Kitty Warren has worked hard to provide a good life for her daughter. But when Vivie finds out the truth about her mother's profession, sparks fly. The Antaeus Company, L.A.'s multiple award-winning classical theater company, presents Mrs. Warren's Profession, the superbly intelligent-and still shocking- powerhouse of a play by George Bernard Shaw that was banned for eight years on the English stage. Robin Larsen directs the fully double cast production March 14 through April 21, with low-priced previews beginning March 7.
Freshly graduated from Cambridge after a lifetime of boarding schools, Vivie finally gets to know her mother over the course of a weekend-only to discover a shocking secret about just how Mrs. Warren financed her education.
Shaw's ultimate test of a mother-daughter relationship deftly depicts the universal conflict between the generations. At the same time, the play is a scathing critique of the restrictions placed upon women in Victorian society-one that continues to be fresh and relevant in today's world. Always a champion of social reform, Shaw said he wrote the play "to draw attention to the truth that prostitution is caused, not by female depravity and male licentiousness, but simply by underpaying, undervaluing and overworking women so shamefully that the poorest of them are forced to resort to prostitution to keep body and soul together." Modern parallels abound regarding both opportunities for women and society's hypocrisy about money and respectability.
"As the mother of a young daughter, I'm intrigued by the parent-child struggle and the conflict between work and motherhood," says Larsen. "These characters are real human beings. We're trying to sluice out and get to the bottom of the play as Shaw intended."
Unique among 99-seat theater companies in L.A., Antaeus is known for "partner casting." In all Antaeus productions, two equally talented actors collaborate on every role, working together throughout the rehearsal process and enriching the creative experience. In Mrs. Warren's Profession, Anne Gee Byrd and Jeanne Sakata share the role of Kitty Warren; Rebecca Mozo and Linda Park partner as Vivie; Bill Brochtrup and Arye Gross double as Mr. Praed; Tony Amendola and Kurtwood Smith play Sir George Crofts; Daniel Bess and Ramon De Ocampo take on Frank Gardner; and John-David Keller and Robert Machray are Reverend Samuel Gardner.
Born in Dublin to a lower middle-class Protestant family, George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was a passionate advocate for several political causes, including socialism, gender equality, animal rights, alphabet reform and state funding for the arts. He co-founded and became a prominent member of the Fabian Society, a political organization dedicated to transforming Britain into a socialist state. He began his literary career as a novelist, but his frequent criticism of English theater propelled him to write his own plays. His earliest works, now referred to as the "Plays: Pleasant and Unpleasant", fiercely attacked social hypocrisy. Among these were Widower's House¸ Arms and the Man and Mrs. Warren's Profession. His work was generally refused production in London, only occasionally presented by experimental theater companies or abroad, until 1904 when Harley Granville Barker took over the Court Theatre and began producing Shaw's work under Shaw's direction. His commercial success was also bolstered by his marriage to heiress Charlotte Payne-Townsend, and this financial independence allowed him to continue to write, lecture, travel and remain active in local government. Shaw authored more than 60 plays, including Saint Joan, Major Barbara, Androcles and the Lion, The Doctor's Dilemma, Heartbreak House, Candida and Pygmalion. He was the recipient of a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award for Best Screenplay (for the 1938 film adaptation of Pygmalion).