Friday, August 14, 2020

The Original Tartuffe

 Moliere's classic attack on religious hypocrisy, Tartuffe, originally premiered as a three-act play on May 12, 1664. The playwright's enemies were not impressed.

Immediately, the very people Moliere had criticized began to attack the play. The original script is now lost, so we don't know how much this early version resembles the text we have today. What we do know is that after it was performed at the Palace of Versailles, it was immediately condemned.

Tartuffe criticizes people who pretend to be pious, but actually are just after sex, money, and power. Religious conservatives urged King Louis XIV to ban the play, which he did, though he added that he did not doubt the good intentions of the author. Undeterred, Moliere not only revised the piece but actually expanded it into five acts.

This new version of the play premiered in November at the Chateau de Raincy outside of Paris. The King seems to have encouraged Moliere in his revising of the play, and in 1665 he even extended his patronage directly to Moliere's company. This did not stop calls to ban the piece, though, and the writer struggled to mount productions, often as private performances due to the extreme hostility toward the piece.

While Moliere was concerned with the social conditions surrounding the play, he was also concerned with providing a vehicle for the actors of his company, and they seem to have each left a mark on the piece. The writer himself played Orgon, the obsessed dupe who cares about nothing so much as his pseudo-holy  houseguest Tartuffe. Philibert Gassot, known by the stage name of Du Croisy, played the title character.

Armande Bejart, who was by then known as Mademoiselle Moliere, played Orgon's wife, Elmire, while Madeleine Bejart played the sassy maid, Dorine. Madeleine had co-founded the Illustre Theatre troupe with Moliere in 1643. Though the two were romantically involved on and off in the past, Moliere had ended up marrying Armande. And while Armande was supposedly the younger sister of Madeleine, in actuality she was her illegitimate daughter. (No, not by Moliere, though his enemies later insinuated this.)

With a cast like that, one can imagine some offstage drama rivaling what occurred onstage!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Drama of Celebrity

 I recently finished Sharon Marcus's delightful book The Drama of Celebrity. Focusing on the career of legendary actress Sarah Bernhardt, the book examines the interplay of celebrities, the media, and the various publics they both serve.

In her first chapter, "Defiance," Marcus discusses how the open defiance of convention practiced by celebrities like Bernhardt can actually enhance their fame. Celebrities create social exceptions in which they win the approval of society precisely by going against that society's demands. These celebrities shamelessly display their abnormalities rather than hiding them, as Bernhardt did with her unfashionably slender physique, large nose, and frizzy hair. "Defiant celebrities appeal not only to the marginal and to the outcast, but to anyone who has ever wanted to bypass conventions," Marcus writes.

Her next chapter, "Sensation," looks at the desire of audiences and critics alike to willingly submit to a star's overpowering performance. As an example, Marcus cites Bernhardt's exit at the end of Act Four of Victorien Sardou's La Tosca. After killing the villain Scarpia, Bernhardt's character (according to Sardou's stage directions) "takes a carafe of water, wets a napkin, cleans the blood from her hands, and removes a small spot from her dress." Marcus notes, however, that the Chicago drama critic Sheppard Butler was fascinated by how Bernhardt "finger by finger, scrubbed the blood from her hand." By isolating each finger individually, Bernhardt slowed the action down just when the audience wants the heroine to get away as quickly as possible. At the same time, the stage business delayed the exit of the star everyone had come to see, prolonging the audience's enjoyment.

Chapter Three is entitled "Savagery" and deals with depictions of fans as being true fanatics who are capable of violent disorder. "Celebrities by definition attract large followings, but their very popularity usually inspires a vocal minority to resist the general euphoria," Marcus writes. Critics thus tend to characterize fans as "gullible, ignorant, and unruly." Depictions of Bernhardt's fans show them as anarchic, and after her first American tour, French caricaturists felt free to indulge in ridiculous stereotypes of Americans, frequently portraying Native Americans, African Americans, and Mormons in blatantly offensive ways to "other" her fan base in a drastic manner. At the same time, depictions of Bernhardt herself often exaggerated her large nose and unruly hair, sometimes adding Stars of David into pictures, just to make sure their anti-Semitism came across loud and clear.

