Last Sunday, I attended Festival Theatre’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s “Arms and the Man” at Pleasant Home ?#34; for the second time. A sunny Sunday afternoon didn’t provide the best background. Too much light intruding, but I enjoyed it just as much. The actors are terrific (even though the understudy now plays the role of Raina) and Shaw is marvelous. You still have five more opportunities to see it, as of this posting.

Shaw was such a good writer, he earned his own adjective, “Shavian,” an indication of just how influential this Irish master of the English language was. Then again, with the exception of Shakespeare, the Irish have always out-Englished the English when it comes to word play. And Shaw was one of the best at skewering the hypocrisy of England’s class-layered society.

But he didn’t always get the last laugh. I read recently of the time he sent a note to Winston Churchill inviting him to opening night of one of his plays. “Bring a friend,” Shaw wrote, “if you have one.” Churchill replied that he couldn’t make opening night, but he would try to catch the second performance, “if you have one.”

I hope Festival Theatre produces more Shaw, but even if they don’t, I’d like to see more. ShawChicago, a theater company that includes several Oak Parkers, specializes in Shaw plays. My appetite is whetted.

On March 15, I attended the annual trustee benefit concert at Dominican (jazz singer Dianne Reeves) and at intermission, university President Donna Carroll gave the annual Bravo Award to Oak Parker Martha Gilmer, for her innovative Chicago Symphony Orchestra programming and her attempts to reach a wider audience.

During her remarks, she pulled out a Shavian quote from his speech at Brighton:

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Good stuff. I think Shaw lived to be 94, so he seems to have been a man of his word. The title of this play, “Arms and the Man,” I presume, is a reference to the opening of the Aeneid: “Of arms and the man I sing.”

Shaw, I’m guessing at least in this play, is Virgil’s equal in defining what it means to be “a man.”

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