Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Shaw Summer After All

Earlier this year, I was very excited to announce that my paper on Sarah Bernhardt and Bernard Shaw had been accepted to a conference in Cáceres, Spain.

Well, that conference was supposed to be later this month, and it should surprise no one that it has been postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I had planned to discuss how Bernhardt's performance in Victorian Sardou's La Tosca influenced Shaw to write a very different role in Captain Brassbound's Conversion, crafting the part of Lady Cicely to be acted by a sort of anti-Bernhardt.

Though that Shaw conference was nixed, the International Shaw Society's annual symposium in Niagara-on-the-Lake was still accepting proposals. I had wanted my Bernhardt talk in Spain to be part of a larger project to include all of Shaw's Three Plays for Puritans, and it so happened that the Shaw Festival in Niagara was planning on performing the first of those plays, The Devil's Disciple, during the symposium.

It wasn't hard for me to pitch a talk on Judith in The Devil's Disciple and another Bernhardt role Shaw wrote about, Magda in Hermann Sudermann's Heimat. I had been planning on writing about that anyway, just not so soon. Well, I pitched the idea, and it was accepted. I even received a generous scholarship and travel grant from the ISS enabling me to attend. Though the Shaw Festival has cancelled all performances before July, they are still planning on going ahead with their production of The Devil's Disciple. Could there be a Shaw summer after all?

The simple answer is yes. The more complicated one is that it might not be in Canada. No one can be sure if the border between the U.S. and Canada will even be open in late July when the conference is scheduled. If getting together physically isn't possible, though, the symposium's organizers have committed to running a virtual conference. One way or another, I plan on giving that paper!

I greatly enjoyed attending the Shaw Festival in 2017, and if it's still on this year, I could get a chance to see not just The Devil's Disciple, but also Desire Under the Elms by Eugene O'Neill, Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress, and Assassins by Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman.

Even if the summer season is cancelled, Gingold Theatrical Group is planning a production of The Devil's Disciple in New York City this fall. One way or another, I'll be getting my Shaw in this year!