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To see Registration Fees, click HERE









All are welcome, but if you wish to become a member of the International Shaw Society and receive a discount on the registration:


    For more on the conference topic, click HERE.






C A L L  F O R  P A P E R S


For An International Shaw Conference




Washington, D.C.

October 15-18, 2009



Sponsored by


The Catholic University of America,


The Washington Stage Guild,


and the International Shaw Society



To Contact Us



Abstracts, Topics, Paper Specifications



Hilton Rockville Reservations


Catholic University of America

Pryzbyla Center


Grants for Young  Scholars


Maps & Directions

Pryzbyla Center, CUA Campus

DC Metro




Shaw Plays Performed




Registration & Fees

Printable Registration Form


General Schedule


Schedule of Talks & Events


Shaw Quotes




Washington Stage Guild



The conference will open with a reception on Thursday night at the Irish Embassy, followed by a Keynote Address on Friday morning at the Pryzbyla Center on the campus of The Catholic University of America.  Papers & panel discussions will be presented there on Friday and Saturday, with a buffet at Clyde’s of Gallery Place on Friday night, followed by a Shaw production by the Washington Stage Guild, and a buffet on Saturday night followed by a Shaw production at Catholic University’s Hartke Theatre. There will be an ISS business meeting on Sunday morning at the Hilton Rockville.


Jackie Maxwell 2_Photo by Shin Sugino 09.JPGKEYNOTE SPEAKER

The Keynote Speaker will be Jackie Maxwell,

Artistic Director of the Shaw Festival 

In Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. 

For a biography, click HERE or go to








Rounded Rectangular Callout: The only man who ever had a proper understanding of Parliament was 
old Guy Fawkes.




TLS Talk on Shaw at NPG-9-06         Into what character’s mouth did Shaw put those words?


                   Hint: see On the Rocks.   




To see who said this and who said the other words put into Shaw’s mouth on this website, as well as some additional relevant quotations, see “Shaw Quotes.”           Contributions welcomed (send to






CONFERENCE TOPIC: “Shaw and Politics”


 Please Note: As at previous ISS conferences, great latitude will be given to topics for papers & panels, on the conference topic or not, and to critical approaches, and we welcome the variety of topic and perspective that will ensue.   Secondly, we encourage papers and panel discussions on the Shaw plays produced at the conference (TBA).  But for those who wish to offer papers and panels on the conference topic, we offer the following suggestions as to how “politics” might be understood as applied to Shaw’s works and life:    

Granting that many of Shaw’s works are about politics in a governmental sense, particularly the non-fiction  prose works, but one might argue that Shaw’s fictional works are “about politics” in a sense that broadens the definition beyond the governmental to the personal conflicts and negotiations that characterize our most intimate life at all levels.  The principal action of almost every Shaw play and novel could be described as the interplay among characters struggling either to defend and maintain a certain polity (or system of relationships) or to overthrow the old polity and create a new one or, failing that, to either find “a separate peace” or negotiate a truce.  Whether it's gender, family, generational, class, tribal, ethnic, professional, institutional, aesthetic, religious, or any other kind of politics you can think of, or the politics of governments, Shaw’s “stories” are often about the usually comic or tragic-comic struggle for power and authority in the general evolutionary process but played out mostly on a very personal, local, and  emotional level. And most conflicts end with a de facto vote and a decision on the part of key characters to take action, often life-changing for them and maybe for their cultures as well, whether consensus has been reached or not.  That Shaw’s “problem plays” typically end problematically, without “the problem” being solved, does not prevent the characters from nevertheless taking action and addressing problems in individual ways.  Judging by the Shavian universe, Tip O’Neill’s saying that “all politics is local” has an application even closer to home than O’Neill intended by that.  

