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Sunday, July 15, 2012

New preface for a Shaw play wanted

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For the second year of the Shaw Society / T F Evans award, you are invited to supply a new Preface to a Shaw play, as if written by its author in 2012.

An award of £500 will be made for the winning entry. 

Deadline: July 31, 2012

We are to imagine that, contrary to all expectations (including his own!), Bernard Shaw has returned to life in the 21st century; he has been a keen observer of national and world events over the past 60 years, and his trenchant views on a wide range of issues, and his desire to communicate these forcefully, do not seem to have diminished.

Unsurprisingly, he relishes the idea of writing a number of new Prefaces. Shaw’s own Prefaces for his published plays were a deliberate attempt to extend the drama from the stage (where it had the status of a scarce commodity performed for short runs before select audiences) to the page – encouraging readers to approach plays as significant literature rather than ephemeral performance scripts. (Shaw’s detailed and often witty stage directions are also, of course, intended more for the reader than the performer.)

The Prefaces, in some cases more than twice the length of the actual play text, allowed Shaw to expound his views on war and politics (Heartbreak House) or on children’s rights and education (Misalliance), to analyse Darwinism and “creative evolution” (Back to Methusalah) or to make a virulent attack on the medical profession (The Doctor’s Dilemma).

You are invited therefore to write a new Preface for any Shaw play, whether or not it had one originally. Examples might include Major Barbara (the arms race and international terrorism), John Bull’s Other Island (the Irish question) or Caesar and Cleopatra (leadership and political expediency).

 Other topics which might have exercised a 21st century Shaw include the credit crunch and bankers’ bonuses, the Arab Spring, the scandal of MPs’ expenses, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the privatisation of public services. (This list is not of course exhaustive.)

If you are unfamiliar with Shaw’s Prefaces, perhaps read what he wrote as an introduction to Major Barbara or The Doctor’s Dilemma as an example of both content and literary style. The judges will be looking particularly for entries which reflect both the literary style and the “wit and wisdom” of Shaw.

Entries for the award should be a new Preface for a named play by Shaw, of between 1500 and 3000 words in length. Since the judges will not be told the names of entrants, please include your name only on a separate title page or covering email.

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