UW-Milwaukee Theater Presents 'Major Barbara': 'A Play That You (Can't) Dismiss'

Dec 5, 2017

Starting Wednesday, December 6, the UW-Milwaukee Theater is presenting George Bernard Shaw’s classic Major Barbara.  The play is typical of Shaw in its subject matter - it tackles arms manufacturing, pacifism, women’s rights, class and the evils of poverty.

"(Shaw) was the mostly widely read socialist author in English in the world, so he was really very committed to his particular point of view," notes Major Barbara director and theatre professor Rebecca Holderness. "But in this play he writes himself that he couldn't figure out who should win."

The 1905 play sets a pragmatic father against idealistic daughter - a divide that generations have always recognized. However, Holderness says it is more of an "art nouveau boxing ring" than a drawing room comedy. The production is an interactive experience, she says; the audience can vote on a series of bouts between different ideas.

"I think that that confusion between the military industrial complex, capitalism, the role of salvation and the soul, the role of God, what women should do, what family means, and poverty at its core - all of those questions are still ones we're trying to balance and figure out what to do about."

Even though the production is more than 100 years old, Holderness says that it still holds value in the modern setting. "We really are trying to make it impossible for you to continue to think of it as a play that you can dismiss. It might look like Downton Abbey, but it's not."

Holderness sat down with Lake Effect’s Bonnie North during rehearsal, and explained why she chose this play: