“…not a play in any conventional sense, nor does it pretend to be……a stimulating and steadily interesting theatrical evening.”
-Richard Watts Jr., March 18, 1960 of New York Post
“an experience of dramatic delight.”
-John McClain, March 18, 1960 of NY Journal American
“…Dear Liar(1957), have become staples of the international repertory, Dear Liar was given to Lillian Hellman by literary agent Kay Brown who gave the play to Katherine Cornell to read. The actress called Jerome Kilty and not only asked him if she could do the play, but insisted he direct it. … Dear Liar has been performed in five languages and has received innumerable awards.”
-Fran Sikorski, November 12, 1998
G. BERNARD SHAW (he hated the “George” and never used it, either personally or professionally) was born in 1856 in Dublin, in a lower-middle class family of Scottish-Protestant ancestry. His father was a failed corn-merchant, with a drinking problem; his mother was a professional singer, the sole disciple of Vandeleur Lee, a voice teacher claiming to have a unique and original approach to singing.
When Shaw was just short of his sixteenth birthday, his mother left her husband and son and moved with Vandeleur Lee to London, where the two set up a household, along with Shaw’s older sister Lucy (who later became a successful music hall singer). Shaw remained in Dublin with his father, completing his schooling (which he hated passionately), and working as a clerk for an estate office (which he hated just as much as school).
In 1876, Shaw left Dublin and moved to London, moving in with his mother’s menage. There he lived off of his mother and sister while pursuing a career in journalism and writing. The first medium he tried as a creative writer was prose, completing five novels before any of them were published. He read voraciously, in public libraries and in the British Museum reading room. And he became involved in progressive politics
With Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Shaw founded the Fabian Society, a socialist political organization dedicated to transforming Britain into a socialist state, not by revolution but by systematic progressive legislation, bolstered by persuasion and mass education. The Fabian society would later be instrumental in founding the London School of Economics and the Labour Party. Meanwhile, as a journalist, Shaw worked as an art critic, then as a music critic (writing under the pseudonym “Corno di Bassetto”), and finally, from 1895 to 1898, as Theatre Critic for the Saturday Review, where his reviews appeared over the infamous initials “GBS.”
In 1891, at the invitation of J.T. Grein, a merchant, theatre critic, and director of a progressive private new-play society, The Independent Theatre, Shaw wrote his first play, Widower’s Houses. For the next twelve years, he wrote close to a dozen plays, though he generally failed to persuade the managers of the London Theatres to produce them.
In 1898, after a serious illness, Shaw married Charlotte Payne-Townsend, an Irish woman of independent means. Their marriage (quite possibly sexually unconsummated) lasted until Charlotte’s death in 1943.
In 1904, Harley Granville Barker, an actor, director and playwright, took over the management of the Court Theatre on Sloane Square in Chelsea and set up it up as an experimental theatre specializing in new and progressive drama. Over the next three seasons, Barker produced ten plays by Shaw (with Barker officially listed as director, and with Shaw actually directing his own plays), and Shaw began writing new plays with Barker’s management specifically in mind. Over the next ten years, all but one of Shaw’s plays (Pygmalion in 1914) was produced either by Barker or by Barker’s friends and colleagues in the other experimental theater managements around England. With royalties from his plays, Shaw, who had become financially independent on marrying, now became quite wealthy. Throughout the decade, he remained active in the Fabian Society, in city government (he served as vestryman for the London borough of St. Pancras), and on committees dedicated to ending dramatic censorship, and to establishing a subsidized National Theatre.
The outbreak of war in 1914 changed Shaw’s life. His dramatic output ground to a halt, and he succeeded in writing only one major play during the war years, Heartbreak House, into which he projected his bitterness and despair about British politics and society.
After the war, Shaw found his dramatic voice again and rebuilt his reputation, first with a series of five plays about “creative evolution,” Back to Methuselah, and then, in 1923, with Saint Joan. In 1925 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Shaw lived the rest of his life as an international celebrity, travelling the world, continually involved in local and international politics and continued to write.
