Imagine four hundred actresses attending a London hotel luncheon in 1908 determined to effect change for women. A resolution emerged that very day to begin the Actresses Franchise League, which produced original suffrage plays, orchestrated mass demonstrations, and collaborated with ordinary women. The roles many of these actresses had played during the previous few seasons also spurred their activism, particularly in plays written by Bernard Shaw. The hot topics--conflation of public and private controversies over sexuality, income distribution, full citizenship across gender and class--are chillingly pertinent w. In the early twentieth-century, n-commercial theatres became sites of social transformation on both sides of the Atlantic. A galvanizing force were the Vedrenne-Barker seasons at the Royal Court Theatre from 1904-1907. Eleven Shaw plays, alongside works by Granville Barker, John Galsworthy, and Elizabeth Robins, challenged conventions; many productions came to American stages. The interplay among Shaw and his contemporaries, and the impact of their dialogic connection, are the unique focal points here. Featuring more conversation than plot points, their new drama collectively urged audiences to recognize themselves in the characters, and inspired many to change themselves. Admiring performers at a distance, as their Victorian counterparts had done, longer sufficed.
Ellen Ecker Dolgin is an associate professor of English, and Chair of Gender Studies at Dominican College of Blauvelt in Orangeburg, New York, USA. She lives in Pomona, New York, USA.