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Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Shaw

In the world of Synchronicity, George Bernard Shaw seems to have me surrounded.

First, I got into a heated discussion with Kyle after "Nervous Boy" because I said Shaw doesn't do much for me. I respect his work (not that I've been a Shaw scholar remotely) but what I have read and seen never struck a nerve with me. Kyle insisted I look at Shaw again, as he cited him as a major influence.

Then, my girlfriend was looking around at a few websites last night and, unprompted, said: "So what do you think of Shaw?"

Finally, I see this post on Theater Conversation.

Fine. I'll read some more Shaw. I'll look at Shaw with Fresh Eyes. I will reacquaint myself with Shaw. I get it, Universe. It's Shaw time.

So, what do you folks think of Good Old G.B.?

7 comments:

Ian W. Hill said...

Matt, have you read Heartbreak House?

That's the one that turned me around -- I had read Saint Joan and Major Barbara and Pygmalion, which variously left me indifferent or bored, and was planning on giving the rest of the man's work a miss, when someone ordered me to read HH and THAT did it for me.

If you haven't, I'm passing on that order.

If you have read it, I don't think you're going to find anything else to change your mind, so don't bother.

parabasis said...

Whew... goddamn is Heartbreak House awesome. One of my favorite plays by far. Shaw was both prolific and long-lived, with the requisite unevenness of work that follows from both of those things, but he really knocks it out of the park with Heartbreak House.

Adam said...

I don't like him but I also probably never gave him a fair shot.

So kyle likes Robocop and shaw, huh?

George said...

The more you read of Shaw, the more carefully you read him, the more he grows on you. Even the early plays, like Widowers' Houses, have more than meet the eye, as you realize that he wrote as much as love and sex as he wrote about culture and politics.

Shaw's career spanned over fifty years, and his achievement is really head-spinning: like Brecht, Shaw took on pretty much every dramatic form in the book, from naturalism to allegory and back again. Maybe he failed for than he succeeded (though you know that's no damning criticism in my book), but there was a man for whom theatre was all.

Not to mention that he provided a model for reviewers and critics (of music, too) that we could still learn from, not to mention how to write about one's own work, and Shaw pretty much single-handedly changed the face of British theatre in the early 20th century. Good lessons there how to do it, too, both as a playwright and as an advocate. But yeah, these days, he's very much an acquired taste. Worth acquiring, though.

Zack Calhoon said...

I haven't read a lot of his plays. I do definitely see there influence. I'm more interested and intrigued by his theatrical criticism. Check out "Shaw on Shakespeare". It's a compilation of his theatrical reviews and correspondence with actors like Ellen Terry. It's very funny and bitingly accurate.

Phantasmaphile said...

On a somewhat related note, I really love this Shaw quote - not sure where it's from though:

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no 'brief candle' for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

Scott Walters said...

I love Shaw's mental fireworks, which are reflected in a wild sense of articulateness. I think Shaw is a socialist Oscar Wilde. His critical writings are brilliant. I agree that Heartbreak House is brilliant, and I am equally enamored with Major Barbara and Mrs. Warren's Profession.

I think Shaw's reliance on the verbal over the emotional makes him a tough nut for Americans. Many see him as all head and no heart. But I think that Shaw is one of the most passionate playwrights of the 20th century.