     While we hope many papers will address the conference topic with the broad definition of “politics” indicated above, it is also perfectly legitimate to restrict one’s study to just governmental politics, as Shaw was clearly involved in such and often wrote about it.   A cautionary word here, however, since one of the quickest ways to misunderstand Shaw is to think his being a socialist says all you need to know about his politics, or even about socialism.  For, despite his socialist polemics, Shaw seems to have been as sui generis in politics of the governmental sort as he was in all other things, which probably contributed to the Fabian notion that they should attempt to permeate all parties, never minding ideological purity.  And Shaw’s jesting, ironical manner of promoting socialism was of course unique.  Further, Shaw was pretty much an equal-opportunity satirist, almost as likely to strike against the Left (supposedly his own side) as against the Right (Eric Bentley famously described the Devil in "Don Juan in Hell" as a Liberal, although "Liberal" meant something different in those days).  Perhaps Shaw’s true position can only be described as "independent thinker."  He didn't like being tied to any rigid system, which is why many of his plays show “vitality” struggling against “system” (and of course socialism can be one of those systems, as he suggests in “The Illusions of Socialism”).  His works in general aimed at forcing everyone to think for themselves and to feel free to argue for whatever perspective one arrived at, just as he did, and his dramatic works in particular tended to feature hot debates on issues of governance at both the governmental and more personal levels (but more often the latter).   And he simply meant to be true to nature in allowing "strong" characters to “win” (or seemingly win) the arguments, although he also tended to show "strong" characters being tripped up by their own arguments at times, and he usually let the "weaker" characters score points along the way (recall how often his Caesar loses points to his "inferiors") and for strength to be mocked at times by uncontrollable facts (note Saint Joan as an example of “spiritual strength” seeming to lose a key battle).   Ultimately, there are no clear winners in the world of irony that Shaw inhabits, and no absolute villains and no absolute heroes.  For it's the clarifying debate that matters.  Perhaps the greatest evil in the Shavian universe is to be "discouraged" to the extent that one drops out of the debate.   A further point is that even as a Fabian Shaw said that the Fabian objective was not to change the world but to argue as effectively as possible for a point of view that needed to be considered when people in general went about changing the world.  Shaw himself sought not conquest but a place in the great debates.   First of all, he wanted to be heard, and we all know the great and often amusing and sometimes outrageous lengths he went to to accomplish that!  

In Washington, D.C., the capital and principal theater of “rebel politics,” we have the perfect venue for this examination of Shaw’s democratic “discussion plays,” in which Shaw’s Irish “proto-postcolonialism” provides the matrix for may of the discussions/debates.   Of course Shaw ultimately found the justification for such drama in a religious understanding of life as political at its divine root.    According to his Creative Evolution, we are all attempts at the godhead, and what we know about gods from the ancient Greeks is that they love to quarrel with and challenge each other.   No wonder drama was born in Greece.   “Drama is conflict,” said Shaw, “no conflict, no drama.”   The point of the conflict, for Shaw, may have been evolution toward the more godly, so to speak, but it was the drama of the conflict that provided life its zest.

And this call to study zestful Shavian debate in turn is an invitation to the many theater artists interested in Shaw to join this discussion and talk about how they struggle to realize Shavian drama in the particular practices of the theater, amidst the special politics of the theater.   A substantial segment of the conference, dedicated to the late John MacDonald, formerly Artistic Director of the Washington Stage Guild, will seek to show how it is possible to overcome political and other obstacles to make Shaw’s plays appeal to the contemporary theater audience precisely by emphasizing the zest.

 Summing up, we hope for a more sophisticated approach to the Shavian corpus than might ensue if one confined oneself to understanding "politics" as just governmental politics of the national and international sort, a sense that's hard to avoid in the aftermath of a presidential election, granted.   But please try.   The American Heritage Dictionary defines "politics," in one way, as "the often internally conflicting interrelationships among people in a society."    That's it.   That might also serve as a definition of "drama." 

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Call (813) 503-0584 (ask for Professor Richard Dietrich, ISS president)




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