Tales from the Vault: Shaw and Ibsen

Posted on Oct 4th, 2012 in OSF Archives

A Double Dose of Shaw and Ibsen

We seem to have latched on to 1976 recently. In 2004, we produced all the Shakespeare from 1976. Well, only Henry VI, Part Two, not all three parts. Now we are staging Shaw with a dash of Ibsen. The 1976 connection is Ibsen’s Brand and Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple.

In Jerry Turner’s discussion of that season’s playbill in the Fall/Winter issue of Prologue, he quoted something Shaw said in 1906—70 years earlier, yet another connection to this year.

Shaw says theatre should be “a factory of thought, a prompter of conscience, an elucidator of social conduct, an armory against despair and dullness, and a temple of the Ascent of Man.” Turner says “The playwright Shaw thought most in tune with this ideal was Henrik Ibsen. In fact, as a psychologist and philosopher, Ibsen seemed to dwarf William Shakespeare so much, Shaw said, it became impossible for the moment to take him seriously as an intellectual force.

“Now, seventy years later, we are less inclined to look at either Ibsen or Shakespeare as philosopher-psychologists, and more ready to evaluate both (and Shaw himself) as master craftsmen in the theater, a ‘cult as eternal and sacred as any professed religion in the world,’ but a religion whose sources lie as much in the carnival as they do in the temple.”

Now, in 2005, you can make your own judgment when you see Shaw’s The Philanderer—with a dash of Ibsen.

Written originally for The Company Call, February 2005, by Kit Leary.