In "Intimacy" Marcus delves into attempts by fans and stars to form an important bond (or at least the illusion of a bond) between the two. While previous critics have discussed the "remediation" of a piece of art in one format into a new format, Marcus argues that fans clipping images and pasting them into a new context are not so much engaging in remediation as "resituation." Fans collecting photos, programs, articles, and ticket stubs in scrapbooks nevertheless engage with the material they resituate in a new location. In an era long before Pinterest or Tumblr, theatre fans could resituate images next to one another, and thus close "the gap between the players themselves and between celebrities and fan." According to Marcus, such resituation "registers work that hovers between production and consumption, looking and making, and speaks above all to a desire to bask in celebrities' presence by collecting, handling, and holding their representations."

Marcus's next chapter, "Multiplication," points out that while received wisdom tells us "multiplying the star's image dilutes celebrity and undermines the star's uniqueness" in reality "the more copies, the more celebrity." She interrogates the writings of Walter Benjamin, who postulated that the age of mechanical reproduction destroyed the aura of a unique object. Reproducibility, Marcus argues, replaced the aura with a "halo of the multiple" in which "apparent singularity is intensified by copying." Bernhardt, rather than diminishing hunger for her bodily presence with duplication, ensured that she would always have a live audience by posing for countless photographs, then by recording her voice, and later by starring in more than a hundred motion pictures. Though most of Bernhardt's films are now lost, they contributed to the demand to see her on stage, rather than decreasing it.

Chapter Six on "Imitation" might seem closely related to the multiplication discussed earlier, but Marcus instead focuses on failures of imitation. Her central thesis of the chapter is that celebrity imitation is "a privilege that members of dominant groups often seek to deny those in subordinate ones." She bypasses José Esteban Muñoz's theory of disidentification to focus instead on depictions of ethnic and racial minorities failing in their attempts at mimicking white celebrities. While Marcus comes up with some compelling examples for her arguments, I found it strange that she seems to ignore so much theory from the past 20 years. For instance, in discussing a story about Henry James failing to impersonate Bernhardt, she notes that there is "more than a hint of gay shaming" in the account. Shouldn't that remind us of J. Halberstam's notion of "queer failure"? Like Muñoz, Halberstam is oddly absent from the book.

The following chapter on "Judgment" examines how not just critics but also ordinary fans engage in the process of evaluating performers. Throughout the nineteenth century, audiences became less rambunctious, more likely to sit quietly and listen rather than shout their approval or boo to show disdain. Fan letters and scrapbooks display the judgments of audience members, though, and Marcus provides plenty of amusing examples. A correspondent wrote to the actor Edwin Booth stating, "Your constant contortions render your part monotonous." Another theatre-goer, on seeing James O'Neill in The Count of Monte Cristo, wrote in a scrapbook that the performance had "sunk lower than any play which might have been acted and dramatized by a child of six years old."

Marcus's final chapter on "Merit" looks not just at how fans have judged individual performers, but how they have compared those performers to one another. Originally, fans and critics alike relied on historical competition, for instance comparing Bernhardt to the earlier star Rachel Felix, or to Mademoiselle Mars, who originated the part of Doña Sol in Victor Hugo's Hernani. People could also compare stars to other living performers, especially when actors developed what Marcus calls shadow repertories. This is when actors deliberately pursue roles already made famous by their peers. Bernhardt did this when she played the lead in Sardou's La Sorcière, which had previously been played by Pat Campbell. In some cases, stars have even developed mirror repertories, in which two actors perform the same role in rapid succession.

Ultimately, the book argues that celebrity culture is a lot more complicated than many of its critics are willing to admit. Some celebrities like Bernhardt can deftly handle their fans and the press, but they are still reliant upon both. Media moguls play a big role, but they have failed again and again when they have tried to foist an unpopular celebrity on an unwilling public. Ordinary individuals have some agency, but our access to celebrities is always mediated through something else, whether it's a producer, a journalist, or an Internet platform. As Marcus concludes, "no single person or force can ever be assured of permanent victory."