In 1950, Shaw fell off a ladder while trimming a tree on his property at Ayot St. Lawrence in Hertfordshire, outside of London, and died a few days later of complications from the injury, at age 94.
MRS. PATRICK CAMPBELL, (1865–1940) was born Beatrice Stella Tanner in Kensington, London, of English and Italian parents. She made her stage debut in 1888, four years after her marriage to Patrick Campbell, and made her mark in 1893 when she starred in Sir Arthur Wing Pinero’s play, The Second Mrs Tanqueray. The premiere of in London was hailed as revolutionary for its savage portrait of the title character and its harsh account of a modern woman’s social and moral disintegration. In The Globe, Davenport Adams called the production ‘pitiless’ while J.F. Nisbet from The Times recalled ‘the rank taste which it leaves in the mouth.’ Given this notoriety, the production ran for 233 nights, netting playwright Pinero and actor-manager George Alexander considerable wealth.2 Most reviewers however attributed its achievements to the actress Mrs Patrick Campbell, whose debut performance in London in ‘serious’ theatre provoked raw attraction or repulsion from audiences and critics alike. This response was due in part to the figure of Paula Tanqueray, whose desire for upward mobility from a sexually disreputable past through a second marriage was distasteful to conservative critics. Clement Scott from The Times, for instance, had no sympathy for Paula’s plea that women are always judged by youth and prettiness yet he upheld a husband’s right to choose different sexual partners. The intensity of public reaction around questions of right and proper codes of sexual comportment was however most provoked by the play’s specific depiction of the female role.
Fourteen years after the death of her first husband in 1900, she became the second wife of George Cornwallis-West (born 1874) — a dashing writer previously married to Jennie Jerome, the mother of Winston Churchill — but she continued to use “Mrs. Patrick Campbell” as her stage name. In 1901 she made the first of her numerous tours to the United States. In 1914, she played Eliza Doolittle in the original production of Shaw’s Pygmalion; though much too old for the part at 49, she was at the height of her carrer. Sharp witted but eccentric, she counted Oscar Wilde among her intimate friends. In her later years, Mrs Patrick Campbell made notable appearances in motion pictures, including “One More River” (1934), “Rip Tide” (1934), and “Crime and Punishment” (1935). She died in Pau, France. She and her first husband had two children, Beo and Stella.
JEROME KILTY, actor, director and playwright, co-founded The Brattle Theatre Company in 1948. For the A.R.T. he staged The Lost Boys and Love’s Labour Lost and has performed in nine productions, including James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night, the title role in King Lear, Larry Gelbart’s Mastergate, and Phil Hogan in A Moon for the Misbegotten, a role he repeated on Broadway (Tony nomination, voted best actor of the year by the Boston Theatre Critics Circle). He played Harry Hope in O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago (Joseph Jefferson award for best actor). Most recent credits include Horace Van Der Gelder in The Matchmaker at McCarter Theatre and two seasons in Houston, both with the Alley Theater and Stages Repertory Company, as director of Arms and the Man and playing Danforth in The Crucible, Sheridan Whitehead in The Man Who Came to Dinner, and Tobias in A Delicate Balance (directed by Edward Albee). He also played King Lear at The Asolo Theatre in Florida and the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival, and was the Court Envoy in the world premiere of Robert Di Domenica’s opera The Balcony with the Opera Company of Boston both in Boston and at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. His plays Dear Liar and The Ides of March continue in the international repertoire.
It doesn’t matter what you do in the bedroom as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.
Do you know why God withheld the sense of humour from women?
That we may love you instead of laughing at you.
When you were quite a little boy somebody ought to have said ‘hush’ just once.
“Wedlock – the deep, deep peace of the double bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue.”
To be made to hold his tongue is the greatest insult you can offer him — though he might be ready with a poker to make you hold yours.