Tag Archives: drama

A Trio of Rotten Reviews: George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw I, Arms and the Man

Shaw may one day write a serious and even an artistic play, if he will only repress his irreverent whimsicality, try to clothe his character conceptions in flesh and blood, and realize the difference between knowingness and knowledge.”

William Archer, World

George Bernard Shaw II, Major Barbara

“There are no human beings in Major Barbara: only animated points of view.

William Archer, World

George Bernard Shaw III, Man and Superman

“I think Shaw, on the whole, is more bounder than genius…I couldn’t get on with Man and Superman: it disgusted me.”

Bertrand Russell, letter to G.L. Dickinson

Excerpted from: Barnard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998. 

Fiddler on the Roof

Fiddler on the Roof: A stage musical (1964) and film (1971), with a book by Joseph Stein, score by Jerry Bock and lyrics by Sheldon Harnick. Set in pre-revolutionary Russia, and culminating in a pogrom, it relates the story of Tevye, a Jewish father (memorably played by Topol in the film), and his disapproval of the matrimonial choices made by his daughters. The musical is based on the Yiddish short story collection Tevye and His Daughters by the Russian-born US writer Sholom Aleichem (1859-1916). The significance of the title is obscure: it may be based on the proverbial expression meaning to ‘eat, drink and be merry,’ but it may be taken generally to signify a person who cheerfully makes the best of things, whatever the circumstances.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

Cultural Literacy: The Quality of Mercy

OK, here is a Cultural Literacy worksheet on Portia’s “Quality of Mercy” speech from The Merchant of Venice. I did find it interesting, when I went to check my recall of the character in the play who gave the speech (I’ve only seen the play once), and searched for “who gives the quality of mercy speech in the merchant of venice,” what I got as far as “who gives” and Google auto-filled with “a crap.”

Such cynical times we live in!

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire: An intense drama (1947) by the US playwright Tennessee Williams (1911-83) about the relationship between a faded Southern belle, Blanche Dubois, and her brother-in-law Stanley Kowalski. It was subsequently turned into a successful film (1951), directed by Elia Kazan, starring Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh. The play had several titles before the final one, including The Moth, Blanche’s Chair in the Moon and The Poker Night. The eventual title was inspired by a streetcar labeled ‘Desire’ (for its destination, Desire Street), which, together with another called ‘Cemeteries,’ plied the main street in the district of New Orleans where Williams lived. In the play the names are taken symbolically, Blanche contending that her sister Stella’s marriage is a product of lust, as aimless as the ‘streetcar named Desire’ that shuttles through the narrow streets. The name of the street does not denote a place of pleasure but derives from the French girl’s name Desiree. A monument, the ‘Streetcar Named Desire,’ now stands on the site near the French Market. The play is a leitmotif in Pedro Almodovar’s film Todo Sobre Mi Madre (All About My Mother1999).

‘They told me to take a streetcar named Desire, then transfer to one called Cemeteries.’

Tennessee Williams: A Streetcar Named Desire (Blanche’s first line).”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

The Algonquin Wits: George S. Kaufman

Ruth Gordon once described to G.S.K. [George S. Kaufman] a new play in which she was appearing: ‘In the first scene I’m on the left side of the stage, and the audience has to imagine I’m eating dinner in a crowded restaurant. Then in scene two I run over to the right side of the stage and the audience imagines I’m in my own drawing room.’”

Excerpted from: Drennan, Robert E., ed. The Algonquin Wits. New York: Kensington, 1985.

Jerry Seinfeld

While I have to assume that Seinfeld remains in syndication, new episodes left the airwaves long ago; in fact, the last episode was broadcast over 20 years ago on May 14, 1998. Since he remains something of a global cultural icon, this reading on Jerry Seinfeld and its accompanying vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet might remain of interest to students.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Guys and Dolls

“A collection of stories (1931) by the US writer Damon Runyon (1884-1946), comprising amusing tales of gangster life, told in Runyon’s colorful version of New York underworld patois. The first collection was followed by several others, and the stories feature characters such as Joe the Joker, Nicely-Nicely, Apple Annie, and Regret the Horseplayer. The musical comedy entitled Guys and Dolls (1950), based on Runyon’s stories and with music and lyrics by Frank Loesser (1910-69) and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, focuses on the romance that develops between a Salvation Army worker (representing the ‘dolls’) and gambler Sky Masterson (representing the ‘guys’). It was filmed in 1955 starring Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, and Jean Simmons.”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.