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

If at first you don't succeed...

Publius Terentius Afer, better known as Terence, just couldn't catch a break. He was born in Carthage in northern Africa, but ended up becoming a slave to a Roman senator.

He had good looks and was intelligent, though, so he received an education and eventually started writing plays. One of his plays, The Eunuch, was staged twice on the same day, and won what the Roman author Suetonius called the highest fee ever awarded for a single comedy.

Terence's play The Mother-in-Law was not quite so lucky. It was first performed at the Megalensian Games in 165 B.C.E., but was a failure. According to a prologue read at its second performance five years later, "an unusual disaster and calamity interrupted it, so that it could not be witnessed throughout." What was the calamity? Apparently, the audience "carried away with admiration, devoted their attention to some rope-dancing."

As if that weren't enough, the second performance was cut short as well. A prologue for another performance later that same year stated, "a rumor spread that gladiators were about to be exhibited." The audience flocked to see the gladiators, and the play was withdrawn. The third time really was a charm, though, and the third attempt to mount the play proved to be successful. (By the way, the money Terence earned from his plays even allowed him to eventually obtain his own freedom.)

So what is The Mother-in-Law about? If you're expecting a story about a shrewish old woman, that's what Terence wanted you to think, though he in fact took the play in a very different direction. At the beginning of the piece, we hear that a young man named Pamphilus, in spite of being enamored of the courtesan Bacchis, has been forced to marry the daughter of his neighbor. At first, he refused to sleep with his new bride, but eventually he warmed to her, but then had to travel abroad due to the death of a relative.

During Pamphilus's absence, a quarrel allegedly broke out between the new bride and her mother-in-law, Sostrata. "All mothers-in-law hate their daughters-in-law," Sostrata's husband complains. "Is it not a disgrace for an old woman to pick a quarrel with a girl?" Sostrata proclaims her innocence, and longs for the return of her son. When he does return, he goes all emo, complaining that he is the most wretched man in the world. His wife, it seems, has gone back to live with her parents, and now is ill. Her "illness" turns out to be pregnancy, and she gives birth to a child.

But whose child? Remember, Pamphilus initially refused to have sex with his wife. While the families want to rejoice at the birth of a child, Pamphilus does the math, as does the young woman's own mother, Myrrhina. "For it is said that it was two months after the marriage before she had commerce with you," Myrrhina says to Pamphilus. "And then, this is but the seventh month since she came to you." There's some ambiguity in the text, but if the couple has been legally married for nine months, but only started sleeping together seven months ago, the birth wouldn't look suspicious... except to those in the know.

The young bride confides in Myrrhina that shortly before her marriage, she was raped, but she has no idea who fathered the child. "When my daughter was ravished, it was so dark that his person could not be distinguished," Myrrhina relates in a monologue. To add insult to injury, on leaving her, the attacker took a ring from the girl! The families prepare for the young couple separating, but the fathers of the newlyweds, oblivious to what is happening, blame the whole matter on Bacchis, the courtesan Pamphilus previously loved. If only they could get Bacchis to promise to leave her former client alone....

At the end of the play, it is Bacchis who unravels the mystery. When she comes in wearing a ring Pamphilus gave to her, Myrrhina recognizes it as the very ring stolen by the attacker. Bacchis remembers how about ten months ago (though perhaps it was closer to nine) Pamphilus came running to her house "out of breath, without a companion, and surcharged with wine." So I guess we're going with the drunk defense? Apparently, because he confessed to ravishing "some female, he knew not whom, in the street."

What makes the play repulsive to a modern audience is that this is presented as a happy ending. Pamphilus acknowledges the child as his own and takes back his wife. Of course, she now has to live the rest of her life with her rapist. Bacchis proclaims, "I am overjoyed that this happiness has befallen him through my agency; although other courtesans would not have similar feelings." Um... I think most anybody would not have similar feelings.

