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A Comedy of Explosive Ideas: Major Barbara at The Armory

The Nobel Prize-winning playwright and proud socialist George Bernard Shaw has been making us laugh and think since the mid-1800s. His impressive facial hair isn’t the only thing that still resonates today. Don’t miss his funniest play!

Presented by Portland Center Stage April 9, 2018

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Meet the characters of Major Barbara: (left to right) Chris Murray as Bill Walker, Dana Green as Rummy Mitchens, Hanley Smith as Barbara Undershaft, Charles Leggett as Andrew Undershaft and Brian Weaver as Adolphus Cusins.

Image: Kate Szrom

George Bernard Shaw’s deliciously witty and timely classic Major Barbara will explode onto The Armory’s main stage on April 14 and run through May 13. First produced in 1905, the themes of this play still resonate powerfully today. The play centers on Barbara, who has dedicated her life to serving the poor. She clashes with her father, who is a hard-headed capitalist and amassed his fortune selling weapons for war. As Shaw skewers notions of right versus wrong, left versus right, and everything in between, this play will make you laugh while questioning your own beliefs. The New York Post called Major Barbara, “one of Shaw's brightest, slyest, most provocatively outrageous and most timeless comedies," and the Irish Times put it simply: “Shaw’s Masterpiece.” 

Shaw was a proud socialist and one of the very first members of the Fabian Society, the democratic socialist party of England. As an effective public speaker (partly because he was so funny), he became one of the country’s most popular political orators. With the Fabian Society, Shaw fought for child labor laws, a minimum wage, the 8-hour work day, universal health care and more. When he wasn’t distributing pamphlets and pushing political boundaries, he was a prolific playwright who used theater to wrestle with the causes of the day – often with a heavy dose of humor.

With Major Barbara, Shaw asks the question: How do you bring about lasting social change? When he wrote this play, he had already spent 20 years fighting for social justice and was frustrated by how slowly progress was being made. In his preface to Major Barbara, Shaw wrote: “I am, and always have been and shall now always be, a revolutionary writer, because our laws make law impossible; our liberties destroy all freedom; our property is organized robbery; our morality is an impudent hypocrisy; our wisdom is administered by inexperienced or male experienced dupes; our power wielded by cowards and weaklings, and our honor false in all its points.”

Chris Coleman, who is directing Major Barbara at The Armory, said of the play, “What I find delicious about the piece right now is the fact that Shaw is wrestling with capitalism in the bluntest terms we see in his work. And the outcome is not at all what we anticipate walking in. As with all of his plays, it is rich with irony and brilliant thought, but it also sparkles with his ever-present wit.”

Want to learn more about Shaw? Read some of his brilliant quotes – and get a glimpse of his glorious facial hair – here and explore Major Barbara here

Ticket and Performance Information

When:               April 14 – May 13, 2018

Where:             The Armory’s U.S. Bank Main Stage

More Info:       www.pcs.org/majorbarbara

To Purchase:  Tickets start at $25.

Online:              www.pcs.org

By Phone:        503.445.3700