Sunday, June 11, 2023

Drama in Williamsburg

Today was the final day of the International Shaw Society's "Shaw and Heroism" conference in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The only speaker today was Mary Christian, who addressed the topic "Dangerous Goodness: Shaw's True and False Prophets." She began by noting that in the preface to Getting Married Bernard Shaw contrasted Joan of Arc with another religious leader who tried to get involved in government: the Florentine Dominican friar Savonarola.

"However necessary it may have been to get rid of Savonarola, it was foolish to poison Socrates and burn St. Joan of Arc," Shaw wrote. What was the difference? What made Shaw think of Savonarola as a bad guy, and Socrates and Joan as the good guys? Mary related Shaw's play Saint Joan to a book he likely read, Ramola by George Elliot, which like Shaw's play ends with an epilogue after a martyrdom.

After the talk, we had the official closing of the conference, and people said their goodbyes. I then roamed around Williamsburg, a city that during the colonial era was an important center of theatre. The first recorded play performed in the colony of Virginia was The Bear and the Cub in 1665, but it was just in a tavern. Williamsburg had the first permanent theatre in the American colonies of the British. William Levington built it around 1716 for colonists to see all the shows that were popular back in Britain.

Today, no permanent structure stands on its site, but Colonial Williamsburg has set up an outdoor stage you can see here:

Outdoor theatre has a long history in Williamsburg, where for many years Paul Green's historical pagent The Common Glory was performed in this amphitheater:

Today, the amphitheater is mainly used for musical concerts, but it is impressive to behold!