But hey, writing this sort of thing won Terence his freedom, so at least he achieved a happy ending for himself, right? Well, according to Suetonius, shortly after The Mother-in-Law had its long-delayed success, Terence left for a trip at sea and never returned. Most ancient authorities report he died in a shipwreck.

Like I said, some playwrights just never catch a break.


Monday, August 3, 2020

The Black Doctor

Ira Aldridge is one of those remarkable people we've known about for a long time, but who have been in recent years increasingly getting the attention they deserve.

Aldridge was born in 1807 in New York, though he later claimed to be from Africa, probably in a bid to appeal to European audiences who wanted to view him as a more "exotic" foreigner than just another American ex-patriot.

His father sold straw for a living, but also was a lay preacher. Later scholars have speculated that young Ira might have gotten his first vocal training from his father, who not only had to have a strong voice to preach, but who also hawked his straw from a cart he took around New York City, which meant he must have needed a strong voice to attract customers.

Aldridge's real theatrical training came from the African Grove Theatre, though. William Alexander Brown founded the theatre in 1821 to perform amateur productions of plays by Shakespeare and others, including Brown himself, whose play King Shotaway was sadly lost. The actors were of African ancestry, including William Hewlett, the star of the company, who was particularly famous for playing Richard III.

At the African Grove Theatre, Aldridge played such parts as the Inca warrior Rolla in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's Pizarro, but the company did not last long. The same year the African Grove Theatre began offering their performances in downtown Manhattan, the Park Theatre was rebuilt in the same neighborhood.

The Park Theatre offered professional performances by white actors for a predominately white audience, though African Americans like Aldridge did watch shows from the upper balcony. When white audience members saw how good the productions at the African Grove were, though, they started patronizing the amateur company, and this was too much for the managers of the Park Theatre to take. They began to harass Brown's company, and the African Grove Theatre was eventually burned down, likely at the instigation of the management of the Park Theatre.

Aldridge probably saw that if he was going to have any success as an actor, it wasn't going to be in his home country. He emigrated to Britain, and had some success playing roles including Othello. That's when the most famous portrayer of Othello on the British stage, Edmund Kean, collapsed during a performance playing opposite his son Charles and died a couple months later. The theatre needed a new Othello, and Aldridge was chosen for the part.

What happened next is recounted in Lolita Chakrabarti's wonderful play Red Velvet. Reviews of Aldridge's Othello were mixed, and some were openly hostile and explicitly racist. Aldridge ended up leaving London, instead touring provincial theatres in Britain as well as larger venues on the European continent. There, he won great renown not just in Othello, but also Richard III, The Merchant of Venice, and King Lear, as well as dramas by Matthew G. Lewis, Charles Robert Maturin, and others.

In 1846, the hack dramatist Auguste Anicét-Bourgeois wrote a play called Le Docteur Noir, and Aldridge had a new vehicle that would display his considerable talents as an actor. Anicét-Bourgeois seems to have written the play together with Philippe François Pinel Dumanoir, a melodramatist who would go on to adapt Uncle Tom's Cabin for the Théâtre de l'Ambigu-Comique in Paris. Le Docteur Noir might not have been great literature, but it did provide moments for great acting, and it appeared on the London stage in a translation by John Vilon Bridgeman and further adapted by Thomas Hailes Lacy.

In Bath, Bristol, and Dublin, Aldridge began performing another adaptation of the play by Thomas Archer. Eventually, however, he seems to have gotten frustrated with some of the piece's limitations, so he wrote his own adaptation, which was published in 1847. Aldridge's adaptation, The Black Doctor, gives particular emphasis to race and class, according to theatre scholar Keith Byerman, who did a thorough analysis of all the different texts.

The play begins on the Isle of Bourbon, now known as Réunion, in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar. In the first scene, we hear of Pauline de la Reynerie, a French noblewoman whose life was saved by Fabian, the titular black doctor played by Aldridge. Pauline's mother was on a ship that is assumed to be wrecked, but it was her mother's wish that Pauline marry the Chevalier St. Luce. Meanwhile, Fabian has mysteriously disappeared, though some say "he has been observed wandering on the cliffs, but always avoiding anyone who appeared to seek him."

