone, and written by Daniel Thau-Eleff, one of the
city's best young playwrights.
Bonus reason: There'll be free
stuff. The always-educational lectures (kicking off with Wednesday's
"Why Shaw Still Matters" introduction) are free to attend. So is the
screening of the film My Fair Lady
(based on Shaw's play Pygmalion
the Millennium Library on Jan. 21.