Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man: A Composite Production Book

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Southern Illinois University Press, 1982 - Performing Arts - 168 pages

In this promptbook for Arms and the Man—a composite of notes from four productions directed either wholly or principally by Bernard Shaw—Bernard F. Dukore adds another dimension to the Irishman known primarily as a playwright, wit, and critic.

Shaw, according to Dukore, “consistently maintained that directing plays is as crucial a part of a dramatist’s profession as writing them.” He took his role as director quite seriously, ex­erting almost total control over the production. He cast his own plays, directed them, and even advised on such production mat­ters as lights, music, the use of stage machinery, and the type and placement of props. When German director Max Reinhardt made an unauthorized cut in one of Shaw’s plays, Shaw pro­tested: “May the soul of Reinhardt scream through all eternity in boiling brimstone!”

The core of this book comes from the production notes of the 1894 premier of Arms and the Man, but notes from the 1907, 1911, and 1919 performances are included as well. Dukore has made this a composite promptbook rather than a record of a single performance for two reasons: no clear evidence enables him to determine which production the comments pertain to; and Shaw’s interpretation of the play did not change over the years, although he did refine certain aspects.

Dukore describes his text and his method of arriving at it: “The directorial comments that face the text derive chiefly from Shaw’s rehearsal notes… In addition, I have employed sketches and notes for blocking, copied from Shaw’s markings in the margins of the l905 and 1908 printings of the play…; extracts from Shaw’s letters to Alma Murray and Lillah MacCarthy, the Rainas of the 1894 and 1907 productions, respectively; and the undated Instructions to Producer of Arms and the Man. The let­ters and instructions are identified when they appear. Cast lists, with credits for director and designer (where known), of these three productions and of the 1919 production follow.” The play text Dukore used is the second revised printing of volume 1 of the Bodley Head edition of Shaw’s plays (1979).

This is the second volume of a Special Issue series published in cooperation with the American Society for Theatre Research. The first was Edward Gordon Craig and “The Pretenders”: A Produc­tion Revisited by Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker.

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About the author (1982)

Renowned literary genius George Bernard Shaw was born on July 26, 1856 in Dublin, Ireland. He later moved to London and educated himself at the British Museum while several of his novels were published in small socialist magazines. Shaw later became a music critic for the Star and for the World. He was a drama critic for the Saturday Review and later began to have some of his early plays produced. Shaw wrote the plays Man and Superman, Major Barbara, and Pygmalion, which was later adapted as My Fair Lady in both the musical and film form. He also transformed his works into screenplays for Saint Joan, How He Lied to Her Husband, Arms and the Man, Pygmalion, and Major Barbara. Shaw won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1925. George Bernard Shaw died on November 2, 1950 at Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire, England.

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