Scene Two takes place in Fabian's hut, where Pauline tracks him down and gives him a purse full of gold to distribute to the poor since he has refused payment for his services. She also tells him that a mysterious man has been sighted near her house, and we understand that the stranger is Fabian himself, who is in love with her. Pauline's mixed-race foster sister Lia is in love with a white clerk, and when Pauline says she will help her to marry the man in spite of racial prejudice, Fabian begins to have hope for his own prospects.

The brief third scene concerns some minor characters, and prepares the audience for the thrilling climax of the act, illustrated on the first page of the published play. Fabian, hearing that Pauline has been betrothed to St. Luce, takes her to a grotto down by the sea, hoping the ocean will kill them both when the tide comes in and floods the grotto.

Wait... the doctor who saved her is now going to murder her? Well, it isn't much different from Othello killing Desdemona, is it? Unlike Othello, though, Fabian takes pity on his victim. Pauline, thinking she will die, confesses, "I have long, long loved you!" Hearing this, Fabian carries her to a rock where they are saved by a passing ship.

Act Two takes place at the house of Pauline's family in Paris. It turns out that her mother the Marchioness is not dead after all. Fabian and Pauline have been secretly married, but he is officially employed by her family as a servant, and the Marchioness clearly thinks very little of him. Instead, she wants Pauline to marry St. Luce so she can become a lady of honor to the Queen. (This is presumably Marie Antoinette, as the next act takes place at the outset of the French Revolution.) Pauline, distraught, tries to take poison rather than abandon her husband, but Fabian grabs the poison from her and flees from the room, promising the Marchioness he will restore her daughter to her since that is the only way to save his beloved Pauline.

The dramatic curtain at the end of the second act is exceeded in drama by a third act that takes place in the Bastille on the historic day of its storming in 1789. Both St. Luce and Fabian have been imprisoned in different cells in the Bastille. St. Luce is portrayed as a stuck-up fop, enraged that he can't get luxuries while in prison. Fabian, on the other hand, has been living in misery and trying to communicate with his friend Andre to get news of what is happening outside the prison. Revolutionaries storm the Bastille, freeing the prisoners, but it is too late for Fabian. Thinking Pauline is dead, he falls into an insanity, and the act ends with the cannons of the revolution sounding.

In the fourth and final act, we are transported forward to the year 1793, during the Reign of Terror. Pauline is considered an enemy of the people, since it was her family who was responsible for crimes against Fabian, the good black doctor who is now revered. Andre has been taking care of Fabian, who is still insane. When the mad doctor sees Pauline, it looks like she will be saved from the mob, but then Fabian sees St. Luce beside her, as well as a portrait of the Marchioness. Still thinking the Marchioness is alive and will kill Pauline if they are together, Fabian denies being her husband. A man in the mob fires a gun at Pauline, but Fabian throws himself in front of her, taking the bullet. With his dying strength, Fabian produces the proof of their marriage, saving Pauline at the cost of his own life.

If the play sounds melodramatic, well, it is in fact a melodrama, even including a musical chord at the moment Pauline sees her husband in the final act. Aldridge might not have been a great playwright, but he was a great actor, and the play he adapted no doubt provided a suitable vehicle to display his own talents.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Pod Theatre

In New York City, theatre remains banned, including outdoor theatre, which appears to be the least likely form of live drama to spread COVID. In New Jersey, though, things are a bit different.

Next month, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey will be putting on productions outside in Florham Park. The plan is to keep the audience members not just away from the actors, but away from each other, with family groups seated in different "pods" spread out across the lawn.

"That simply means that we will be creating circles on the ground in which you will have your own eight foot circle of space, six feet from every other circle," Artistic Director Bonnie Monte said in a statement. Audience members will have to wear masks, and reservations are required. 

