Tuesday, May 20, 2014


What better way to resume my posts than to celebrate the recent Chicago Shaw Symposium, a fantastic event with the usual atmosphere of ISS gatherings, and during which we had the privilege of seeing ShawChicago's production of Man and Superman

So, I thought, let's do a little research on Shaw's mentions of the Windy CityAll of the quotations below are extracted from Dan H. Laurence's Bernard Shaw Collected Letters (Volume II), and they are all dated in 1900. The first one, from a letter to Richard Mansfield (Jan. 7th) is an acid acknowledgement of the cultural vigor Chicago had at the time: 

"All this may sound needlessly fierce; but the fact is, America, having read a great deal about art, and not knowing anything about it, is being duped most frightfully by intense young people who are resolved to make Chicago flower with a fifteenth century luxuriance, and who will find one day that, as Wagner put it, they have grasped at art and let their lives slip by them."

In fact, he later admits to considering Chicago a place where his drama was held in high esteem. That is why he writes to Ellen Terry (Feb. 9th) that "Chicago is a comparatively enlightened town: my plays get good houses there."

Shaw had also something to say about the character and accent of the average Chicagoan, the type of speech that was perfect for the role of Captain Hamlin Kearney (Captain Brassbound's Conversion), for which Granville Barker was rehearsing. In Dec. 6th, he wrote to his friend and colleague to remind him of how difficult the part would be for him, because:

"You have the intona­tion of an English gentleman, and rather smart & snappy at that; and the lines wont go to it: they are pure Chicagoan, not Piccadilly. For Redbrook it would be perfection; and you are much more likely to get bread & butter engagements in the Redbrook tone than in the captain’s tone, which any old actor who is a good mimic & has heard enough of Chicagoan could hit off."

It seems that Shaw could have safely said, in the famous words from Terence's Heauton Timorumenos, that "I consider nothing that is human alien to me."

The Oriental Theatre in Chicago

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