Tag Archives: George Bernard Shaw

Keep it short

Yesterday’s blog post was my shortest yet, a mere 72 words. Being that it was a tribute to my husband, I tried to keep it brief. He always says my best posts are the short ones.

Out of courtesy to readers, I try to keep my daily posts under 400 words in length. Sometimes a story takes more words to tell, while commentary can—and should—take fewer.

Packing more narrative into a smaller package is a challenge. It’s also what makes it fun. Often I begin by laying the raw content out on a slab. Later I go back and tidy things up. Think of a trash compactor – raw materials are deposited and fill up the bin quickly, but later become compacted into a dense package taking up less space. That’s how I look at writing.

Someone once said, “If I’d had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Try looking that one up. Variations have been attributed to Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot, Benjamin Franklin, Blaise Pascal, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Lord Chesterfield, Samuel Johnson, Voltaire, Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre and George Bernard Shaw, among others.  If even 10 of these good fellows are posers, it just shows how valid a notion it is.

I’d like to become better at keeping it brief. These writers are correct – it does take more time. Anyone can ramble on. Just tiptoe through the blogosphere and you’ll see for yourself. Writers are ever challenged to scour our text for extraneous words and phrases, and eliminate or replace them with more potent substitutes.

Educators in Virginia recently took heat for having students use Twitter for some of their assignments. I thought it was a novel idea. Having kids keep their writing to fewer than 140 characters is an exercise in brevity. Yes, one day they’ll be writing 10-page term papers, and didn’t we all perfect the art of filling blue books and typing paper with loquacious ramblings and flowery phrases?

The test is the ability to serve up meaty content in as manageable a container as even the most attention-challenged reader will digest and, perhaps more important, to know when to stop.

Yesterday, one of my favorite groups, “Fake AP Stylebook,” suggested: “Running out of space? Just end abruptly with, “Only time will tell if this development resolves the issue.”

(388 words)

1 Comment

Filed under All Things Wordish, Quotes, Technology and Social Media

The oldest profession

Here’s a trivia question for you.

What do Lynn Redgrave and Amanda Quaid have in common?

Lynn Redgrave, the award-winning actress who passed away in May, and Amanda Quaid, daughter of actor Randy Quaid and also a talented actress, both played Vivie Warren in the stage production of George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession.

Why am I telling you this?  For several reasons that I hope you find as interesting as I do.  If not, come back tomorrow when we’ll be talking about the Fourth of July.

In 1976, my godparents flew me up to New York to see Mrs. Warren’s Profession.  It was an enormous thrill to take the shuttle up by myself, go to Lincoln Center, see this an outstanding play with my aunt, uncle and cousin, and then have dinner in the city.

The play starred Ruth Gordon as Mrs. Warren and Lynn Redgrave as her daughter, Vivie.

The night before last, a friend was kind enough to take me to see the Shakespeare Theatre Company perform Mrs. Warren’s Profession in Washington, D.C.   It starred Elizabeth Ashley as Mrs. Warren and Amanda Quaid as Vivie.  And, of course, some notably accomplished male actors, including Ted van Griethuysen, Andrew Boyer, Tony Roach and David Sabin (and may I just say that Sabin was brilliant?).

For those not familiar with the play, which was written in the late 19th century, it is a comedy about a young woman who learns that her privileged upbringing was made possible by her mother’s profitable career as an owner and manager of brothels around Europe.   I’d love to get my hands on the script.  It’s hilarious.

It has been written that the character of Vivie, who at a young age had already begun a career in the business world, was known as the “New Woman” when the play was written in 1893.  In fact, the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s literary associate Akiva Fox notes that “Shaw called Mrs. Warren’s Profession his ‘play for women.’”

Shortly after the play was first performed in London in 1894 (two years before Ruth Gordon was born, by the way), it was censored for dealing with the subject of prostitution.  These days that’s hard to imagine.

Lynn Redgrave, who played Vivie in 1976, had just starred in the movie The Happy Hooker the year before.

As for Ruth Gordon, prior to Mrs. Warren, perhaps her best known role had been Maude in Harold and Maude, which dealt with the oddest of male-female relationships, between an 80-year-old woman and a 19-year-old boy.

I am not connecting any dots here and there are many degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.  Just some things I found interesting, that’s all.

1 Comment

Filed under Family and Friends, Theater