STNJ's productions are scheduled to open at the end of this week. Some performances are already sold out, but according to their website, viewings have been added from August 7th through August 16th. Audience members are encouraged to bring blankets or very low-lying beach chairs. If you have a higher lawn chair, the theatre will put you in a pod in the back.

Two different productions will be offered. The first, Verily, Madly Thine is a collection of different scenes (mostly by Shakespeare) that show how crazy people can get when they fall in love. The scenes are directed by AC Horton, who compiled the piece for last year's "Shrewd Mechanicals" tour. If you saw it last year, though, STNJ promises the production has been expanded to include some new material.

The second offering will be a double-bill of Molière's The Love Doctor and Edna St. Vincent Millay's Aria Da Capo, both directed by Monte. While I'm not familiar with the first piece, Aria Da Capo is a beautiful one-act play written in the wake of the First World War. It's disturbingly relevant today, and what is more, it requires fairly little interaction between performers, which might make it an ideal play for the COVID era.

Each show lasts about an hour. The pieces alternate each night, and tickets are $20. You can reserve your seat... and pod... by calling the box office at 973-408-5600. The box office is open between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The biggest problem with the Florham Park venue is that it is not particularly accessible by public transportation. In the past, I've taken the train out to see STNJ productions in Madison, but being carless, I'll have to pass on this one.

If you do have your own car, though, I hope you'll head out to support a theatre company that is resuming live performance, and in the safest manner possible.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Shaw Symposium Closes

Today the International Shaw Society closed out its online summer symposium. Hopefully the symposium will be back in person next year at Niagara-on-the-Lake!

This morning, there was a panel on Shaw and gender. Tanner Sebastian opened it with a paper called "'Goodbye, Home: Queer Domesticity in Shaw's The Devil's Disciple" in which he related the play to polyandry. He argued that the Anderson household in the play is queered by Dudgeon claiming to be Judith's husband.

Laurie Wolf then spoke about "Gender Disparity in The Devil's Disciple" relating the play to conventions of the late-nineteenth-century stage. She mentioned Shaw's review of G.K. Chesterton's book Eugenics and Other Evils, in which Shaw discussed the different modes in which society discusses women. She then was able to relate The Devil's Disciple to debates over the "New Woman" which fascinated Shaw.

Wan Jin gave the talk "In and Out of the Garden: Gendered Landscapes in Mrs. Warren's Profession" which discussed how gardens are half-private, half-public spaces. I was particularly interested in her discussion of figures who transgress spacial boundaries in the play, including the "gipsies" and "broomsquires" who represent a disruptive mobility. She then related this to Mrs. Warren herself, whose transnational mobility allows her to disrupt legal and moral boundaries.

The concluding panel of the conference began with Jesse Hellman, who talked about Bernard Shaw's relationship with his sister Agnes, who died in 1876, when he was just 19. Agnes was the younger of Shaw's two older sisters, and little is known about her, other than that she died of tuberculosis. Lucy, the elder of the sisters, was clearly affected by Agnes's death, but how did this traumatic event influence her brother? Jesse speculated that Shaw might have transformed Agnes into the character of Dolly in his play You Never Can Tell.

Next, Jean Reynolds spoke about Village Wooing, which she described as a play about reading and writing. Jean pointed out numerous similarities between the piece and Shaw's more famous Pygmalion. Both plays involve a young woman who has mastered the art of elocution, the prospect of marriage across class lines, working in a shop, and a bet involving getting someone to speak. Those similarities might seem superficial at first, but she pointed out that Village Wooing, like all plays, invites the audience in to collaborate with the dramatist in order to tell the story.

Sharon Klassen gave a great talk on Feliks Topolski, the artist who created the drawings for the Penguin Illustrated Pygmalion.  Topolski had previously collaborated with Shaw in creating illustrated editions of Geneva and In Good King Charles's Golden Days in 1939. Sharon was able to view preliminary drawings Topolski did, which are now at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas. Shaw wrote numerous comments on these drawings... not all of them particularly nice! Apparently, Topolski originally wanted to depict Henry Higgins looking like Henry Beerbohm Tree, who was the first actor to play the character on the London stage. Shaw, however, strenuously objected.

The symposium closed with a rehearsed reading of Buoyant Billions. Originally, the piece was a three-act play, though Shaw later added a fourth act. Christopher Wixson adapted it into a one-act play with a single setting, which worked remarkably well.

I'm not sure when we'll be able to have in-person conferences again, but until we do, these online events will just have to be the next best thing.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Shaw Symposium Online

Yesterday, the Shaw Summer Symposium kicked off online with a keynote address by Kimberley Rampersad, Associate Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

We had hoped to be able to meet at the festival this summer, where a production of Bernard Shaw's play The Devil's Disciple was planned. Well, COVID put an end to that, but at least we are able to meet virtually.

This morning, Lawrence Switzky chaired a panel on Intercultural Shaw. R.A.F. Ajith spoke about Shaw and modern Tamil theatre. Tamil is one of the more ancient languages of the world, and has been spoken for about 5,000 years, Dr. Ajith said. Tamil drama underwent a drastic change in the 16th century, and then another significant change in the early 20th century, when Tamil productions of such Shaw plays as Pygmalion and Arms and the Man were staged in India. I was pleased to learn about some of the modern Tamil dramatists influenced by Shaw. These include C.N. Annadurai, known for his play Valakkari (The Maidservant), and M. Karunanidhi, known for Manimakudam (The Crown).

Next, Kay Li gave an excellent talk on the use of different colors in the marketing of The Devil's Disciple, both as a stage play and for the 1959 film. Richard Mansfield was the first actor to play Dick Dudgeon, the title role in The Devil's Disciple, but Kirk Douglas played him in the film. The biggest box-office draw at the time was Burt Lancaster, who played Rev. Anthony Anderson in the movie version. Lawrence Olivier, who played General Burgoyne, got the best reviews though, in spite of an all-star cast that also included Janette Scott as Judith Anderson. I was amused when Kay Li read from a 1922 letter in which Shaw advised casting a conventional melodramatic actor as Judith, since none of the truly good actors who had played the role had gotten it right!

We had a brief pause, and then resumed for a second panel, led off by Brigitte Bogar who spoke about operas based on The Devil's Disciple and other Shaw plays. Two of the earliest American operas to be based on Shaw are based on The Devil's Disciple, she said. A 1977 opera by Joyce Barthelson contained  some very tuneful arias the composer said were really "songs" rather than arias. A 1976 opera of the play was also staged, but little is known about it. One problem with adapting Shaw's work for opera is that there are so many words, many of which will have to be cut to make a successful opera. The short, comic plays seem to be the easiest ones to adapt.

I then gave a talk on Sarah Bernhardt's influence on Shaw. This was followed by John McInerney speaking about the characters in The Devil's Disciple, starting with Mrs. Dudgeon, then moving on to Judith, which is perhaps a more complex role than Shaw's 1922 letter might indicate. He proceeded to talk about Dick's questioning of why he decided to die in Anderson's place. He said that growing up, the only way Dick could express his individualism was to go against the puritanism of his mother.

Later, Dr. McInerney discussed General Burgoyne, who surrendered at Saratoga. This was an excellent introduction to Christopher Wixson's talk "Buoyant Burgoyne: Bernard Shaw, The Devil's Disciple, and No Manners Comedy." Wixon said Shaw admired the historical Burgoyne, and his character became a forerunner of such later Shaw characters as Julius Caesar and Andrew Undershaft. Burgoyne was himself a playwright, and his opera The Maid of the Oaks was quite successful. His later play The Heiress was a runaway success not just in London, but in Paris as well.

The conference continues tomorrow with a panel on Shaw and Gender, followed by a panel with noted Shavians Jesse Hellman, Jean Reynolds, and Sharon Klassen. There will also be a reading of Shaw's Buoyant Billions, adapted by Christopher Wixson. I'm looking forward to it!